CBC jumps into the sandbox

You know that there’s something wrong with your line of thinking when you tread in territory where even the Canadian Federation of Students won’t go.

The radical left wing activists at the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) were to table a motion at the annual congress of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which the CFS voted to not even consider. That, of course, won’t stop the RSU from their mission.

Consider this event, posted on the RSU website:

ACADEMIC BOYCOTT & ACADEMIC FREEDOM

A Ryerson Community Forum

Wednesday November 28th 2007 @ 6pm

Ted Rogers School of Management, Rm 1-067 (1st Floor) 575 Bay Street @ Dundas “Student-led university academic boycott movements were deployed trans-nationally in resistance to South African apartheid. Today, in response to a statement against academic boycotts, issued by President Sheldon Levy, the debate continues in the contemporary context about the Middle east.

This forum will explore the role of academic boycotts as a tool of resistance and their relationship to academic freedom.

The panel will include:
* Salim Valley South African anti-apartheid activist
* Alan Sears Ryerson Sociology Professor
* Stuart Murray Ryerson English Professor
* John Caruana Ryerson Philosophy Professor

Moderated by SUHANA MEHARCHAND Award-Winning CBC News Anchor

This is a historic debate, seating will be limited, come early.

This event is brought to you by: RSU & Ryerson University Presidents’ Office”

Name: Heather Kere, Vice-President of Education Phone Number: 416.979.5255 ext. 2318 Email Address: vp.education@rsuonline.ca

Let’s summarize:

  • According to the student representatives at Ryerson, Israel is an apartheid state, much like South Africa used to be.

    Heather Kere, vice-president education of the Ryerson Students’ Union, is calling on the Canadian Federation of Students – Canada’s largest student lobby group – to “research the feasibility of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against the “Apartheid State” of Israel.

  • Given this, a discussion/debate will be had as to the effectiveness of academic boycotts as a tool against Israel.
  • The premise, according to this group, is clear: Israel is an “apartheid state”. The finer points of a solution are what is under consideration.
  • Suhana Meharchand, a CBC News Anchor is, in effect, validating the RSU’s premise by moderating a debate about academic boycott as a tool for “resistance”

Questions

  • Is CBC an impartial news organization when it comes to reporting on Middle-Eastern affairs? How it labels terrorism?

  • News anchors should not endorse political views (and Meharchand is by validating a debate based on a premise that is itself debatable (if not absurd), but is instead accepted as fact by the RSU and as the basis of subsequent debates, including this one!). News anchors aren’t even allowed to endorse toothpaste, why is Meharchand endorsing a debate involving these radical views?
  • Is there something wrong with the corporate and philosophical culture at CBC that this sort of thing is considered acceptable?
  • As a Canadian, you are a stakeholder of the CBC. Is this what you’ve come to expect from representatives of an organization that claims to represent you?

UPDATE: It’s worse. Not at all apparent from the event’s press release on the RSU website, is that the “debate” on academic boycott as a tool for “resistance” is co-sponsored by the Ryerson Faculty Association and the University itself. I fear that these groups, and the involvement of a reporter from CBC will add an air of legitimacy to a discussion which would be deemed indefensible outside of the loopy arena of student politics.

My friends in the Jewish community forwarded a particularly troubling account of “debate” on the campus at York University. From an article titled “Jewish York Students Flee From Mob” in the Jewish Tribune:

York University saw the worst antisemitic display ever on that campus last week, said Ben Feferman, senior campus coordinator for the Canadian region of Hasbara Fellowships, an Israel advocacy organization spearheaded by Aish Hatorah.

The Betar-supported Campus Coalition of Zionists (CCZ), together with Hasbarah, manned a table in Vari Hall, with permission from the university, with pamphlets and brochures about the danger emanating from Iran.

However, the situation became very difficult for the students who participated. They were vastly outnumbered by pro-Arab students who surrounded them, and eventually the pro-Israel activists fled. As they left, there was cheering by the pro-Arab mob.

