In her Feb. 12 Globe and Mail column, Margaret Wente leads off with a sympathetic salute to University of Toronto president, David Naylor, who admits that “this isn't his favourite time of year.” Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which just withdrew its troops after its annual invasion of his campus is, he says, “the consistently worst week of a president's life.”
I can sympathize somewhat as well. Dr. Naylor, like all university presidents these days, is a magnet attracting angry filings from students, community leaders and disgruntled high-flying donors, who are disgusted by the obsessive anti-Zionist vitriol being pumped across the campus like a week-long oil spill on a Caribbean beach.
Dr. Naylor has nailed his colours to the mast of free speech. In response to objections from Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Dr. Naylor signed a statement declaring, “We do, in fact, recognize that the term Israeli Apartheid is upsetting to many people, [but] we also recognize that, in every society, universities have a unique role to provide a safe venue for highly charged discourse.”
I couldn't agree more. And yet somehow this seemingly high-minded declaration rings a little hollow when one considers just how far Dr. Naylor is prepared to go to guarantee a “safe venue” for what everyone knows, but is not allowed to characterize as hate speech, incitement to hatred and in all but the title of the law, incitement to violence.
Consider, for example, a Feb. 9 session of IAW, which took place at the Ontario Institute for the Study of Education of the University of Toronto (OISE), entitled “Founding Conference: High schools Against Israeli Apartheid (HAIA). Appended were the words “Note: this conference is for high school students only.”
By this it meant that the organizers of the session were only allowing into the building for five solid hours youngsters with high school student cards. What they undoubtedly did in those five hours – we can't really know, since it was closed to the public – was to pump as much hatred of Israel as possible into those young, impressionable minds.
Now the organizers of the session were not high school kids themselves – if they were, I wouldn't be writing this post – but adults. So what we have here, with the university's blessing, is a “safe venue” for the probable proliferation of hate by adult activists to a group largely composed of children (legally speaking), with attendance by their parents or guardians or other members of the public forbidden.
The right to freedom of speech in a free society implies that one is prepared to say what one has to say in the public forum. In this way those who disagree can have their say as well. To protect the rights of those who abuse the privilege of free speech to spew hatred is one thing; to give a “safe venue” for the protected indoctrination of the most vulnerable minds in our society is quite another.One of the more harrowing scenes in George Orwell's Animal Farm has the elite pigs appropriating the puppies born on the farm in order to train them secretly to become attack dogs and protect the pigs in their nefarious scheme to seize total power.
Dr. Naylor should reread Animal Farm. He must be more vigilant in drawing the line between freedom of speech and facilitating the corruption of youthful minds. If the IAW organizers want to speak to high school kids next year, let the light shine in on them. No more closed IAW sessions on the University of Toronto campus!