Commentary  Free speech is dead, long live free speech


McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) recently published a meandering and verbose letter calling the decision to postpone a blatantly anti-Israel motion indefinitely at the SSMU General Assembly (GA) ‘disgraceful.’ Such a characterization rests on platitudes and false premises, and is insulting to the majority of voting students.

SPHR claims that its voice was silenced. How four hours of agonizing debate, during which time anyone who wished to speak could do so, followed by a vote in which all present participated, constitutes an unfair silencing, remains to be explained.

A spectacle like the GA, particularly one as poorly organized as last week’s, is a not the appropriate forum for engaging in a productive discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are other and better fora, which SPHR and its allies exploit; witness the letters to, and the editorials of, The Daily, a publication the banality and lousiness of which makes The Onion look like a paragon of journalistic rectitude and excellence.

The argument that SPHR sought only to promote a reasoned debate is absurd. The failure of the resolution to condemn – or even mention – the genocidal Hamas terrorist group for its campaign of terror and war crimes against Israeli civilians, and its crimes against the people of Gaza, and its focus only on Israel’s alleged sins, reveals the motion’s one-sidedness. This was an attempt to demonize the world’s only Jewish state for defending itself.

We all support freedom of speech, but what SPHR fails to appreciate is that freedom of speech includes the freedom to avoid having one’s voice hijacked by a bunch of radical agitators. SPHR writes that it believes it is its “duty [to] not dictate opinions to others on this issue,” which is exactly why it should support the wise and democratic decision of the GA, instead of continuing to attack it.

– Michael A. Schwartz, U1 Law

I don’t believe that the motion to postpone indefinitely had anything to do with wanting to avoid dividing McGill or keeping SSMU apolitical. One only has to look at the mass exodus that occurred after one motion passed to see that the “no” campaign only cared about keeping SSMU out of one issue they felt shouldn’t be discussed. It was a cynical move and I would have expected better from McGill.

– Ian Rodgers, U1 Cultural Studies