According to Feferman, “I’ve never seen anything like this at York. We weren’t even discussing the issues anymore. It was pure Jew hatred. That’s what
it’s come to.”

In fact, Feferman noticed an acquaintance there and said hello, but received no acknowledgement.

She emailed him later that day to apologize, explaining that she didn’t want everyone to know she was Jewish. To Feferman, this episode is a red light.

“We know there’s a crisis when a student on campus is afraid to reveal she’s Jewish and feels unsafe,” he said.

The following day, Palestinian Media Watch’s Itamar Marcus addressed York students on the daily indoctrination of children living under the Palestinian Authority to hate Jews. “It was absolute chaos,” Hollander declared. “It was impossible to moderate. People would
ask loaded questions. Marcus wasn’t given an opportunity to respond. He refused to get into a screaming match. One girl, raised in Canada, said she herself would gladly become a suicide bomber and would have no qualms raising her daughter to be a shahid.”

A couple of weeks ago, when US-based anti-Israel professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky was scheduled to address York students via satellite, CCZ and Hasbarah joined forces to provide information about what Chomsky stands for. “We wanted to do a protest,”

Feferman said, “but the university administration wouldn’t allow it, saying they didn’t want a lot of noise and they were afraid that signs could be used as weapons.”

The RSU is free to publish their positions labeling Israel as an “apartheid state”, but we are also free to condemn their position. When the Faculty Association, the University and a CBC reporter get involved to foster debate on the issue, they are legitimizing the RSU’s indefensible position. By labeling Israel as an apartheid state, in effect, the RSU is arguing that Israel is illegitimate under international law.

Contrast this with the academic freedom afforded to those that defend Israel’s right to exist and the rights of activists that wish to educate people that anti-semitism is still a problem.

How refreshing!

Having spent a number of years at a Canadian university, it can often feel that one’s wandering through a parallel world when it comes to politics. Rational thought and reason are often be replaced by misinformed emotional appeal. Even though modern liberalism is generally the status quo in this country, some students still feel that they go against the grain of mainstream society when they buy local organic groceries, attend a Naomi Klein lecture on American “Imperialism”, volunteer under the OPIRG umbrella of “activism” or have a “squat-in” to raise awareness about poverty as they huddle together in their MEC fleece warmed by their Venti Chai Tea Lattes from Starbucks.

Anyway, I almost missed this but I found it heartening to see this release from my Alma Mater. It’s sure to ruffle a few progressive feathers and may inspire another student take-over of the principal’s office.

Statement by Principal Karen Hitchcock on the academic boycott of Israeli universities being considered by Britain’s University and College Union
Friday July 06, 2007

Academic freedom is deeply enshrined in the culture of Queen’s University. Its core tenets – freedom in research and publication, freedom of expression in the classroom and freedom from censorship for speaking out – are basic to the university’s central purpose and ingrained in our history and traditions.

The academic boycott of Israeli universities being considered by Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) is antithetical to the core value of academic freedom, which is cherished by Queen’s and other universities around the world.

Freedom of inquiry and expression carries with it responsibilities – to encourage open debate and dialogue, and to listen to and learn from the views of others. We must defend these freedoms of speech and inquiry even as we engage with those whose views may differ greatly from our own. Contemporary society calls for leadership that respects but can also bridge social, cultural, economic and geopolitical divides. I therefore denounce the actions of the UCU and absolutely reject its approach.

Those of us who devote ourselves to the learning and discovery that characterizes the academy must defend the freedom of individuals to study, teach and carry out research without fear of harassment, intimidation or discrimination.

Accordingly, I join with many of my colleagues from universities around the world in stating that, if the British UCU pursues its ill-advised course, we will have no choice but to ask the British UCU to add our name to their boycott list. We are proud to align ourselves with those who deplore the UCU’s unacceptable attack on the values and principles that define us.

July 6, 2007

As another school year starts, it’s good to see that the adults are still in charge and that the children… only win at sandbox politics.