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October 24, 2002 Letters


We welcome your letters, opinions and comments at BC-121/1463 Bishop St., by fax (514-848-2814), or e-mail (barblak@alcor.concordia.ca) by 9 a.m. on the Friday prior to publication.

Institutional racism?

Certainly Concordia has a problem. At a minimum it has a problem with administrative indifference to student concerns about racism and discrimination on campus. This indifference inevitably feeds perceptions of institutional racism. What is it after all that the administration has to hide?

Last Wednesday, 650 students packed a room during a Concordia Student Union general assembly to discuss a motion calling for a full and independent inquiry into racism and discrimination on campus. It passed nearly unanimously.

The motion was motivated by an “alarming number of complaints” about discrimination directed towards Arab and Muslim students. However, it also calls for the inquiry to look into the many “public allegations of anti-Semitism,” as well as other forms of racism.

The make up of Concordia’s administration is an area of concern. Every upper administrator is white. Similarly, there is only one non-white dean. In addition, Concordia’s board of governors is sorely lacking representation from Montreal’s various communities of colour in stark contrast to Concordia’s multi-racial student body.

BoG members themselves have fueled controversy over discrimination. The sole Muslim member of the BoG, an elected student representative, requested that BoG members refrain from drinking alcohol during a December meeting. Her request was denied and she missed the meeting. Still worse, at the next meeting when she complained about the board’s insensitivity, another member responded by saying maybe she should quit. The chair allowed the comment to pass without asking for an apology.

Since 2001, the CSU has been calling for an inquiry into anti-Arab racism and discrimination in general. Student governors on both the BoG and senate, the two highest bodies within the university, have called for an inquiry only to be rebuffed. Last week the CSU sent a letter to the Minister of Education calling on the Quebec government to intervene on this issue.

Highlighting the administration’s insensitivity towards racism were recent comments made by the new dean of students. He claimed that the 1969 computer centre riots (an event where black students and their supporters rebelled against administrative indifference to a professor’s racism) was “manufactured” by “outside agitators.” The dean said there was no problem with racism at Concordia at that time, even though this was during the civil rights movement. This type of denial does not foster a level of trust with students who want to express their concerns over racism and discrimination.

The CSU isn’t afraid to look into its possible intolerance. What about Concordia’s administration?

Yves Engler,
VP communications, Concordia Student Union

Dennis Murphy, Executive Director, University Communications, replies:

The rector has repeatedly asked the CSU to make available any examples of discrimination or instances of racism involving students, faculty or staff. He has also contacted the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, the Ombuds Office and Campus Security to see if there is any pattern of systematic discrimination or a series of complaints that would warrant such serious charges.

The concern of the Muslim student on the board was discussed at length in private with her as soon as it was raised, on the initiative of the chair. Every effort was made to understand her viewpoint, and to find a solution that would permit everyone to participate comfortably. The board member who reacted in impatience apologized at the subsequent board meeting.

The new dean of students was here in 1969, lived through the events and does not appreciate being quoted out of context.

The rector has no problem sitting down with the CSU to discuss this issue, but the university takes charges of racism extremely seriously. Accusations of this type should not be made lightly and require serious investigation and clarification. If the CSU has serious cases, then I encourage them to bring them forward to the administration. 

More on Six-Day War

In his letter of Feb. 27, Mr. Hazou mentions that he is a student of Middle Eastern history. Unfortunately, some of his claims are inaccurate, and he is quite selective in his detailing of certain historical events. Consider, for example, his claim that neither Egypt nor Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, and his absurd suggestion that Israel provoked the Six-Day War.

I am old enough to remember what actually occurred in the terrifying spring of 1967. Egypt mobilized its armored divisions and massed them threateningly on Israel’s Negev border. Furthermore, with no military provocation, the Egyptians blockaded Israel’s only Red Sea port, Eilat. (This action was facilitated by the UN’s hasty and cowardly pullout from Sinai.)

Furthermore, during these sad few months, Egypt’s President Nasser launched a vicious and threatening propaganda campaign, with the aim of terrifying Israel. The world was holding its breath, and many felt Israel was doomed. Apparently, Nasser’s propaganda worked, and Israel’s pre-emptive strike was the consequence.

As for Jordan, again, I suggest consulting the archives for a reality check. What actually happened was that after hostilities between Israel and Egypt began, the Jordanians were very publicly asked, by Israel and other nations, not to enter the war.

In solidarity with the Egyptians, however, the Jordanians opened a second front by shelling the Jewish part of Jerusalem. There is compelling evidence that King Hussein of Jordan made this regrettable military decision, which resulted in Israel’s seizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, only because Nasser deliberately witheld key information from him; namely, the extent of the destruction of Egypt’s forces in the first days of the war.

The problem in 1967 was the inability of tyrannical regimes to accept the existence of Israel.

Professor Ron Stern,
Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Occupation of Israel illegal

Steven Carter apparently shares the views of Ariel Sharon and other expansionists who believe that the territories captured in 1967 are not “occupied.” (CTR, Letters, Feb.13).

“Since Israel took back their lands that were populated by Jews years ago,” he writes, “most people who know the facts think Israel deserves to keep their lands.” Really?

First, the area in question had settled populations for 9,000 years, and prior to the creation of the state of Israel, it was under Jewish control for about 73 years. In other words, the lands which Israelis claim as theirs have been ruled by Jews for less than 1 per cent of its history.

Despite Mr. Carter’s wishful thinking, the position of the world community, as formulated in countless UN resolutions, regards those lands as illegally occupied.

Finally, Mr. Carter’s statement that Palestinians are “better off” under Israeli rule is immensely revealing. Supremacists justifying apartheid in South Africa made that identical claim about blacks, and not surprisingly, their revolting attempts to excuse injustice were met with the contempt that they deserved.

John Dirlik, TESL

MidEast: More on Jordan

Mr. Hazou (CTR, Letters, Feb. 27) missed the main point of my previous letter (CTR, Feb. 13). The land that is now part of Israel, called the West Bank, was part of Jordan. If Israel gives back this land, it would give it back to Jordan. But Jordan has not asked for this land back, because King Hussein and his son fear the Palestinians.

In September 1970, thousands of Palestinians fought and killed many Jordanian soldiers and civilians, and tried taking control of Jordan with the help of Syrian forces. Later that year, Palestinians killed the foreign minister of Jordan and several other officials.

In fact, in 1970, when Syria and the Palestinians were trying to overthrow King Hussein and take over Jordan, Israel had a secret agreement with King Hussein called Sandstorm, in which Israel would send forces to help the king if the Palestinians were winning this war.

But Israel only had to send jets over the Syrians to scare them into retreating. Then the Jordanians were able to push the Palestinians back into Syria. Some Palestinians even sought asylum in Israel rather than be killed. Thousands of Palestinians were killed by Jordanian soldiers.

Steven Carter