Beloved Discordia

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Discordia

Ben Addelman, Samir Mallal, 2004, 68 min 40 s

On September 9, 2002, a scheduled appearance by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked heated debate at Montreal’s Concordia University. By the end of the day, the “Concordia riot” has made international news, from CNN to Al-Jazeera. This film documents the fallout from that eventful day, following three young campus activists as they negotiate the most formative year of their lives. Filmmakers Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal jump into the fray with street-smart bravado and a handheld camera. Buoyed by the songs of hip-hop artist Buck 65, this film offers a tonic reflection on the current state of Canadian student activism and the enduring value of tolerance.

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I could not be at a better place at a better time. As it happens, I work in the very same building at the centre of this movie’s action, and at the centre of the 1969 riot and occupation that had a profound impact on the Black Power revolution in the Caribbean. One of the leading student activists back then became the Prime Minister of Dominica. News of the event spread quickly, and led to demonstrations in Trinidad & Tobago, with a pronounced anti-imperialist, anti-Canadian orientation. Canadian banks in Trinidad & Tobago were subsequently nationalized, and the practice of hiring only “lighter” skinned and non-Africans in banks came under severe scrutiny. I was happy to see Noam Chomsky in this film, speaking with one of the Concordia student activists about the riot to block Benjamin Netanyahu from campus. Subsequent plans to bring Ehud Barak were scuttled as well. A final note of flattery: Concordia University has since 2002 been called by some, “Gaza U,” “Concordistan,” and the ever inflamed Alan Dershowitz says it is “not a real university.” It has become the darling of various “campus watch” and “jihad watch” websites. I could not be at a better place, at a better time.

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6 thoughts on “Beloved Discordia

  1. Max, I envy you. Long live Concordistan, the land of concord. I am stuck here in the United States of Israel!

  2. It’s terrible to see “freedom of speech” being used to protect politicians who can call up a journalist any day of the week and blast their voice all over the media.

  3. Hello Jamil,

    Your comment, and this documentary, both provoked my memory about something that Noam Chomsky wrote a while back:

    When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things “it wouldn’t do to say” — and we may add, even to think.

    I have never studied at the “best schools” and frankly, saying this with a great deal of respect for where I have taught, I cannot say I have taught at the best schools either, the way that is normally understood according to common prejudices and media rankings. Having said that, I am extremely proud of both facts.

    “United States of Israel” — a colleague calls it the “Excited States” and has vowed never to travel there for either personal or academic purposes. I share the same views here, and for all the reasons that I have had to disagree with a right winger like Pat Buchanan, I thought it was refreshing candor on his part to say — on CNN of all places — that the U.S. Congress is “Zionist occupied territory.”

  4. Thanks again Jen. Of course, Netanyahu has full freedom of speech as you say in the media, and in Israel. Why, as someone who is neither a student nor a professor of Concordia, he should be guaranteed that right here, I don’t know. It seems that the opposing students were willing to let him speak too, but they were also going to arrest him on war crimes charges.

    As for those who would protest “hypocrisy” in allowing Ahmadinejad to speak on U.S. campuses, I would say this: Iran is not at war against another people. Whatever you may think of Iran’s leadership, “war crimes” are something you cannot lay at its doorstep. And indeed, no credible international institution or human rights group has ever done so, which is quite different from Israel’s case. Supposedly, in Canada, we don’t take war crimes lightly — the students wanted to make sure Canada lived up to its own lofty and much vaunted principles.

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