Letters to the Editors

Fox’s accusations unfounded

Dear Editors,

Re: “Troubled by rhetoric of Jon Elmer speech” (Journal, March 17, 2006).

We would like to respond to Joey Fox’s letter regarding Jon Elmer’s lecture on this campus. Fox writes that he was “deeply troubled” by what he viewed as Elmer’s “generalizations about Jews and Israelis.” Fox alleges that Elmer stated that “‘all Jews and Israelis want an eternal and undivided Jerusalem.’” While Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) does not have a transcript of the talk, we don’t believe that these statements were made that evening.

Elmer was clear in stating his belief that it is unlikely that the State of Israel will concede parts of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state. Elmer’s work is attuned to the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and therefore he would not have claimed that all Jews and Israelis would have a single viewpoint on the issue of Jerusalem. Like Elmer, SPHR sees a clear distinction between Jewish persons, individual Israelis, and the practices of the Israeli state. We also do not condone any generalizations about Jewish people or Israeli citizens.

Fox’s next charges against Elmer were that “he advocated against the peace process and preferred a bi-national over a two-state resolution to the conflict.” Elmer, and other speakers like Ali Abu Nimah and Uri Davis who SPHR has proudly hosted this year, have a right to question the course of the peace process and advocate for what they see as viable solutions. SPHR, as a human rights group, has no official position on this particular issue except that the rights of the Palestinian people be respected and affirmed. The claim that “Elmer legitimized Hamas” is unfounded as Elmer simply argued for the importance of respecting the will of the Palestinian people. In an article published by the Journal, Elmer states that “one would hope that the will of a democratically elected government representing the will of the [Palestinian] electorate would be respected by the international community.”

It is irresponsible of Fox to malign groups that strive for social justice such as Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) by accusing SPHR and OPIRG of promoting the idea of “greater Palestine” on a poster. First, the poster advertised a talk that was sponsored by five groups in total and not just SPHR and OPIRG. The poster in question had a map of South Africa and a map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It attempted to highlight the existence of South African-like Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza, which were labeled as Palestine. Fox’s accusation that SPHR supports the idea of a “greater Palestine” which would then “wipe Israel off the map” is false. We have never argued that Israel does not—or should not in the future—exist. Instead, we continually draw attention to the abuses of Palestinian human rights perpetrated by [what we feel is] an occupying and oppressive Israeli state.

Jennifer Esmail and Dana Olwan
Members of SPHR’s executive

Hold Israel and Hamas to same standards

Dear Editors,

Re: “Troubled by rhetoric of Jon Elmer speech” (Journal, March 17, 2006).

I applaud Joey Fox for the legitimate criticisms he put forth against Hamas. In particular he points out that “extremists like Hamas … seek to wipe Israel off the map,” and that “[Hamas] continues to refuse to renounce terror or accept the peace process.”

Unfortunately, Joey Fox is only shedding light on half of the problem. It’s circumspect to remember the origin of the modern Israel-Palestine conflict, that Israel has illegally occupied and settled the West Bank (and until recently, the Gaza strip) since their aggression prompted the Six Day War in 1967.

I agree Hamas should be condemned for its willingness to engage in violence, and its stated goal to “wipe Israel off the map.” However, I believe Joey Fox should hold the occupying state of Israel to the same standards. For starters, Israel doesn’t have to “seek” to wipe Palestine off the map; thanks to their illegal and violent 39-year-old occupation, they don’t have to. Palestine isn’t on the map.

Furthermore, Joey Fox claims that unlike Hamas, “which refuses to accept the peace process,” Israel “clearly supports the peace process and the two-state solution.” It’s hard to reconcile this claim with the fact that Hamas was founded only 20 years into the brutal occupation in 1987, seeing no other option than resorting to violence to free the occupied territories.

