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Ask a Columnist

Who are the real 'crazies'?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Q: Mr. Boone: You couldn't possibly have seriously referred to the opposing Concordia Middle East factions at Concordia as "crazies". You must be taking this stance because you want "Dear Mike" mail desperately to boost your stature as a responsible journalist (arguable)!

I think a most appropriate place for you to be is in Middle America Loyola campus where you can contemplate the color of the grass because it's obvious by the content of your article that determining the shades of a sun-dappled lawn is a more suitable assignment for someone who can't be bothered to inform himself of the real truths in the Concordia downtown campus or in the Middle East situation for that matter.

First of all, how dare you imply that the Jewish students at Concordia are "crazies" when they have every right to defend themselves and their people peacefully with information and dialogue in response to unabashed

vilification at every step and turn throughout the university! What's crazy about civilized debate?

Why should the actions of the violent aggressors and purveyors of mistruths and slander go unchallenged - so that the propaganda machine featuring pictures of wounded and dying Palestinians in the Middle East conflict could proceed unhindered? Do Jewish information booths feature blown up images of body pieces a la suicide bombers to enlighten visitors on their version of the FACTS? No! Do Jewish students trash the very university that offers them an education in a free and democratic society? No! So who are the "crazies"? The militant Palestinian faction at Concordia is using the very free and open environment that our democratic institution offers them to spit in Concordia's face... the very same spitting it offered the audience that had come to see and hear Netanyahu speak ...the very same virulent disrespect for the very values our society stands for.

So who are the "crazies"? The organizers of the Netanyahu venue? You and your student supporters' convoluted and unfounded reasoning is akin to the popular rumor that the Jews planned 9/11 to blame it on the Arabs. Do you not have enough faith in the intelligence of the Concordia administration that they would not deliberately shoot themselves in the foot? You have fallen into the trap used by Palestinian propaganda of turning the victims into the guilty aggressors. Administration didn't need violent destruction of property and Nazi reminiscent humiliation and abuse tactics of innocent citizens as an excuse for student clampdown.

The fiasco at Concordia was not a demonstration of protest as the organizers had promised but a mere vignette of your "Isaac vs. Ishmael passion play" that is playing not only in the Middle East but right here in our backyard and anywhere democracy turns a blind eye to its manipulation for purposes of its very destruction. We have laws against the dissemination of hatred. We have laws against violence and abuse. We have rules of debate. Those that follow those rules are not "crazies".

Those that spit in the face of what we stand for are dangerous and destructive but those that would choose to ignore the truth, regurgitate uninvestigated lies and propaganda and to top it all off with a wish to escape the passion play playing out under their noses - well, those are the real "crazies".

Respectfully submitted,

Naomi Tozman
A: Naomi Tozman: Anyone who resorts to violence in advocating one side or the other in the Middle East debate falls into my definity of a crazy.

I take your point: unreasoning passion seems to be an exclusive to the pro-Palestinian faction.

Concordia has to do something to chill this situation out. I wish them luck.

Mike Boone

No shortage of people to blame for Concordia mess

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Q: Michel: Re: Concordia. You blame Con & the cops, and the people who invited Netanyahu. Journal de M. blames Netanyahu.

Re: 9/11, Chretien blames "poverty" in third world.

Are you beginning to see a familiar pattern here? Seems it's "politically correct" (still) to blame everyone EXCEPT the perps themselves.

If intellectual contortionism ever qualifies as an Olympics event, Canada and The Gazette will be there in full regalia. If points are awarded for "high profile", our PM might be the first 70-plus-year-old to win individual gold. (The team gold is already in the bag.)

John Gross
A: Mr. Gross: No shortage of people to blame for the Concordia mess. As to the Journal and the PM, well, they're not my fault. I read The Gazette and vote Rhino.

Mike Boone

Mike's got it right on Powder Keg U.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Q: Mr. Boone: As a Concordia grad and serving CF officer who saw his share of war-torn countries, I read your column with great interest today. I don't usually write to newpapers, but in this case, I felt it was important for me to write to say that I wholeheartedly agree with you concerning the Netanyahu brou-ha-ha at Powder Keg U.

