Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights University of Ottawa (SPHR) is a student run, non-profit organization that advocates on a strong social justice platform to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people in the face of human rights violations and all forms of racism, discrimination, misinformation and misrepresentation.

February 7, 2008

Israeli ambassador condemns students for 'celebration of ignorance'

Photography by: Danah Abdulla for SPHR
Israeli ambassador condemns students for 'celebration of ignorance'

Katie DeRosa
The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

University of Ottawa students were expecting a lecture by Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker. What they didn't expect was to be lectured to, reports Katie DeRosa.

A speech at the University of Ottawa by the Israeli ambassador to Canada sparked a debate over the validity of a movement that accuses Israel of apartheid.

Alan Baker denounced Israel Apartheid Week as "crude propagandism, pure hypocrisy and cynical manipulation of the student body."

Israel Apartheid Week began yesterday, coinciding with Israel Week and the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel.

"I want to explain to you and through you, the student bodies in these campuses, what an absurdity is this whole expression," said Mr. Baker. "I think that it's a sort of celebration of ignorance, both of the meaning of apartheid and a complete and utter lack of awareness of the state of Israel and what it means."

Mr. Baker was speaking to a classroom of about 50 University of Ottawa students during a lecture titled, "Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East." He referred to a series of events and lectures organized at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa under the Israel Apartheid banner as "intellectually dishonest and the antithesis of what one would expect in a home of learning."

He called the title of the week a slur and something that should never be allowed on university campuses.

But, a professor at the university defended students' right to hear both sides of the issue.
"University is a place where people think," said Tyseer Aboulnasr, a professor of electrical engineering and a former dean of engineering at U of O. "So you provide to them the different point of views, the different perspectives and let them have an open and respectful debate and let the students think and make up their minds."

She said the fact that two opposing celebrations coincide on the same week is a great idea. "It just gives people the chance to hear both sides."

Ms. Aboulnasr said she was also disappointed the ambassador spent much of his speech pointing out the human rights abuses of other Arab countries instead of providing proof of Israel's practices.

But, Mr. Baker referenced the apartheid in South Africa, which saw extreme racial degradation and segregation and defended Israel as a Liberal democracy with laws incompatible with such actions.

"It's an abuse of Canadian values because it's a vulgar attempt to undermine and slang a democratic country through dishonest ways," he said. "It's a picture of a forceful group of outspoken extremists trying to impose their narrow political views on a group of students to the exclusion of genuine issues."


Anonymous said...

This is exactly what one would expect an ambassador to Israel to say, since Israel is an illegitimate state created on stolen land. This makes him an illegitimate ambassador! The Ottawa Citizen reporter refuses to put his comments in this context. But The Citizen is owned by Izzy Apser's Zionist CanWest Global so there is no surprise there either...

This is a great blog. Good work.

SPHR University of Ottawa said...

thanks, glad it's getting some attention!