On September 9, 2002, violent pro-Palestinian protesters at Montreal's Concordia University stormed a university building and forced the cancellation of a speech by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Concordia is the hottest school in Canada in terms of the Palestinian presence, activism and intimidation.
(Incidentally, note the misleading headline from the Associated Press: "Canada Cops, Israel Protesters Clash." Makes it sound like the pro-Israel camp did the protesting...)
On Sept. 11, 2002, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Council of Representatives met to discuss the riot. The CSU operates on student fees which are supposed to go to enhancing student life on campus, by creating student clubs, organizing events, etc.
The majority of those present at the Sept. 11 CSU meeting were actual participants in the recent riot, and one member of the CSU Executive was among those arrested.
At the meeting, the CSU passed a motion calling “on the University and the Crown Attorney to drop all charges against those arrested in connection with all matters relating to Sept. 9 through the university’s code of rights and responsibilities.” In the event that the legal process continues and the charges are not dropped, “the CSU shall cover the legal fees of all those arrested from its legal costs budget line.” In other words, student fees will be used to defend the rioters -- including those who are not students at Concordia!
Complaints can be filed with Dr. Frederick H. Lowy, Rector & Vice-Chancellor -
Below we present two eyewitness accounts of the riot at Concordia, followed by excerpts from the speech that Netanyahu planned to say.
SARA AHRONHEIM: EYEWITNESS
To enter the Concordia building we had to walk right through a volatile protest of hundreds of pro-Palestinians and their supporters in keffiyehs, with flags, screaming vitriolic hate. Once having run this gauntlet, we waited patiently outside the Bishop street entrance, held back at the gate by security and police. After about an hour they started admitting us inside, but it was too late because a huge group of pro-Palestinian 'demonstrators' had appeared in our midst.
I was fortunately right at the entrance, and as dozens of violent protesters pushed their way to the front, I tried to get through. Right next to me appeared the ringleader, who tried to push his way in. The cop in front of me punched him in the face while pulling me through the gate at the same time.
I rested against the wall and watched as at least a hundred (I think) red-and-green colored protesters attacked the barriers and tried to get in. Riot cops appeared, dozens of them, and went to the gate as I and a few others were herded into the building. There was yelling and chanting, drumming and fighting going on outside the doors, with hundreds of our people stuck behind the gate being abused by hundreds of violent demonstrators.
Chaos broke out and I thought we were going to get killed, I swear.
A few of us were waiting after the metal detectors for our friends to come through, when all of a sudden we heard loud chanting and yelling inside the building. The riot cops came storming in and up the stairs beside us, and we began hearing fighting, crashing, yelling, punching. Chaos broke out and riot cops made us run for the door to the auditorium -- I thought we were going to get killed, I swear. It was the scariest feeling, because I knew that these people wanted to hurt me and anyone who supports Israel or is Jewish.
Once inside the auditorium, we were told to be patient as more people would drift in from the insanity outside. We waited inside for three hours, as the commotion outside grew increasingly loud. We could hear chanting and yelling, and the protesters began trashing the university building. The police tear gassed and pepper sprayed the entire building and outside, and we began to feel the effects if we stood too near the doors.
After hours of waiting, and bomb searches by RCMP sniffer dogs, we were informed that Bibi Netanyahu could not speak after all -- too much danger to him and to us. This was an incredible disappointment and we were naturally upset. We however managed to maintain a kind of composure and instead of fighting, the 650 of us inside began to sing Hatikvah, the national anthem of the State of Israel. We sang peace chants and then just waited to be let out, in groups of 10, escorted by police.
They tossed coins at us -- one of the oldest ways to taunt Jews by saying we're money-grubbing.
The scene as we exited was disgusting. Benches were overturned, papers and garbage streaked across the hallways, and broken windows. We were shoved outside directly into a huge pro-Palestinian riot, where some of our people were apparently attacked... On their side, they threw bottles at people's heads, screamed hatred, and tried to break the barriers down to hurt us. They started tossing pennies and coins at us -- one of the oldest ways to taunt Jews by saying we're all “money-grubbing.” While we sang Hatikvah arm in arm, they spat at us. Finally we decided to disperse and leave them to their hatred...
