Last Monday, I attended a Culture Shock presentation called “Human Rights Law and Palestine/Israel: Exploring the Apartheid Paradigm.” I hoped, at Canada’s most prestigious university, to see an academic discourse with healthy exploration of the complex issue at hand.
I’m not sure at what point I was fooled into thinking a discussion with multiple viewpoints is legitimate, because the three eloquent speakers assured me that any dissenting opinion was either naïve or just racist babble. Call me cynical, but this was no informative presentation, nor an attempt to educate McGill students.
Instead it was a how-to session on divesting from Israel – amidst a backdrop of Palestinian flags, a giant banner reading “Solidarité Gaza,” and even Palestinian merchandise for sale. In short, this was propaganda.
I fully appreciate the right of political groups to hold rallies and host speakers in support of their political viewpoints. My problem is when a presentation with a narrow, divisive political agenda is included in a week sponsored by our student union.
The notion that Israel is an apartheid state is a serious allegation that attempts to fundamentally undermine the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Labelling Israel in such a manner also attempts to deny the Jewish people the right of self-determination granted nearly every other nation on Earth, or the existence of a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that has so tainted their past. While this could in itself be considered (unintentional) anti-Semitism, I will not attempt to play that card.
I don’t believe it is constructive to throw around buzzwords. Unfortunately, the speakers projected words like oppression, racism, and now apartheid into foreign and exaggerated contexts, driving people to conclusions without the formalities of evidence. In pretending to call a spade a spade, they called it a jackhammer.
What business does SSMU have putting its name on a week including an unapologetically slanted presentation? Have we, as a student population, mandated them to attack Israel’s existence as a Jewish state? Certainly not.
The most disturbing aspect of the event, however, was that no counter argument was presented. While this may have helped reinforce the beliefs of the attending choir, it robbed the whole exercise of any academic integrity. If an opposing voice had been invited and refused to attend, this was certainly not expressed to the audience. And if it wasn’t, why not? Perhaps the organizers were nervous that the fundamental argument of this presentation could have been rendered illegitimate by the rich body of evidence they simply neglected to acknowledge.
Mookie Kideckel is a U1 Political Science student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.