I'm happy I live in a country with a free press that can see through the information "machination" campaign that Israelis and Palestinians practice in trying to gain public support around the world. Netanyahu and his staff knew quite well what there were doing - Palestian supporters played in the Israeli hands and Canadians are still too naive to understand how information warfare (use of propaganda, PR tools, media relations, Internet...) is played on the world scale to advance one's country's interest.

Of course, Palestinians and their supporters don't master information warfare skills as well as Israelis (who must be able to deal with their free press and democratic institutions), but then again, they control their media and therefore it is easier for their leaders to lie to influence the emotions of their partisans. That influence on emotion will encourage ill-educated people to kill for the "cause", and by attacking better armed Israelis, make them look like underdogs. Western societies always have sympathy for the underdog (think of Rocky.)

Hopefully, what I wrote made sense. Thank God, I live in a democratic country with a free press (even though I don't always agree with its coverage of the Canadian military!!)

Thank you for being a Gazette columnist.

A: PCT: Thanks for the kind words. Your analysis of media manipulation is very astute.

Mike Boone

Palestinian students won't follow Jewish speakers to Loyola?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Q: I e-mailed you last year about not realizing your being Jewish etc., etc. I am from Montreal but now live in Lakeland, Florida. I want to make sure I understood what you said in your column - that inviting Netanyahu to speak was a provocation by Jewish "elements" because of how the pro-Palestinian students would react???????

The last time I checked Canada was a democracy where anyone was allowed to speak freely. What was the objective in the provocation? To trick those hooligans into showing their true colours? When was the last time the Jewish students rioted to prevent a Palestinian speaker?? The real issue is why that wonderful Montreal police force who were alerted to the possibility of a problem did bopkes????

Also by giving dignity to her comment that Netanyahu was, in her opinion a war criminal, is unwarranted. Why didn't you ask a Jewish student his opinion on Arafat and the fact that innocent civilians were murdered twice this week in Israel?

The only sane comment was by her father who questioned what does anybody here reallly know about what is happening in the Middle East. What was the point of your article? That by moving the campus to Loyola the right of free speach would be reinstated and that the Palestinian students would not venture to that Anglo bastion of Montreal West. (My tongue firmly planted in my cheek).

M. Weiner
Lakeland, FL
A: Mr. Wiener: I didn't use the phrase "Jewish elements", which would have negative connotations. I suspect (there was a reference to paranoia) that the event was designed to bring Concordia's student politics mess to a rapid boil, which is what occurred.

I thought that young woman was fairly reasonable. I did not feel opinions on Arafat were required for balance.

Thanks for your feedback,

Mike Boone

No one in Washington found Netanyahu's speech 'provocation'

Friday, September 20, 2002

Q: You wrote "scheduling Netanyahu was a deliberate provocation...organizations that booked Netanyahu into Concordia knew that a confrontation would ensue."

It certainly sounded as if you did not wish for this "provocation" to happen a second time. Did I misunderstand you?

By the way, isn't all political speech a provocation if one disagrees with it? Also, didn't there used to be a time when (thought) provoking speech was a good thing?

What happened? If I may be permitted to speculate, I wonder whether the Anglophone population of Montreal may be isolated from the rest of English-speaking North America. Because I attended a speech by Netanyahu on the Capital Mall in Washington DC last spring, and no one thought the Netanyahu speech was a "provocation."

Is Montreal so different from Washington, DC in that regard? Let Netanyahu speak in Montreal too, and don't call it a "provocation" when he does.

Jonathan S. Mark
Alexandria, VA
A: Scheduling him at the Hall Building in the second week of classes was, I suspect, an effort to create confrontation at Concordia. Why not book him into a synagogue or a public meeting hall?

That said, as I keep repeating, anyone should have the right to speak anywhere,

Mike Boone

Q: You wrote "Why not book him into a synagogue or a public meeting hall?..."

