A series of posters created by the David Horowitz Freedom Center targeting proponents of the Hamas-inspired and funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state have incited a storm of controversy on the San Diego State University campus where hundreds of students swarmed University President Elliot Hirshman to claim that he did not condemn the posters forcefully enough and demanding an apology.
The Freedom Center’s posters identified by name a number of prominent student and faculty BDS activists on the campus and described them as having “allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew Hatred on this campus.” The posters also contained the hashtag #StopTheJewHatredonCampus, the slogan of the Freedom Center campaign which seeks to confront the agents of campus anti-Semitism and refute the genocidal lies spread by Palestinian terrorists and their campus allies. These lies include the claims that Israel occupies Palestinian land and that Israel is an apartheid state.
Protestors were also incensed by a print ad taken out by the Freedom Center in the Daily Aztec.
The ad states:
There is an epidemic of Jew hatred on American campuses and at San Diego State University. This Jew hatred is incited by Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association and assorted leftist groups, all of whom support the terrorist organizations Hamas and Fatah.
The ad goes on to explain that both SJP and MSA were created by operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and that both groups “disseminate genocidal lies about Israel whose purpose is to weaken and destroy the world’s only Jewish state.”
Posters for the campaign appeared on five California campuses, including at UCLA and UC-Berkeley, where they also sparked protests from anti-Israel activists, as well as university administrators who falsely characterized them as “hate speech.” Images of all the posters may be viewed here. Accounts of the protests and administrator responses can be read here.
In an email sent to San Diego State’s entire student body on Tuesday, Hirshman criticized the posters but also defended the importance of free speech: “First, we recognize and fully support the rights of all parties to voice their positions on political issues, whether supportive or critical. We also understand that when parties adopt a specific political position they become responsible for their actions and these actions may produce criticism.”
Hirshman’s failure to outright condemn the posters did not sit well with SDSU’s anti-Israel activists and the campus left. The protestors first held a silent protest of Hirshman during the swearing-in ceremony of incoming Associated Students President Jamie Miller. Following that protest, students surrounded a police car in which Hirshman was traveling and detained him for over two hours, chanting “Hirshman, Hirshman, come on out. We have something to talk about.” The Daily Aztec, San Diego State’s campus paper, reported the incident this way:
After leaving the council chambers, protesters got word that Hirshman was in a police cruiser near the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater, and rushed to “trap” him. The police cruiser was surrounded for over two hours as students chanted and even began praying.
Hirshman eventually got out of the police vehicle and stood to the side, surrounded by members of his administrative staff, who formed a barrier around Hirshman and several leaders of the protest so they could speak.
Photos of the protest taken by the Aztec reveal students holding signs proclaiming “We Demand An Apology” and “Respect My Name.” A large banner hung on a fence adjacent to the protest reads “SDSU THINKS WE ARE TERRORISTS.” Video footage of the protest taken by a local ABC affiliate can be viewed below:
Despite the protestors’ claims to the contrary, it is notable that neither the Freedom Center’s ad nor its posters call SJP and MSA members terrorists. They merely declare that they support anti-Israel terrorists and parrot their propaganda, a claim which any photo of a mock “Israeli apartheid wall” will confirm.
President Hirshman himself confirmed this point while speaking with protestors, saying, “I don't think they're saying our students are terrorists. If there was a statement that our students were terrorists and they weren't, I would certainly condemn that.”
Student activists interviewed by the Aztec defended their actions in detaining President Hirshman. One of the protestors, Hassan Abdinur, who was named on the Freedom Center’s poster as an SJP and MSA activist, stated: “Things have been building up and building up and the university hasn’t done anything so this was our opportunity to kind of stand face-to-face, really close, actually I smelled his breath, with the president of the university and tell him how we feel about what’s going on.”
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune which also reported the story, Hirshman eventually gave the student protestors a brief and nonspecific apology. “If we have done things inadvertently that have upset or hurt people, we are sorry for that,” Hirshman said.
While the protestors finally dispersed following that apology, they remain unsatisfied by Hirshman’s failure to condemn the posters outright. Presumably they were looking for a reaction more in line with UCLA’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang who sent an email attacking Horowitz to the entire UCLA community calling the Freedom Center’s posters “repulsive” and “personalized intimidation” and stating that they produce “chilling psychological harm.”
“[We wanted] an apology to the entire student body for his disrespect and disregard for the student voice [and] opinion,” Mustafa Alemi, a member of SDSU’s Associated Students Board of Directors, and also one of the SJP and MSA activists named on the posters, told the Daily Aztec. “Without our tuition money he’s not living the life he has right now and the fact that it took two to three hundred students to block his car to have a conversation with us is incredibly disrespectful.”
David Horowitz is scheduled to speak on SDSU’s campus on May 5th. It will be interesting to see just how respectful the conduct of SJP and MSA activists will be during his address.