At the University of Texas, playing the victim card backfires on rabble-rousing leftists.
March 17, 2016
Leftist students with an authoritarian streak have repeatedly gotten their way on college campuses during the Obama years -- shutting down free speech at the University of California in Berkeley to the University of Missouri to Yale University.
But not at the University of Texas in Austin. Recently, one of the campus' leftist mobs was defeated. The bullies were defeated and apparently now face disciplinary action – all thanks to professors and administrators who stood up to the mob. By following the rule of law, university officials demonstrated how to defeat leftist bullies claiming to promote social justice.
As usual, social media made the incident go viral at Texas' flagship university. Four months ago, members of a pro-Palestinian group at the school falsely accused Israeli-born professor Ami Pedahzur of defamation and assault – all after they had disrupted a conference he was hosting that brought together a small gathering of scholars. The incident occurred just as Stanford University historian Gil-li Vardi was introduced. Suddenly, the boisterous students stood up and unfurled a Palestinian flag. They spewed the usual venomous statements regarding the state of Israel; and went on to exchange heated words with Pedahzur and other attendees who were unwilling to meekly let the students take over the event. Pedahzur, for his part, repeatedly asked told the students to "Sit down and listen, sit down and learn" – but to no avail. They quickly began to chant: “Free, free Palestinian!” and “Long Live the Intifada!” And perhaps most venomous of all, they chanted: “We want the 48; we don't want 2 states!” – with 48 being a reference to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Pedahzur, a highly-respected teacher and scholar, is professor of government and founder and director of the university's Institute for Israel Studies. In a long Facebook post he wrote after the November 13 incident, he said he was troubled by what happened: Not only had students pushed him, he wrote, but he was unfairly portrayed as the aggressor in a media blitz made by the students in a highly edited YouTube video.
“Less than forty eight hours after horrific attacks in Paris, I feel that is my responsibility to ask you to join me in an attempt to confront the radicalization process on campuses and to protect students, staff and faculty members from intimidation and violence,” he wrote. “After spending two decades of learning how people turn to terrorism, I fear that what I witnessed on Friday should raise many red flags.”
He added, “We cannot let such individuals terrorize us.”
The students were led by Mohammed Nabulsi, a second-year law student and members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee who, along with fellow students, were disgusted by the conference's subject: “The Birth of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Military Culture.”
The in-your-face exchanges between students and some attendees was captured on the YouTube video; most of the students had taken out their smart phones as they began their demonstration.
“We want to talk about the fact that the Center for Israeli Studies exists on our campus to whitewash the state of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people,” an agitated Nabulsi declared.
In the video, the man who grabbed the Palestinian flag was later identified as James Hasik, a graduate student attending the conference.
Ironically, the video made the students look like the aggressors – yet not only did they accuse Pedahzur of assault, they charged him with defamation and discrimination – a charge related to his Facebook post. In it he also had accused Nabulsi of attempting to “hijack” the event -- and pointed out that Nabulsi and another pro-Palestinian student apparently were using the names of terrorists for their online monikers.
Although the police were called, Pedahzur declined to press charges. The university, however, undertook a lengthy investigation spearheaded by its Office for Inclusion and Equity, whose investigators interviewed 18 witnesses and reviewed the video. Its verdict: Pedahzur's conduct and remarks did not violate the university's polices concerning harassment and discrimination. Since the incident last November 13, Pedahzur's career had been under a cloud. He had to hire a lawyer.
University spokesman have declined to say if Nabulsi and his cohorts are facing disciplinary actions for making false accusations; state and federal privacy statues prevent them from doing so. But in reading between the lines, it can be inferred that the dean of student's office is now dealing with the matter.
Let's hope that the backbone demonstrated by professors and administrators at the University of Texas will set a precedent for how universities ought to deal with leftist bullies.