Today Montreal Jews were made to feel afraid for our lives, and today Jewish students were threatened in our own home. If we cannot express ourselves here in Canada, champion of free speech and human rights, where on earth can we do so? If we cannot feel safe in our own cities where we have grown up and thrived, where are we to go?
...Today I saw raw hatred, and it cut me to the core. I have never feared for my life as I did today. I have never feared for our free society the way do today. I wish beyond anything that we can one day fix the agonizing rifts between our peoples, and erase the hate from our and their hearts alike.
ESTHER SCHWARTZ: EYEWITNESS
It's about a 15-minute walk to Concordia from my apartment. So I leave at 10:30, with an Israeli flag folded up in my bag. When I get about 3 blocks away, I see the police have blocked off all the streets around the area and there is a huge Palestinian rally with flags and loudspeakers and tons and tons of hate. So I'm standing there feeling totally alone and I whip out my flag and put in on my back. A bunch of different guys come up to me to scream and argue and talk about the occupation and the war criminals blah blah blah...
The end result is that Bibi’s speech was cancelled. The pro-Palestinian presence and voice had changed the course of events pre-planned by us. That's how much of a difference they make. And all we wanted to do, us, little defenseless Jews, all we wanted to do was listen to the former PM speak...
I wondered how long it's going to be until the world realizes that anti-Semitism is not a trend that comes in and out like fashion.
All that was left to do was sing. So we sang Hatikva and every reporter asked for a translation. And we sang Am Israel Chai and all the security guards were feeling our message. But as I looked around and realized that I was stuck in a room because the enemy was outside trying to hurt and destroy us, I wondered how different I was than my grandmother in Poland pre 1939. And I wondered how long it's going to be until the world realizes that anti-Semitism is not a trend that comes in and out like fashion. It is a fact of each Jews' life...
It was such a scary day, but it was an amazing reminder of what is really going on in the world. Israel has no friends in this world... The one and only thing we have is each other. It has never been more important to love our neighbors like ourselves.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: EXCERPTS OF UNDELIVERED SPEECH
I have come here to voice what I believe is an urgently needed reminder: that the war on terror can be won with clarity and courage or lost with confusion and vacillation.
Israel has not experienced a terrorist attack like the one the world witnessed on that horrific day last September. That unprecedented act of barbarism will never be forgotten. But, in the past two years, Israel's six million citizens have buried more than 600 victims of terror -- a per capita toll equivalent to more than half a dozen September 11ths. This daily, hourly carnage is also unprecedented in terrorism's bloody history.
Instead of praising Israel for seeking to minimize civilian casualties through careful and deliberate action, most of the world's governments shamelessly condemn it.
What has destabilized the region is the constant pressure exerted on Israel to show restraint.
But contrary to conventional wisdom, what has destabilized the region is not Israeli action against Palestinian terror, but rather the constant pressure exerted on Israel to show restraint.
It is precisely the exceptional restraint shown by Israel that has unwittingly emboldened its enemies and inadvertently increased the threat of a wider conflict.
Twenty-one years ago, prime minister Menachem Begin sent the Israeli air force on a predawn raid hundreds of miles away on one of the most dangerous military missions in our nation's history. When our pilots returned, we had successfully destroyed Saddam's atomic bomb factory and crippled his capacity to build nuclear weapons. Israel was safer -- and so was the world. But rather than thanking us for safeguarding freedom, the entire world condemned us.
Ten years later, when American troops expelled Iraqi forces in the gulf war, then secretary of defense Richard Cheney expressed a debt of gratitude to Israel for the bold and determined action a decade earlier that had made victory possible.
We simply can no longer afford to allow this region to remain cloistered by a fanatic militancy. We must let the winds of freedom and independence finally penetrate the one region in the world that clings to unreformed tyranny.