Conversation on conflict

Numerous students from Wilfrid Laurier University as well as the University of Waterloo gathered Thursday Mar. 31 in the Solarium for “Behind the Apartheid Wall”.

Organizers said the gathering was triggered in part by articles appearing in The Cord surrounding the annual Israeli Apartheid Week in early March. While years past have featured visible gatherings at Laurier, this year featured events held mostly at the University of Waterloo.

This week’s event included a talk by Laurier sociology professor Peter Eglin and a performance by local slam poet Timaj Garad.

Those approached for comment said that the event was organized not by a particular group but simply by interested students. “We’re just a group of students who were concerned about the lack of knowledge about the situation in Palestine,” Fatima Attia said. “We wanted to show that we still care and we’re very involved and speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people who can’t speak for themselves.”

“We realize there is a need for events like this to promote awareness of the realities of the situation.”

Eglin, a professor at Laurier since the 1970s, has drawn fire in the past for speaking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, often in the Concourse – impromptu gatherings that culminated in confrontations with Laurier’s Jewish Students’ Association in Jan. 2009.

Eglin spoke on the question of relevance of the term ‘apartheid’ to the Palestinian situation in Israel. Providing some background, he outlined the arguments for the use of the term, citing the findings of a South African study into whether the term was appropriate in the Israeli-Palestinian context.

During questions, Eglin noted the Latin motto of Wilfrid Laurier University, Veritas Omnia Vincit or “truth conquers all.” “It’s incumbent on me as it is on every other faculty member and student to not tolerate perversion of the truth,” he said. “There is no issue in this world about which there is so much systematic lying than this one.”

“I’m no model to follow, I just get outraged when I see perversions of the truth and perversions of human decency that have been going on for such a long time,” Eglin said, responding to a question from the audience. “It’s nauseating to hear the efforts to divert people’s attention from the crimes.”

Student Gina Kish addressed the crowd after Eglin, noting that there had been some conversation directly ahead of the event between those representing both Israeli and Palestinian interests. “When we got here today, I noticed that there was a lot of dialogue, a lot of engaging with each other about issues and I just hope that it’s a sign of how things are developing on this campus,” she said.

“That hasn’t happened like that ever and I just hope it keeps going in that direction instead of confrontational and people attacking each other.”