UC Davis ignores anti-Semitism carried out in the name of Palestinian solidarity. ADL called non-authentic.
Since its founding in 2001, the radical campus group Students for Justice in Palestine has had as its mission to demonize Israel and promote a campaign to accuse the Jewish state of apartheid, racism, brutal occupation, and crimes against humanity, among other accusations. Its radical behavior has created a toxic atmosphere on campuses where its programs and events have regularly morphed into what has been categorized as being antisemitic in nature.
Now, apparently in an effort to bring that same vituperative ideology to the faculty, a group on the UC Davis campus calling itself Faculty for Justice in Palestine recently decried a letter sent to the UC Davis administration by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which warned that “In the wake of the recent crisis, anti-Israel organizations are placing increasing pressure on academic institutions to engage in . . . ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) activities,” and that school officials should be aware that groups were undertaking a campus campaign that “serve only to polarize students on campus, inflame existing tensions, and often isolate and intimidate Jewish students.”
In an opinion piece that ran in The California Aggie, the UC Davis student newspaper, professor of English Joshua Clover and professor of Asian American studies Sunaina Maira preposterously claimed that the ADL, far from being a civil rights organization, “is an avowedly Zionist lobbying organization with a long history of attempting to silence criticism of the Israeli state,” and claimed that the group’s intention was actually to suppress Palestinian activism and obscure the predations of Israel.
The paranoid notion that the ADL’s letter amounts to “unacceptable interference by off-campus interests” which is “baldly racist,” and which somehow “chills” political advocacy on the UC Davis campus, is, of course, ridiculous. More troubling is that this statement reveals that the professors naively believed that pro-Palestinian activists can institute an ideological assault against Israel without anyone with opposing views answering back these slanders with counter-arguments and opposing views.
Not only did the professors reject some of the claims of underlying anti-Semitism in the ADL’s letter itself, they also decided that those organizations and individuals who made efforts to expose that anti-Semitism were not authentic, but were merely attempting to promote their own, pro-Israel agenda.
The core issue is that just as the pro-Palestinian activists on the UC Davis campus and elsewhere have the right under the umbrella of academic free speech to express their views – no matter how factually inaccurate, vitriolic, or repellent they may be – those within and outside academia with opposing views also have the right, under the same precepts of free expression, to question the those views, and to call them anti-Semitic, or racist, or genocidal, or merely historically inaccurate or incorrect if, in fact, that is the case.
Even though the professors claim that “the rhetoric of ‘civility’ has become the new discourse through which administrations seek to suppress political engagement,” what thoughtful administrators are trying to achieve by calling for civility in scholarly debate is reasoned, thoughtful, and fact-based discourse—not riotous, offensive, and violent expressions, regardless of the supposed sanctity of the cause.
That may have been the motivation for the 2013 resolution passed by the ASUCD Senate, Senate Resolution 21, which sought to condemn and identify Islamophobic speech at the UC Davis. The resolution, which was passed after a controversial Ayn Rand Society event on radical Islam, “Islamists Rising,” was held, defined Islamophobia as “the irrational fear of Islam, Muslims or anything related to the Islamic or Arab cultures and traditions.” The authors of the resolution wished to use the resolution to suppress speech by critics of radical Islam, and were successful in categorizing any view about Islam with which they did not agree to be outside the bounds of acceptable speech.
The suggestion that people be careful with their speech when assessing other people, however, was apparently overlooked during a 2012 event at UC Davis at which two Israelis –a Jewish man and a Druze woman—were to speak and whose appearance was effectively shut down by members of Students for Justice in Palestine and others. During the presentation, a protestor used the “heckler’s veto” to silence the speakers, standing up and screaming to the podium that Israel has “turned the land of Palestine into a land of prostitutes and rapists and child molesters,” and asking the speaker, “How many women have you raped? How many children have you raped? You are a child molester.”
And pro-Palestinian activists on the Davis campus obviously were not concerned about civility when three Jewish students tried to speak on behalf of Israel at UC Davis at a November 2012 protest against Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. The Jewish students were first shouted down with chants of “Leave our space!” “Shame on you!” “F**k Israel,” and “Long live the Intifada!” and then forced against a wall of windows while angry protestors threatened them with closed fists and physical aggression.
When pro-Palestinian activists shout “Long live the intifada,” it is, of course, a grotesque and murderous reference to the Second Intifada, during which Arab terrorists murdered some 1000 Israelis and wounded more than 14,000 others, so the fact that this is what passes as intellectual debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on campus is clear evidence that any hope of rational discourse or productive discussion has vanished.
Liberal-leaning academics at UC Davis and on other American campuses seemingly hold the notion that free speech is only good when it articulates politically correct, ideologically-acceptable views of protected victim or minority groups—and especially, as in this case, the “perennially suffering” Palestinians.
But true intellectual diversity — the ideal that is often bandied about but rarely achieved — must be dedicated to the protection of unfettered speech, representing opposing viewpoints, where the best ideas become clear through the utterance of weaker ones. ______________________________________________________________________________
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., is the president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.