An Open Letter Condemning the Lecture by Yossi Olmert at St. Thomas University

By Tracy Glynn and Julie Michaud

Michael Higgins, President of St. Thomas University
Patrick Malcolmson, VP Academic
Shaun Narine, Political Science Professor
Sabrina Sotiriu, President of the Political Science Society
Members of the media

Members of Fredericton Palestine Solidarity were appalled by the decision of the St. Thomas University and the Political Science Society to provide a platform to Yossi Olmert on March 16.

Olmert has held several senior positions in former Israeli governments including Director of Communications for Prime Minister Shamir and Policy Advisor to a Defense Minister. Olmert’s presentation was touted by the Political Science Society as an opportunity to hear from an “expert on the modern Middle East, Islamic militants, terrorism, the Palestinian issue.”

We are deeply disturbed that a representative of a state that is documented to have committed war crimes against the Palestinian people by reputable groups like the United Nations and Amnesty International was invited to speak by a university department and student group.

War crimes committed against the Palestinians over the past 60 years of brutal occupation by the State of Israel include unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and the use of “human shields.”

There are 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Eighty percent of them are refugees that have fled homes from territory illegally annexed by Israel.

The blockade of Gaza has destroyed the Palestinian economy, and prevented needed food, energy and medical aid from reaching civilians.

In the recent attacks on Gaza, Israel’s army, the world’s fourth most powerful military, destroyed civilian infrastructure including: homes the university, sewage facilities, factories, government buildings, the electricity grid and a UN school that was giving shelter to civilians.

Over 1,300 people (including 300 children) were murdered during the attacks.

Israel’s ever-expanding “settlements” in the West Bank are on stolen land and are deemed illegal by International Court of Justice (World Court).

Covering the hilltops, these settlements strategically dominate the Palestinian territories to create a web of control for Israel. Palestinians are subjected to checkpoints that prevent their free movement; they are not allowed to use roads that have been built on their own land by the Israeli government, exclusively for the use of Israeli settlers.

As those who live in relative peace and freedom, we should be striving towards providing intellectual discourse designed at solving the world’s problems and not towards providing misguiding presentations by members of an occupying force accused of war crimes.

Despite being a major supporter of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Canadian government has ignored the notion of war crimes with regards to illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestine land.

The Canadian government, without any public discourse with Canadians, shamefully voted against establishing a UN committee that would work on the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and against Israeli military occupation.

The hard-learned lessons of history require that those who are aware of these atrocities act earnestly to stop injustice. Israeli academics who support the occupation of Palestine cannot appeal to “academic freedom” while Israel simultaneously restricts the access to education in Gaza at all levels and bombs the university.

Israeli academics experience freedom of movement around the globe, while Palestinians are restricted from moving within their own land. Furthermore, we believe that there is no justification and can be no room for debate regarding the justification of colonization and genocide.

The oppressed people of South Africa were successful in ending apartheid with long-standing international support from Cuba, and the strength of the international boycott campaigns. We, therefore, announce our support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) — a campaign that includes the boycott of Israeli academics who defend Israel’s genocidal policies, divestment from all companies that deal with Israel and international sanctions to force Israel to comply with international law. As part of our support for the BDS campaign, we state our opposition to Yossi Olmert’s lecture at St. Thomas University.

While we welcome and respect intentions to provide a forum for all views on such important and controversial issues, we feel that responsibilities to provide an informed, and balanced forum with all due fairness were neglected by the Department of Political Science. The lecture provided an extremely skewed view of the decades-old Middle-Eastern

conflict and as such contributed to further misunderstanding of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We call on the Department of Political Science to establish guidelines that will prevent more events that offer skewed analyses of global conflicts. Events hosted by St. Thomas University should provide well-balanced perspectives that give students real insight into global issues rather than simplistic, one-sided points of view. In the absence of such guidelines, the Department of Political Science risks losing its reputation as a reliable body of higher learning in favour of gaining notoriety for flawed analysis at best and justification for genocide at worst.


Tracy Glynn and Julie Michaud

Fredericton Palestine Solidarit

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