Sunday, February 22, 2009

Concern over Gazan deaths prompt expulsions and sanctions by university administrators

Around the world those critical of Israel’s attacks into the Gaza refugee enclaves have been facing intimidation and even arrest. For students at Carleton u, this recently hit home. The Ottawa Sun reported that some Carleton university students may face expulsion and other sanctions from Carleton's administration for "hurtful and discriminatory" actions.

These actions? The Sun reports that "Students Against Israeli Apartheid made waves last week when posters depicting an Israeli warplane firing a rocket at a Palestinian child were circulated around campus, and promptly ripped down."

But hold on here, artistic licence aside, just how far from reality is such a depiction?

Palestine has been called an “open air prison” in the mainstream media. In Israel’s latest offensive into Gaza, it has been widely reported that over 1,300 Palestinians were killed. Among those were more than 400 hundred children. Despite the Israeli Defense Forces’ attempt to reduce the impact of these numbers by claiming that most (including children) were “terrorists,” demands are being made for an investigation into the apparent deliberate attacks against civilians. Such attacks and its alleged use of banned weapons have resulted in the real possibility that Israel will face charges of war crimes at the UN.

Whether or not Israeli Defense Forces specifically targeted children in Gaza is an open question right now. But depictions on Carleton campus of children being affected by the Israeli military can not be so far off that debate should be stifled and students expelled. Unfortunately, this is not the first time university administrators have used university resources to demonstrate their support for Israel.

While university administrators are working behind the scenes to derail free speech on issues they or their donors disagree with, they act outraged when the right-wing media concoct stories of censorship by students. Confusing? It is. But don't be surprised, the common denominator here is the attack on progressive campus organizing by any means available.

The attempt by Carleton University to silence debate on Israel’s militarism amounts to more than siding with the aggressor. It also chokes off public discourse on an issue that desperately needs debate now more than ever. No matter what one thinks of Israel or Palestine, the politics, the religious debates or the history, it is wrong to not speak out against the indiscriminate killing of civilians and children in Gaza. Students by-in-large recognise this.

At Ryerson, students have also been victim of this type of repression. In years past, a more political Arab Student Association was threatened over space use and status by the administration. Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights almost didn't exist because of similar friction, not the least has been rumoured to come from inside the Ryerson Students' Union itself.

Progressive people everywhere need to do a better job at unifying in the face of regressive push-back from university administrators and media. Only public pressure and a united progressive campus movement will stop the unchecked right-wing onslaught on our campuses.

No comments: