Commentary | Hyde Park: Stifled discussion breeds division, not unity

On a typical day in class, the worries on your mind might range from the all-nighter you have to pull off tonight; to how hard you will party after your midterm. Now, imagine coping with another concern on a daily basis: the thought that a rocket could come crashing into your class at any moment.

The sad fact is that while we decide to ditch class because of the weather, some students must cut class if they want to live to see another day. It comes down to a choice between living or learning.

First off, I would like everybody to read the actual motion put forward at yesterday’s General Assembly (GA), Re: SSMU condemnation of bombings of education institutions in Gaza. This clearly and explicitly states that the only reason we are setting forward this motion is to preserve the right to education. We are not condemning Israel as a whole or attempting to settle centuries old Middle Eastern conflicts. We simply want to know: would you allow the prevention of education? I could not believe how many people at the GA were there because they were dragged by friends without even knowing why. The night was one to raise awareness, to cause change, and to give rights to the weak. We wanted everybody to vote, not because of patriotic duties to a country or ethnicity, but because of the consciences that we all have. However, students arrived at the GA unprepared to have their opinions challenged.

I invite those who call this motion out of order to google all the major crises in the past century. In each event, without exception, students were the first to stand up and and speak out. The politically-charged attitudes of students are the reason decision-making bodies like the GA exist. We cannot remain quiet. An institution like McGill is the perfect grounds to raise awareness about the human rights lost in Gaza. Ours is a well-respected and influential institution in Quebec and Canada. Unfortunately, this country has proven itself to be very pro-Zionist. Imagine the political pressure on the government if Canadian students stood up and called for the preservation of the right to education.

Discussion of this issue will not create division among students. Division is caused when somebody feels oppressed and shunned. It is caused when a subject is avoided and scorned. Unity, on the other hand, is borne out of discussion. It arises when we attempt to understand our opponents. The censorship at the GA fostered division, when debate could have promoted unity.

Students were physically separated based on their feelings toward the Middle East conflict, and not on their views of the motion itself. If we had been permitted to discuss the issues at hand, and to send our message across in a civil manner, I am confident we would have convinced people that we are facing a humanitarian crisis that must be acted upon.

It was obvious that if the motion did not involve the words Gaza and Israel, it would have passed with no debate. It is both intriguing and frustrating that we were prevented from engaging in discussion. What are you afraid of?

Majed Halawi is a U2 Civil Engineering student. Unite at majed.halawi@mail.mcgill.ca.


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