Two weeks ago in Boston, Northeastern University suspended a student group -- Students for Justice in Palestine (NU SJP) -- for an assortment of infractions against Jewish students and those who support Israel. The stunts that got them suspended were consistent with the strategy of anti-Israel forces at universities around the country: Campus enemies of Israel directly target the free speech of pro-Israel student groups by having their speakers disinvited, their members intimidated, and their events shouted down. So it is with a fair amount of gall that SJP has now launched a shrill campaign, aided by Massachusetts media, claiming that free speech is a value they cherish and that theirs has been abrogated by the University.
The reason this duplicitous campaign has gotten a warm response in some circles has to do with a double standard in academia and the media. When it comes to certain protected groups, free speech is trumped by “sensitivity.” Two-thirds of universities have speech codes meant to provide a safe environment for minority groups. The use of certain offensive words is forbidden and the use of certain offensive symbols can shut down a campus. However, these protections hypocritically do not extend to pro-Israel Jews.
Anti-Semitism is defined as treating Jews as you would treat no others. SJP attacks the only Jewish state. It does not deny post-WWII Germans or genocidal Sudanese or Rwandans their right to self-rule. Only the Jewish people may not have a state. SJP is an anti-Semitic organization and anti-Semitism is the only hatred still accepted on American campuses.
On February 16th, members of a Mississippi State University student group vandalized the statue of Ole Miss’s first black alumnus with a noose and a Confederate-type flag. Campus police posted a $25,000 reward for finding the suspects, the three students were caught and the FBI is planning to charge them with hate crimes. Their student group was suspended. The students’ actions were widely covered and roundly condemned in the national media.
The National Lawyers Guild even invoked a standard anti-Semitic smear, claiming that Northeastern has bowed to pressure from wealthy Jewish donors when it suspended SJP. (“No free speech for rich Jews!”) This was echoed by NBC News “journalist” Nona Aronowitz, who interviewed us, NEU’s Hillel director and pro-Israel students and then simply ignored in her “report” every one of our points which did not fit her preconceived narrative.
On March 19th, as Northeastern SJP held a rally demanding that the university reinstate it, a Jewish student was watching. Here is his reaction:
I stood across the street and watched in complete awe as they shouted messages of hate, screamed how Zionism was racism, and that they were in no way being anti-Semitic. They continued with their chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." When I hear that, I hear anti-Semitism, I hear a call for the complete destruction of the Jewish state and all that they call home.
I am what they call a member of the "Zionist war/propaganda machine," and while I stood across the street and watched this rally, I kept a folded Israeli flag underneath my jacket. I kept on wanting to unfold it and hold it up high, but I was scared. I was afraid for one of the first times in my life as I heard their chants of anti-Semitism, full of hatred and shouting for intifada and increased violence. I was scared, but I am even more afraid of the idea of what happens when nothing is done, when nobody stands up.
When it comes to women, blacks, Latinos and gays, hate speech that creates a “hostile campus environment” is punished. Their right to live hostility-free limits the free speech rights of those who hector them. Yet the right to hate and hector Jewish students, argue the mainstream media and the National Lawyers’ Guild, is “protected free speech.”
Jewish students need our help. Brownshirt tactics cannot be tolerated even when masquerading as free speech or academic freedom.
It is about time that the only hatred still acceptable on college campuses – the hatred of Jews and the only Jewish state -- is treated like all other hatreds. The entire Jewish community must publicly stand up and fight to protect our students.
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