MONTREAL — Administrators from the Université de Quebec a Montreal have ordered an immediate disciplinary hearing for several dozen students who prevented a Jewish professor from entering his classroom. Prof. Stephen Schecter, a former chairman of sociology who has been teaching at UQAM for more than 25 years, was blocked in mid-January from entering a classroom by students demonstrating against UQAM policies of resource rationalization. Ordinarily this would not occasion unusual comment. However, quite unexpectedly, the students started chanting “Israel assassin, Schecter complice.”
In light of recent events at universities, including the rioting at Concordia on September 9 which cancelled a planned speech by former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the attempt in Toronto to stifle a talk by Professor Daniel Pipes, arguably the world’s leading authority on radical Islam and a consultant to Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, observers found this latest event quite troubling, quite sad and requires reflection and response.
“Ironically, the subject of the undergraduate course Professor Schecter was teaching was democracy,” says Beryl Wajsman, president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. “Painfully, this event occurred in the same week that marked the 70th anniversary of the ascension to power of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.” Wajsman says his Institute does not want to draw parallels between the brutality and insanity of political Nazism and the current atmosphere of intolerance and exclusiveness.
“That would only cheapen the suffering of tens of millions,” he says. “ But as Professor James Laxer has pointed out in ‘How Evil Triumphs,’ there is a parallel to psychological Hitlerism. That mentality that causes people to pour into, and identify with, a vessel of hate reflective of their bile of prejudice, paranoia and parochialism caused by their own failures and frustrations. A mentality that seeks to place blame on someone, anyone — no matter how unrelated to a grievance at hand, for its own shortcomings. A mentality with a core of intellectual rot with racism as its inevitable result. It has no place in our democratic dialogue and must be rooted out with repudiation and resolve.
“When democratic states such as Israel are attacked by students and subjected to the double standard of a supposed objectivity by journalists, it is time for all of us to realize that this is not being done for the sake of redressing what these states do wrong, but precisely to attack what they do right. The attacks on Israel do not come singularly because of its conflict with the Palestinians, but arise from the broader assault on the family of liberal democratic nations launched by radical Muslims, supported by their ‘morally relativist’ friends in academe, media and in the dictatorial regimes that dominate ‘objective’ world forums such as the U.N., who cannot abide by, nor successfully engage in, the competition of open debate and discourse that is the hallmark of the free world, and therefore seek to bring the west to heel at their altar of neo-Hitlerian behavioral conformity and racial prejudice."
Wajsman notes that Canada has sacrificed more sons and daughters for the survival and success of freedom in the past century than even the United States as a proportion of population. Quebec, with Louis-Joseph Papineau amongst its leaders, was the first political jurisdiction in the West to give full enfranchisement to Jews and other minorities beating England by eight years.
“Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin made us only the second national jurisdiction in the world with responsible government some twenty years before confederation,” he says. “Sir Wilfrid Laurier gave us the creed of inclusive liberalism that propelled us forward into the twentieth century. And Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier led the revolt against the teachings of contempt in Quebec and gave Canada an agenda for progress that has made us the envy of the world.”
“As a society our instincts for justice are generally intuitive and immediate,” says Wajsman. “We know we cannot long tolerate further incidents of this nature. They are viscerally repulsive and spiritually corrosive to the social contract we have built in this good and gentle land.”
Wajsman has circulated a paper on this incident to several hundred national leaders in politics, business, labor, media, academia, the arts, and ethnic and social advocacy. “It is time for a message to be sent,” he says. “ It is time for action and assault against this tide of prejudice posturing as objectivity that is the obscene deformity borne of thirty years of moral relativism. We must send forth our word, from dozens of directions — from whom we engage with in business, to whom we ally with in politics — that as free people, we shall no longer acknowledge as legitimate, we can no longer abide as tolerable and we will never acquiesce as debatable, such infamous slanders against sister democracies and such lurid libels against fellow citizens.”
copyright - Jewish Tribune - 2003