Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canadian Jewish Organizations Charged with Stifling Campus Debate

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canadian Jewish Organizations Charged with Stifling Campus Debate

Article excerpt

Canadian Jewish Organizations Charged With Stifling Campus Debate

A lecture by dissident Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario has sparked a storm of protest and provoked an unsuccessful attempt to rescind the constitution of the group that sponsored the event.

Jewish students charged that the newly formed International Concern for the Middle East Club (ICME) was guilty of misrepresentation because it described itself as non-partisan, although its activities and choice of speakers showed it as clearly pro-Palestinian. "Our concern was that the club was masquerading as an organization that represented a variety of viewpoints," said Warren Bass from Hillel, who insisted that the issue at stake was false advertising and not freedom of expression. "No one is trying to prevent any student group from putting forth a Palestinian perspective, but their constitution should reflect their bias," said Bass. He argued that even the name of the club was misleading, since "international" should by definition also include Israel's position.

This argument was rejected by the legal advisor to ICME. Ed Corrigan said it is not unusual that groups with general-sounding names have particular political positions, and gave as an example the "notoriously pro-Israel" organization in Toronto called Canadian Professors for Peace in the Middle East. "Hillel has never sponsored an event that was pro-Palestinian," added Corrigan. "This is an absurd demand and they would fail miserably if they applied that same standard to themselves."

Corrigan said that the attempt to rescind ICME's constitution by Hillel students was made in consultation with large organizations like B'nai B'rith and the Canadian Jewish Congress, "suggesting there is a national campaign to stifle debate on the Middle East on Canadian campuses."

An Offer to Debate

Abdelmounam Sherik, chairperson of ICME, said the Jewish Law Student Society (JLSS) at Queen's University was offered the opportunity to provide a speaker representing an Israeli viewpoint more than three months before the proposed lecture. According to Sherik, the JLSS first accepted the invitation after placing a number of conditions "but then backed down when they found out they would have to debate Finkelstein. …

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