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Written by Student Rights on 11 April 2010 at 2pm

Adam Daifallah: Adding a machete to the bitter campus divide

2768142.binThis is a cross-post from the Canadian National Post website.  Author Adam Daifallah reports on the 'bitter campus divide' and recent events around Carleton University, in the capital of Ottawa.

Henceforth it will be inaccurate to call the ongoing campus battle over Israel and Palestine a war of words. A new weapon has been introduced into the conflict: a machete. Early Sunday morning, two Carleton University students -- Nick Bergamini and his Israeli roommate, Mark Klibanov were leaving an Ottawa-area bar when a group of men began verbally accosting them. The men yelled at them, in Arabic, for being Zionists.

Bergamini, a known campus conservative activist of Italian heritage, was hit in the back of the head. He took refuge with some bouncers and left soon after. The two roommates were walking home when the same men reappeared, this time in a car. According to Bergamini, one of them rolled down the window and said, "I'm the one who hit you, you f***ing Jew." The trunk of the car opened. One of the men reached inside and pulled out a machete. "F***ing Jew," he said again. Bergamini and Klibanov ran for their lives and escaped unscathed, although Klibanov claims the machete came within a foot of his friend's head.

Bergamini says he recognized one of the men as a fellow Carleton student. Police are investigating. Of course, we have to tread carefully here. Stories like this are often embellished or even made up. Two Jewish students at York recently claimed to have been assaulted at a pro-Israel event, but camera footage later showed no physical contact took place. Nonetheless, I have met Bergamini a few times and I have no reason to believe he would lie about this. He claims there were witnesses to the machete incident.

If you're shocked about the alleged assault, don't be. This is the point we've reached at several university campuses across the country. Bitter fighting between supporters of Israel and those who oppose the Jewish state used to be mainly confined to Concordia and York. Now it is spreading at breakneck speed to other schools like Carleton. The Israel-Palestine issue has increasingly become an important part of student politics. At one time the debate was confined to campus organizations that exist to support one side or the other, such as Hillel. Now student governments themselves are right in the thick of it.

Also in contrast to past generations, a clear bright line has developed between supporters of both sides: Israel supporters are becoming more and more associated with conservatism and the Conservative party, and many aren't even Jewish. Those who oppose Israel are nearly unanimously of the left. Why? Stephen Harper's Tories have worked hard to bring Jewish voters and supporters of Israel into the party fold. But it is also because support for Israel has become virtually inseparable from other conservative stances such as strong opposition to radical Islam and support for the war on terror.

The debate on campuses now pits one group--supporters of Israel and Western values such free speech, democracy and tolerance -- against another which opposes Israel's right to exist and believes that controversialists like Ann Coulter have no right to speak and that America and the use of military force are evil.

This debate has always been a difficult one for me. My paternal heritage is Palestinian, and I want justice for the people inhabiting Palestinian lands. However, one can support Palestinians without approving of their leaders or Arab regimes. Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Israeli journalist, said it best at a recent talk at McGill when he described himself as both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine at the same time. To be truly pro-Palestinian is to oppose the murderous kleptocrats running the Palestinian Authority and to oppose the use of violent intimidation in the campus debate.

Unfortunately, that is not a view shared by most Palestinian activists. The younger generation is more radicalized. Nary a day goes by without a new outrage. As Barbara Kay noted here yesterday, young Muslim men attending a speech by a notorious anti-Semitic speaker were captured on video yelling appalling things at pro-Israel protesters outside Palestine House in Mississauga, Ont. Among the phrases captured on video were "We need another Holocaust" and "We love jihad! We love killing you!" Wake up, Canada. It's getting scary out there.

Via the National Post