Campus debates Mideast concerns - Divided crowd at Palestinian talks - Yelling disrupts question session (TORONTO STAR) CHRISTIAN COTRONEO 02/01/05)
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Minutes before a pro-Palestinian lecture series was slated to begin,
about 150 people outside the University of Toronto classroom had
already organized themselves into two camps — under two very distinct
One, created by a pro-Israeli student group,
read, "Four years of an
Arab terror war have forced Israelis to live behind a
Another, created by a pro-Palestinian group, read, "Free
Mohammed Salameh leaned across that divide
last night and asked, "Do
you really believe that?"
The young man holding the pro-Israeli
banner shot back, "Do you
believe the lies that are being told you?"
And so the stage was
set for the first lecture in a week-long series
called "Israel Apartheid Week."
Adding a little more fuel to
this fire, the event coincides with
IsraelFest, which began Jan. 27 and runs through Thursday. The annual
celebration of Israeli art and culture is hosted by the campus Jewish
group Hillel and takes place at the University of
Although members of the Arab Student Collective, which
Israel Apartheid Week, say the timing was just a coincidence, the
event´s kickoff was anything but low key.
Also yesterday, the
group organized an exhibit, depicting living
conditions for Palestinian refugees, in one of the downtown campus´s
"We picked that space strategically," said
organizer Nadia Daar. "A
lot of people came and looked at it and wanted to know more about the
status of refugees in the diaspora as well as the occupied
By the time the 7 p.m. lecture was ready to begin,
members of pro-
Israeli groups were waiting.
"I believe that these events, this
week, are strictly and
specifically denigrating one people, one nation, one culture on
campus," said Jonathan Jaffit, president of Israeli group Betar
But his counterpart, Hazem Jamjoum of the Arab Student
billed the event as an opportunity for "a better analysis of what´s
happening in Palestine."
In a memo released Jan. 19, David
Farrar, the university´s vice-
provost, acknowledged concerns from some members of the community but
said the university will not bar the series from
"Vigorous debate, especially concerning human rights and
issues, provides an opportunity to seek solutions without violence,"
Farrar wrote. "We must protect that opportunity, for the university
and for the larger community."
But Farrar also
warned, "behaviour or speech that constitutes hatred
or incitement to hatred against any group will be dealt with quickly
Despite a 45-minute delay over recording
equipment and a classroom
packed almost equally with Palestinian and Israeli supporters, the
crowd remained relatively quiet for most of the two-hour lecture on
the origins of Palestinian resistance.
Aside, that is, from a
few very loud yawns, jeers and even one
distinct shout, "You´re bin Laden! You´re part of that!"
question and answer period, the crowd had devolved into mostly
yelling, and more signs appeared, including, "My son is a suicide
bomber and all I got was a T-shirt."
When visitors finally began
clearing the room, a young man in the
back row, draped in an Israeli flag, shouted, "We´ll see you
Both Israeli Apartheid Week and IsraelFest continue
1996-2005. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. 02/01/05)
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