University of Texas law student and cohorts disrupt Israeli professor's talk

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Legal Insurrection has the details: "Twelve members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) disrupted a public event hosted by Professor Ami Pedahzur of UT's Institute for Israeli Studies titled 'The Origin of a Species: The Birth of the Israeli Defense Forces' Military Culture.' The invited guest speaker was Dr. Gil-Li Vardi from Stanford University."

The ringleader of the group has been identified as a UT law student named Mohammed Nabulsi. Despite being asked repeatedly to either leave or sit down and listen to the lecture, Nabulsi kept insisting that he was going to give a speech, and as an argument ensued between Prof. Pedahzur and Nabulsi, the other protesters began chanting "Free Free Palestine" and other slogans.

The PSC, ironically, is circulating an (edited) video of the disruption, somehow believing that the end result is that Pedahzur should be punished (they misidentify him in the video). Give them points for chutzpah, at least. But in fact, the video, even in its edited version, should be enough for University of Texas to suspend the lot of protesters, Nabulsi in particular. Is the university going to tolerate preplanned disruption of campus events? Legal Insurrection has additional video.

I reached out to Dean Ward Farnsworth of UT Law, but he declined to comment.

UPDATE: Nabulsi and the other students absurdly claim to be filing a civil rights complaint against Pedahzur and a graduate student, claiming that they "discriminated". Nabulsi told a local t.v. outlet, "He has defamed my character and insinuated that my political opinions and expressions are red flags for terrorist activity." Given that the students were shouting "Long live the Intifada" and calling for Israel's destruction, I'm guessing that this isn't a winning argument.

Meanwhile, via the same local television news outlet:

The university said it is reviewing the confrontation and social media postings surrounding the event.

"Any type of disruption is not constructive in my opinion, and we try to promote constructive dialogue in all our settings," said President Gregory L. Fenves.

UT also said that police, after responding to a call from the event, determined none of the actions "rose to the level of a criminal defense [sic]."

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Randy Diehl released the following statement:

"The University of Texas at Austin strives to be a campus where people with different viewpoints can debate issues—including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—openly and respectfully. Our Institute for Israel Studies has always strived to do that and, on Friday, invited an esteemed scholar to deliver remarks and engage in critical debate. The university has existing protocols for protesters to voice their points of view and be heard effectively. We are trying to determine if they were followed in this case. Responding to a call from the event, university police spoke with all the parties involved on Friday. My office will do the same. We are gathering more information and looking for ways to improve the constructive dialogue on campus." [Ed: This is a problematic statement, because Prof. Vardi was not there to debate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to deliver a scholarly talk on the development of Israeli military culture. It's exactly the intent of the protesters to politicize such talks by suggesting that such speakers should be silenced because they are Israeli. Shame on Dean Diehl for not distinguishing between a political event and a scholarly talk, though of course neither should be disrupted.]

In addition, Fenves released a statement through the university.

"The University of Texas at Austin strongly defends and supports free speech for all members of the university community. We will be guided by those values as we review the recent events," said Fenves in a statement. "The freedom to engage in challenging conversations openly and responsibly is absolutely vital to what we do. Our students and faculty benefit from an environment that encourages this free exchange of ideas—and in which everyone is able to both share their views and let others do the same."