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September 13, 2002

The Double Standard

Earlier this week, former Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu's, scheduled speech at Concordia University in Montreal was cancelled when a group of pro-Palestinian protesters rioted, attacking Netanyahu's Jewish supporters. Read Elana's retelling of the event as well as this other first hand account. Howard Fienberg also has a thorough round up of stories about the riot.

The most striking commentary comes by National Post reporter, Daniel Kay, who was at the incident and listenedd to both the protesters and the press conference afterwards held by Netanyahu. I've extracted the important quotes:

First from the protesters themselves:

To the protesters -- well-steeped in the specious propaganda of the Arab world -- all of this was "legitimate resistance."

"Look what the police have done," a thin, friendly Concordia student named Ahmed told me, gesturing dramatically at a pane of smashed glass.

"But the protesters smashed the window," I said.

"Yes," he responded, "Out of frustration. Look at the way they're being treated!"

As we spoke, a group of Jewish students raised an Israeli flag. Almost immediately, a group of men chanting slogans in Arabic took it from them.

"Is that an act of frustration too?" I asked Ahmed, half seriously.

"They have no business taunting us," he said with great solemnity. "It's a provocation."

And now from a reporter at the press conference:

There are people who feel that holding your event at a place like Concordia University with a history of difficulties... was like waving a red flag in front of these people," she said. "Perhaps that caused the problem."

Now consider what happened at Colorado College when it invited Dr. Hanan Ashwari, considered by many (this author included) to be an apologist for Palestinian terrorism, to give a keynote speech on September 12 about the effects of 9-11. Outraged Jews and non-Jews alike started a letter writing campaign to the college expressing dismay at her selection. Although the college did allow Daniel Pipes to speak, it stuck to its guns and allowed Ashrawi to speak. As it turned out, while there was a great deal of arguing and protesting, peace reigned as there was no violence to be found on either side.

So let's summarize: the Arab population of Concordia is angry and there have been previous violent incidents involving these same students, so nothing should have been done to "incite" them, including inviting a controversial speaker such as Netanyahu. These are the words of both the protesters themselves as well as their sympathizers, and are eerily similar to those sentiments castigating Ariel Sharon for taking his now infamous walk to the Temple Mount in September of 2000. As far as I can tell, these words are tantamount to saying that Arabs cannot and should not be expect to control themselves, so nothing should be done, no matter how non-violent, to provoke them. Imagine the fall out if the Jews had rioted in the same way as did the Corcordia Arabs, Not only would have they been condemned by the usual suspects (CAIR et al.) but undoubtedly by Jews all over (myself included). But we don't see this happening regarding the Concordia riot - while there were condemnations issued by (ostensibly) non-aligned parties, all that is offered from the pro-Palestinian side is justification. Mr. Singh's missive is particularly egregious in this regard as it offers the following:

Free speech, expression and debate are crucial values in a society presumed to be democratic, but it wasn't the protesters who were attacking those values on Monday; rather, it was the organizers of Mr. Netanyahu's event at Concordia, as well as the university administration, that gave the event a go-ahead...

...And certainly don't expect Palestinian students -- many of whom are direct victims of Mr. Netanyahu's policies and the Israeli occupation -- to sit idle, or settle for being "polite."

And thus we have the double standard: free speech and violence for me but not for thee and until the Palestinians and especially their sympathizers hold themselves to the same standards as the hold Westerners and Jews, we should not expect the Israeli-Arab conflict to be settled, at least peacefully, anytime soon.