MONTREAL (Oct. 14)
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Concordia University’s Student Union finds itself in hot water because of its 2001/2002 handbook.
The soft-covered, spiral-bound agenda is titled “Uprising,” with the image of what appears to be a Muslim woman and the word “revolution” written in several languages on one side.
At a news conference organized by B’nai Brith Canada earlier this month, BBC Executive Director Frank Dimant called the handbook “a call to intifada, anarchy and revolution.”
“It threatens to be a blueprint to campuses not just in Canada, but across North America,” Dimant said.
Since the Palestinian intifada began a year ago — when students at Concordia held pro-Palestinian rallies highlighted by placards proclaiming “Death to the Jews” and marchers chanting anti-Zionist diatribes — Concordia’s downtown campus has been a hotbed of activism and anti-Semitism.
Jewish students at the school have been verbally and physically intimidated. Many have expressed fear about attending classes.
The school, which receives 85 percent of its funding from the government of the province of Quebec, has more than 25,000 students at its two campuses in the Montreal area.
The handbook, paid for with annual student fees, is a virtual glorification of worldwide revolution, containing articles advocating Canadian flag-burning and calling for a Steal Something Day.
“Stealing is just. Theft is exploitative. Stealing is when you take a yuppie’s BMW for a joyride and crash into a parked Mercedes, just for the hell of it,” the article reads.
A poem in the handbook calls on students to “take arms for the revolution rise up .. gripping like a fist .. smash the state .”
An article by Rasha Ayouby examines “What It Means to Be a Palestinian.”
“I want Jerusalem, for I was born there, for my mother and grandmother were born there, for my father and grandfather were born there. Must I go on?” Ayouby asks.
Other material is less incendiary. An essay called “The Essentials,” featuring information taken from the local group Citizens Opposed to Police Brutality, instructs readers how to deal with the police — how to handle being arrested, exercising the right to remain silent, and what to do in case of police brutality.
The comprehensive calendar inside is filled with dates commemorating anarchists and revolutionaries.
The Student Union’s vice president, Laith Marouf, recently was expelled from Concordia and banned from campus for spray-painting pro-Palestinian graffiti on university property. He also allegedly assaulted security guards during an ensuing brawl.
Marouf wrote an article in the handbook entitled “Arabaphobia,” in which he points out that the “Jewish leadership has infiltrated” the university in the guise of Rector Frederick Lowy and Provost Jack Lightstone, both Jewish.
Marouf also states that the Canadian media is controlled by “two Zionists” — Conrad Black, CEO of the Southam-Hollinger Group, and Israel Asper, CEO of CanWest Global.
“Add to that the fact they both co-own the Jerusalem Post, we can understand why there are more divergent views in the Israeli media than in Canada,” Marouf wrote.
Perhaps the most outrageous part of the book, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, is a page-sized graphic of a plane crashing into an office.
“This is not an agenda called uprising,” the headline states. “It is an agenda for uprising.”
Beneath the headline, in a room full of corporate types, several men huddle together, asking “tell us, is it too late to try this grassroots organizing?”
The books were said to have been printed before Sept. 11, but many here are asking how anyone dared to distribute them after the catastrophe.
The Student Union seems “intent on fostering civil disobedience,” Dimant said. This handbook “has no place in our society.”
The president of the Student Union, Sabrina Stea, would not respond to an interview request.
Lowy, the rector, said the booklet contained “outrageous” material and that the student executive was “confrontational, in your face, try to achieve power, even if you’re a minority, then advance your objective.”
Lowy also disassociated the university from the handbook’s contents. The administration has asked the Canadian government, one of the university’s funders, to look into the handbook.
A recent open letter by Lowy — distributed over campus e-mail and sent to two student newspapers — stated that the handbook was paid for by student activity fees and advertising and “certainly does not represent the views of the university or those of many students.”
The handbook “contains many inflammatory or possibly libelous statements about the university, university officials and some of the companies that employ our graduates and support the university,” he added.
“Up until the last two years, we have always had excellent relations with our Student Union,” Lowy told JTA. “We are confident this will be re-established in the near future.”
The students themselves, it seems, may help bring this about. Students tired of the political rhetoric and activity have organized a grass-roots movement of their own, designed to dismiss the Student Union officers and hold new elections.
Student elections are currently slated for March, but these elections appear likely to be moved up. A signature campaign has already garnered the 2,500 signatures necessary to hold an early vote.
“The idea that the Concordia Student Union would use the handbook for political propaganda and hate literature is completely outrageous,” student Billy Mandelos said. “It’s unbelievable. They’re just feeding fuel to the fire.”
Robert Libman, B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec regional director, has called upon students to rip the covers off the handbooks, as well as the offensive pages inside, “in an effort to denounce the intolerance of the” Student Union. B’nai Brith also has asked police to launch an investigation to determine if criminal charges are warranted.