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January 29, 2003

Mideast scholar gives speech amid protest

The on again off again appearance of Daniel Pipes at York University, says, The National Post was filled with supporters and detractors but was without any major incidents.

TORONTO - Daniel Pipes, the conservative scholar whose Middle East Forum seeks to shame leftist academics into harsher criticism of Arab politics, walked into a York University gymnasium yesterday to a standing ovation from half the audience and resentful silence from the rest.

His brief speech, in which he argued Middle East peace depends on Arab recognition of Israel, was significant simply because he was allowed to give it. An organized effort by student and faculty groups to ban the Philadelphia-based scholar, who was invited to speak by York's Jewish Students Federation, was stopped dead last week by school president Lorna Marsden.

In his speech, Dr. Pipes said there is a tolerance among the public for criticism of the role of violence in Arab politics, but that most university professors are engaged in "apologetics to the point of distortion." Those who hold dissenting views remain silent out of fear of academic reprisal, he said, referring to universities as "islands of repression in a sea of tolerance.

"The sources of this kind of hostility to freedom of speech are not on the right but the left, not Christian radicals but Islamists," Dr. Pipes said. "These are barbarians who would close down civil discourse."

He said Palestinians need to abandon "ugly dreams of destroying their neighbour. Until that time, their fate will be dictatorship, poverty and backwardness.