Well-meaning American lady: “So where are you studying?”
Me: “Oh, Concordia.”
Lady (sounding impressed): “Oh, Cornell!”
Me (more loudly): “I go to Concordia.”
Lady (nodding knowledgeably): “Yes, Cornell!”
When I started my studies, Concordia was still reeling from the shock of Prof. Valery Fabrikant’s murderous rampage in the Mech Eng department. But by the time I graduated, it had subsided. Department secretaries had stopped looking over their shoulders nervously and things were looking encouraging. Concordia was flourishing, and new building projects seemed to be sprouting up like weeds. At that rate, I thought, soon my alma mater would really be on the map.
This week, I got my wish.
We had all heard the disturbing reports last year coming out from Concordia. B’nai Brith of Canada summarizes it:
In September 2001, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) published an Agenda entitled Uprising, which accuses Israel of being involved in “state terror that has killed civilian men, women, and children whose only ‘crime’ is their nationality”. The CSU-produced Uprising goes one step further with an article by Laith Marouf that insinuated that “the ‘Jewish’ Rector knows how much money the university owes to Zionists”, and accused the Concordia administration of being Arabophobic.
Earlier in the year, Mr. Marouf, a foreign national from Syria who was in Canada on a student visa, is alleged to have harassed and intimidated the editor of a Concordia University newspaper and her staff, by alluding to their religion. He is also alleged to have stated in an undergraduate Political Science class in the winter semester of the 2000-2001 academic year, in front of all his peers and the professor, that the “Talmud obliges Jews to kill all non-Jews”.
Marouf, who was elected as a CSU student councilor in March 2001, was allegedly caught on two occasions scrawling graffiti on Concordia University property. One of these incidents relates to graffiti containing both anti-Jewish and anti-Israel diatribes, including “Stop Jewish Apartheid”, “End Jewish Occupation”, “Israel is a racist State”, and the Star of David being equated to a swastika. Similar anti-Jewish and anti-Israel graffiti was scrawled by an unknown person or persons on the corners of eight sidewalks on St. Catherine Street not far from the York Theatre, stating “Stop Jewish apartheid” and “End Jewish supremacy”.
Incidentally, this same agenda also included an encouragement of shoplifting as a legitimate form of protest and I'm not sure that it didn't include instructions on how to build a homemade bomb. All this to say, it was becoming apparent that the Concordia Student Union was becoming something Mohammed Atta would have felt right at home in, and possibly something even Osama bin Laden might have nodded his head approvingly at.
But this week, when violent protesters smashed in glass windows, threw rocks, and assaulted people who had come to attend a lecture by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia, the former site of my higher education hit a new low.
There were reports of protesters assaulting a 72-year old Czechoslovakian Holocaust survivor and even a rabbi and his wife, a Concordia professor.
Netanyahu ended up canceling his speech, which was, of course, the whole point. Leftists aren’t about free speech. They’re about free speech for leftists.
One of the lunatic organizations involved in the protest even issued an unapologetic statement the following day, branding Netanyahu a “terrorist”. Is that the same Netanyahu who presided over the peace process? In this weird parallel universe, does Arafat then become a democratically elected prime minister with a spotless past, and, incidentally, the ability to string together a coherent sentence? Does the Palestinian Authority then become a place where people like this can legitimately engage in protest of any kind, peaceful or not?
I know that expecting the Concordia Student Union to immediately issue a strong statement denouncing all forms of violent protests is, perhaps, pushing it. Let’s start with baby steps. But, in the same Bizarro-like tradition, they went a step further. Putting the blame for this whole circus squarely on the shoulders of Concordia’s rector, Frederick Lowy, the CSU accused him of endangering students and called for his resignation. (That would be the same Jewish rector that the CSU’s Marouf is so fond of.) You would be excused for wondering at this point if Lowy himself was sporting a green and red keffiyah and throwing stones at the conference ticket-holders. Wait, I have a novel idea. Let’s place the responsibility for the protesters’ outbursts of physical violence and the protesters’ wanton destruction of property on – the protesters!
I don't know what they're teaching university students these days, but at Concordia, it must not be logic.