Back in the 1980s I booked pro-Israel speakers for the Hillel House at the University of Virginia, and I can answer your question. We brought a number of people to UVA whose presence at Concordia today would probably cause rioting, including an Israeli embassy official and the often-inaccurate pro-Israel writer Joan Peters.

Any campus group, not just a pro-Israel one, books speakers in order to "show the flag" and establish a presence on campus. If we were lucky we might get 75 people to an event. However, we would promote the event and so thousands of people would know, yes there are supporters of Israel on campus. The event might get written up in the paper because it was on campus. The physical audience might have been only 75, but the real audience was the thousands of people who would know that the event occurred and that Israel had friends.

Renting a hall at the Holiday Inn would not have had the same effect.

I am a nation and a generation away from today's Concordia University students, but I can tell you that in the years I scheduled pro-Israel speakers for the Israel Interest Group it never even occurred to me that anti-Israel activists would assault our audience or vandalize our meeting spaces. For me scheduling a pro-Israel speaker in university space would have been COMPLETELY NORMAL activity.

Prior to the riots on Sept. 9 was Concordia really known to be so different from American universities? We had anti-Israel activists in the 80s on campus, but we did not fear that they would attack us and they did not do so. Perhaps the Hillel House at Concordia was simply naive, and did not understand the criminal intent of the rioters.

Jonathan S. Mark
Alexandria, VA
A: Mr. Mark: Concordia is unique ... not least because it has an estimated 5,000 students of Muslim extraction (and 2,000 Jews.) Describing Benjamin Netanyahu as a "pro-Israel speaker" understatews the vociferousness of his views. I don't know that speech by Ehud Barak or David Levy would have elicited the same reaction.

Thanks for your feedback,

Mike Boone

Hire more cops instead of giving in to protesters

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Q: Mr. Boone: You said in your column of Sept. 12 that "I share your hope that Benjamin Netanyahu and Norman Finkelstein return to Concordia." Do you want Benjamin Netanyahu to return to the main Concordia campus, or do you wish to exile him to the branch campus? What about Norman Finkelstein? If the pro-Israel Netanyahu is exiled to the branch campus, should the anti-Israel Finkelstein be exiled there too?

Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to hire 200 Montreal cops for three hours on nights when pro-Israel lecturers speak? The cost of extra police is probably a lot less than the damage to Concordia's reputation that would be caused by giving in to the anti-Israel rioters.

Jonathan Samuel
Alexandria, Virginia
A: Mr. Samuel: I don't care which campus plays host to them. I just think anyone with something to say - or any raving idiot, for that matter - should be able to speak his/her mind at a university.

It's too bad that the poisonous atmosphere at Concordia - specifically, at the downtown campus - has rendered reasonable discourse impossible.

Thanks for your feedback,
Mike Boone

Don't let Middle East hatred come to Canada

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Q: Your recent article on the situation re Netanyahu's scheduled talk at Concordia about the Palestinian/Israeli situation was well written.

People may not agree with a particular point of view but in a democratic society we must have a right to express our opinion in a non-violent, debate type atmosphere. It is impossible to exchange ideas when there is a pervasive atmosphere of hate as demonstrated.

We must question the security arrangemnets which turned out to be inadequate. The university and the police should have been better prepared.

As an alumnus of Concordia I have been very disappointed by the atmosphere that has permeated the halls of learning over the the few years. Advocates of the Palestinian view have been allowed to hold rallies in and around the campus buildings. Posters and banners with a hateful anti Israeli, anti Jewish, anti Zionist slant have been permitted to been displayed. We as Canadians must not allow the hatred of the Middle East to be imported here. Better the participants sit down together to work out a just settlemnet respectful to both sides.

David Superstein, B.Sc. 67 , B.A. 75
A: Mr. Superstein: Your points are well taken, As a Concordia alumnus, you must be saddened by what's going on at the school. I hope sanity is somehow restored.

Thanks for your feedback,

Mike Boone