Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Montreal Protesters Prevent Netanyahu Speech

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Montreal Protesters Prevent Netanyahu Speech

Article excerpt

Sept. 9 lecture by former Israeli Prime Winster Binvamin Netanvahu at Concordia University in Montreal was cancelled after a group of pro-Palestinian students entered the building and clashed with riot police inside. The students were furious because speech organizers had effectively screened the participants so as to ensure a "friendly" audience. Students had been required to apply for tickets in advance from Hillel organizers, and, coincidentally, no Palestinian student was granted a ticket.

Videotapes of the riot showed batonswinging riot police roughing up demonstrators inside, with protesters outside banging on a large glass section until it broke. With tempers flaring among the several hundred protesters outside, authorities called off the talk, citing security concerns.

In a hastily arranged press conference from his hotel lobby, Netanyahu angrily lashed out at the demonstrators and accused them of supporting Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden. "What you saw today on the streets of Montreal is a small example of what the larger war on terrorism is about," he told reporters. "These people hate the freedoms we cherish and seek to extinguish them any way they can."

An eloquent speaker with a flare for the dramatic, Netanyahu drew comparisons between suicide bombers in Israel and the local protesters: "That glint of hate, that mad zealotry," he said, "is the same that I saw in the eyes of the rioters in Montreal."

Palestinian activists had organized the blockade and issued an "arrest warrant" for the man they consider a war criminal. As prime minister, they charged, Netanyahu was responsible for Israel's torture of over 2,500 Palestinians and the destruction of nearly 250 homes. Others accused Netanyahu of putting all Canadians at risk, because as prime minister he authorized the theft of Canadian passports by Mossad for use in its olitical assassinations.

These objections failed to placate the lecture's sponsors. Speaking to the large, Israeli flag-waving crowd that had come to hear Netanyahu speak, Hillel president Patrick Amar called the demonstration a "viper's nest of anti-Semitism." Some audience members said they had been verbally and physically assaulted by Palestinian protesters while entering the campus. …

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