Currently, Hamas has stated that it would be willing to accept a long-term peace with Israel if they would simply pull back to the pre-1967 borders. Israel clearly hasn’t “accepted” the peace process, because the only question is if Israel will end its illegal occupation or not. Saying that Israel will pull back to “defensible” borders, retaining a large portion of the West Bank, is an unconvincing pretext to make the occupation of Palestinian land permanent. Remember, the “Intifada” uprising, that caused the attacks against Israel only occurred after two decades of the illegal occupation.

Israel and Hamas must be held to the same standard. They both must renounce violence and recognize one another's’ legal borders if lasting peace is ever going to be achieved.

Kevin Caners
Sci ’07

PJB a fair and well-run discipline system

Dear Editors,

Re: “MCRC fails to serve students” (Journal, March 10, 2006).

It was disconcerting to read Tyler Barrack’s letter to this paper concerning his opinion that the Peer Judicial Board (PJB) is “out of touch” and “the odds are greatly stacked against anyone appearing before” it. As a Chair of the PJB, I have an understanding of both the inner workings of the Residence Disciplinary System and the people who allow such a system to run. Let me say that I have never been so pleased to be involved in such a system or with such upstanding people.

Barrack makes two points that undermine the efficacy of the board. First, he alleges that the members of the PJB are unrepresentative of the students living in residence. Second, he argues that the workings of the PJB are unfairly designed to burden the respondents who appear before it. It is my hope to provide the student body with a better understanding of how discipline is meted out in residence, and perhaps to demonstrate why I think the PJB is a fair, well-designed system.

The claim that the members of the PJB are out of touch with the larger student body is simply untrue. The PJB is made up of three chairs and 21 members at large. Two of the chairs are graduate students living in residence and the third is an upper-year undergraduate student. The members at large are mainly first-year students living in residence, but there are a few upper-year students living in residence as well.

The compilation of any given board will feature students with a variety of ages, majors and viewpoints. The only similar opinion that runs through every member of the PJB is a commitment to protecting the residence life experience. This diversity of the members of the PJB allows us to bring to bear a focus of a wide variety of experiences to evaluate the cases that come before us. We are not stupid people. We’re not ignorant either. We understand what has been going on in a room when a funnel, open beer and drunken students are involved. Also, we know why Febreeze is used to soak a room before a patrolling don enters, or why clothes are piled at the foot of a door, or why all the windows in a room are fully open during a -20°C winter night. The system works because we know how crafty students can be. Secondly, the proceedings of the PJB do not unfairly burden the people who go before it.

Barrack suggests PJB protocol differs significantly from court proceedings. This is also quite untrue; the PJB finds responsibility on the balance of probabilities. This is the “50 per cent plus one” standard that is used in the civil courts of Canada.

Barrack takes issue with the fact that if a student is present in the room at the time of an infraction, he is considered to be guilty. This is true. According to the Residence Community Standards Handbook, the contract all residence students agree to abide by, “being present during the time of an infraction and not taking steps to leave the scene, inform proper Residence Life staff or to attempt to stop the behaviour could constitute an offence.” I would also refer Barrack to Section 21 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which assigns culpability to those who allow others to commit an offence.

It is true that the majority of the respondents that come before the PJB are held responsible. However, this is because of the nature of the cases that come before us. Our jurisdiction is limited to level-two offenses which often have a direct evidence base like possession of marijuana or inappropriate conduct toward a don or facilitator. Dons are trained by the Kingston Police to detect the smell of marijuana, so of course we trust them. And when a don is able to write a report stating how they were sworn at, or their duties were interfered in some way, we treat that with a large degree of deference.

The PJB is a fair, well-run system that functions to protect the students who follow the rules of residence. It is even a beneficial system for those who break the rules because I’m sure that students would rather have us deal with possession of marijuana “in house” instead of directing the attention of them to the Kingston Police. Barrack has been an able member of the PJB and it is a shame that he has such an issue with the workings of the PJB that could not be brought directly to the PJB staff advisor or a chairperson.

Bob Drake
Chair of the Peer Judicial Board

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