MONTREAL -- Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal has called on Concordia University in Montreal to reschedule a speech by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was cancelled due to violent protests last month.
A letter to Concordia by Mr. Wiesenthal, who lives in Vienna and admits to rarely commenting on events "that transpire thousands of miles" away, indicates that tensions between Jewish and pro-Palestinian students at Concordia have gained attention around the globe.
Mr. Wiesenthal, 93, said the campus turmoil in Montreal fit into a climate of fear and intimidation of Jews worldwide.
In a letter delivered yesterday by representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Frederick Lowy, rector of Concordia, Mr. Wiesenthal said failure to invite Mr. Netanyahu back will "embolden those who see violence as the only way to achieve results. "To allow their violence and intimidation to succeed in silencing an important voice should be unacceptable to a university which promotes the values of freedom of speech and open exchange of ideas."
A Sept. 9 speech by Mr. Netanyahu at Concordia, home to an active and well-organized group of pro-Palestinian students, sparked clashes by protesters.
University windows were smashed, some Jewish visitors were roughed up, and protesters overran the building where Mr. Netanyahu was to speak.
The suggestion to reschedule the talk puts Concordia in an awkward position. The university faced criticism for allowing the hawkish Mr. Netanyahu to speak in the first place on a campus beset by frictions over the Middle East.
Since the protest, the university has tried to calm the atmosphere by imposing a moratorium on activities related to the Middle East (the hotly contested ban is being reviewed by the university board of governors today).
Mr. Lowy has also appealed to Montreal's Jewish community not to withdraw support from the university, although he publicly admitted recently that last month's upheaval damaged its reputation.
Concordia has gained attention elsewhere. The current conflict is featured on a controversial pro-Israel Web site called Campus Watch, based in the United States, which keeps tabs on schools and professors for their positions on Palestinian rights.
Concordia isn't alone in witnessing student clashes over the Middle East conflict.
Several campuses across North America have been thrown into turmoil because of divestiture drives against Israel.
Mr. Lowy agreed to consider Mr. Wiesenthal's request after a meeting yesterday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and Leo Adler of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto.