Freedom of Speech

Pro-Palestinian Activists Shout Down Jerusalem Mayor’s Speech at San Francisco State University

Respect for free expression goes out the window when it comes to Israel/Palestine issues on college campuses.

|

When it comes to political activism regarding

Heckler's Veto
Youtube

Israel/Palestine on American college campuses, ideological combatants on both sides often fail to respect the right of those with whom they disagree to have their fair say. 

Last month, the University of California (UC) voted to include anti-Zionism (broadly defined as opposition to the idea that Israel is the rightful national homeland of the Jewish people) as a form of banned "intolerant expression," and last week a bipartisan group of New York lawmakers demanded that the City University of New York (CUNY) ban the pro-Palestinian group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from its campuses, alleging that SJP's activism had contributed to a climate of violence and intimidation against Jewish students.

In both instances, the evidence that pro-Palestinian political activism is responsible for violence is flimsy at best, but the consequence of such reactions is an environment on college campuses where the freedom to engage in robust and impassioned political speech is chilled. 

But that doesn't mean pro-Palestinian activists always respect others' right to free expression. Just yesterday, activists "aligned" with SJP shouted down Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's attempt to give a speech at San Francisco State University, where he made a stop on a brief tour of US college campuses sponsored by the Jewish student group, Hillel.

A member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, Barkat supports a "united Jerusalem" in Israeli hands. Since Israelis and Palestinians both consider Jerusalem to be their capital, such a sentiment combined with the increase of Israeli settlements in the largely Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are considered by many to be a huge impediment to the rebooting of any legitimate peace process. 

A few minutes into his address, Barkat was forced to abandon the podium as SJP-affiliated protesters chanted things like "Free, Free Palestine," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," and "Intifada!"

After the majority of the audience cleared out, Barkat sat among the few dozen students and teachers who remained and tried to resume his speech, while the activists congregated in the back of the room, continuing to shouting and chant in the hopes that even the truncated audience wouldn't be able to hear the speaker they came to see.

Aruta Sheva reports, "Campus and city police were called, yet they stood idly by, allowing the unruly protesters to drown out the mayor's address."

The mayor's support of a "united Jerusalem" deeply offends advocates of the Palestinian cause, but the idea that "Palestine" consists of the land "from the river to the sea" surely offends Israelis and their supporters, as the river to the sea encapsulates both the Palestinian territories and the state of Israel. Both sides can claim that each of these ideas de-legitimizes the rightful existence of the other. 

Following yesterday's incident, San Francisco Hillel released a statement reading in part:

There is a concerning trend that college campuses are not spaces where diverse viewpoints are tolerated. Recently, we have seen acts of outright hostility and physical aggression when one person did not agree with the views of another on campus. 

This characterization is true, but it is not confined to pro-Palestinian activism. As Reason's Robby Soave reported last December, the mere act of hanging a Palestinian flag in a dorm room window was deemed "disrespectful" to the George Washington University campus community, and the offending standard was ordered removed (watch an accompanying video report of this incident below). 

Advocates on each side of this complicated and ongoing international crisis frequently push a self-identity of victimhood as a rationale for shutting down their adversaries' ability to be heard on college campuses. 

But though their tactics differ, their intent dovetails quite often. The "other's" point of view is too dangerous to be considered, and must silenced. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

44 responses to “Pro-Palestinian Activists Shout Down Jerusalem Mayor’s Speech at San Francisco State University

  1. It’s hard to feel sympathy for any side in this, when it comes to free speech at least. Neither side has any respect for free speech, so I’m not very sympathetic when they experience what they dish out.

  2. So are American Jews still overwhelmingly Democrat? It seems like they should consider jumping ship soon.

    1. So are American Jews still overwhelmingly Democrat?

      “Jews” aren’t monolithic by any means, and many (if not most) don’t necessarily see Israel as their #1 policy concern (or even a major one). Even ‘moderate’/reformed/non-practicing jews can range from very supportive to vociferously opposed to ‘not care at all’, in my experience.

      1. “Jews” aren’t monolithic by any means

        All Jews enjoy Chinese food on Christmas and love listening to Barbara Streisand. Those are facts.

        1. this i concede

        2. Please, it’s “Barbra.”

      2. I’ve noticed that a Jew’s particular opinion on Israel is increasingly irrelevant, they seem to catch hell regardless as the pro-Palestine movement grows.

        1. Both sides feed into the problem.

          The Pro-Israel side throws accusations of antisemitism at any and all criticism of Israel. Some people on the Pro-Palestine side take that claim seriously and begin rhetorically targeting all Jewish people. The actual antisemites within the Pro-Palestine side makes the Pro-Israel side even more likely to dismiss criticism of Israel as antisemetic. Etc.

          1. Yes, that is very true.

            It would still make sense for Jews to abandon the party in my opinion, even if they’re delusional and can’t separate criticisms.

      3. I’ve known plenty of Jews who don’t give a shit about Israel/Palestine. Which was nice, since neither do I.

      4. True, but an incident like this can get their backs up…even if they don’t normally care about Israel, such naked hatred and censorship can get them to think maybe Israel is worth supporting after all.

        If American Jews start worrying that they can’t listen to a speech in their own country without getting censored, then the distinction between “bad stuff over in Israel” and “bad stuff in our own backyard” gets thinner.

    2. It seems to me that the reason Hillary did so well with Democrat primary voters across the South–rather than Bernie–isn’t given a lot of press.

      It should be given more.

      1. I mean, who wants to talk how about how black voters in the South feel about Jews?

        Anyone?

        *crickets*

        1. You might have a point, blacks and Latino’s do hold more anti-Semitic views than whites but I’ve only noticed it among blacks in the north. I don’t think too many in the South care (or even know). Maybe I’m biased though.

            1. Atlanta isn’t the South! (Good catch, there)

              I think she lost to a black Buddhist and left the party though, so she might be an anomaly.

    3. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m not a Jew. I’m JewISH.”

  3. Barkat sat among the few dozen students and teachers who remained and tried to resume his speech, while the activists congregated in the back of the room, continuing to shouting and chant in the hopes that even the truncated audience wouldn’t be able to hear the speaker they came to see.

    I have been informed this is just people each exercising their free speech rights and that there is nothing wrong with trying to bar others from speaking to an audience. “as long as its not the government, its all good”, “there’s no ‘right to be heard” etc.

    On what basis are we to tell the Pro-Pals to STFU? Private property? (the events are usually open to the public)

    I dislike this fallback to claims about ‘rights’ and ‘laws’ when the issue should really be about mutual respect. And if a group fails to show it, there’s no claim that they themselves ever deserve it.

    Yet these same people who demand the right to heckle-to-death seem to describe anything even remotely aimed in their general direction (see: criticism of Palestine on Yik-Yak or something) as “speech violence” or “harassment” or “unsafe”… and come running for institutional protections.

    1. “And if a group fails to show it, there’s no claim that they themselves ever deserve it.”

      Agreed. That’s why it’s hard to sympathize with their target here. Barkat opposes freedom of women to pray near the Wailing Wall, which is public space in the city he runs (freedom of speech or religion, take your pick) because it might offend the ultra-orthodox Jews who don’t want women praying there.

      So when he get’s shut down because things he says might offend Palestinians or whatever… meh. He’s reaping what the policies he supports sow.

      1. I’m not sure your analogy even remotely holds water.

        In fact i’m unsure whether the comparison is relevant at all. If he barred women from *speak on behalf of their own right to pray wherever they want*, maybe it would make sense. However his maintenance of 1000+yr old Israeli religious policy isn’t by default some sacrifice of his ability to speak unmolested in the US

  4. I’d be perfectly fine with the government deporting whomever yelled “Intifada!” straight to Palestine to join the fight.

    1. Are there any other instances in which you want the government to violate people’s free speech rights, or is this the only one?

      1. Just this one, I swear!! I was just kidding, obviously. That kid is an idiot though.

    2. Why deport them, when you can just have the UN put them on assignment there?

      Peacekeeping, collaborating, what’s the difference, really?

  5. Dueling activists deserve each other.

    “Last month, the University of California (UC) voted to include anti-Zionism (broadly defined as opposition to the idea that Israel is the rightful national homeland of the Jewish people) as a form of banned “intolerant expression”

    I just feel sorry for the rest of us and our rights.

    UC is government. They have no business banning any kind of expression. Expression that violates someone’s rights is the province of the police and the courts. There are only two sides that matter in this fight; it’s the University of California vs. the First Amendment.

    Fuck the University of California. I can’t believe I’m being forced to pay for this.

    1. Oh shit, I guess I’m guilty of intolerant expression, because I don’t believe any ethnic group has a “rightful national homeland”.

      1. While I don’t believe any ethnic group has a specific rightful ethnic national homeland, you would have to be pretty ignorant of history not to realize that an ethnic group without an ethnic national homeland somewhere is at substantial risk for mistreatment and even genocide, whether it’s Jews, Kurds, Roma, or Native Americans.

        1. It’s called “Jotdan”, but they don’t want them either…

  6. Semites protest Semites, Anti-Semitism all the way down.

    1. Not that whose free speech rights should prevail is a question of who the biggest or latest victim is anyway, right?

  7. I don’t believe in moral equivalence between the Israelis – who want their own small republic and wouldn’t mind *peaceful* neighbors, and once upon a time even tried a territorial deal with the Palestinians – with the Palestinian (mis)leadership which wants to be on board with Israel’s enemies and conquer the whole area. And who certainly don’t want a republic with rule of law (unless you’re talking Sharia law).

    But there is some rough equivalence between the censorhip efforts of the two sides in America, neither side seeming (going by the headlines) to be interested in full freedom of debate.

    1. I agree. I long ago lost any sympathy for “Palestinians.” “Wah, these mean Jews we’ve been oppressing and trying kill since the days of Muhammad are defending themselves and are still around! It’s unfair!”

      1. When your society places so much more emphasis on hating your enemies than on loving your neighbor, that society is inevitably going to be a corrupt, stagnant shithole.

        If every Jew got Raptured off the face off the earth in an instant, the Palestinians would just find someone else to hate and blame for why their lives continued to be shit.

        1. The tragedy is that lots of countries – like this one – have Palestinian immigrants who have done quite nicely. Businesspeople, doctors, etc.

          I can’t speak for their politics, being successful doesn’t mean being politically enlightened, but some of them do OK in exile, kind of like another exiled people, what are they called…it will come to me…

          1. If they come to America, they aren’t really part of that society anymore. Doubly so since we do still try to assimilate people into a common culture.

      2. Yeah, we could have figured that.

  8. This heckler’s veto protesting only occurs and succeeds where the institution wants it to.

    Regardless of the forum (public, private, invitation only, whatev) it is disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor), and the protestors can be immediately removed, if not arrested, on that basis.

    Where it succeeds, it does so because people in a position of authority either allow it to, or want it to. If they just allow it, well, we have a saying: “silence is acquiescence is approval”.

    Fuck them. I have no use for heckler’s veto goons, regardless of who they are or who they hate. Start punishing them, rather than rewarding them, and you’ll see less of them.

    1. The cops are there at the meeting to make sure nobody lights a cigarette, not to enforce some obscure 100 year old document.

      /sarc

  9. “Reason Magazine” supports the brownshirt activities of the Students for [in]Justice in Palestine. Why should they complain when their heroes shut down or even kill Jews? I also notice that for all their criticism of Bernie Sanders, they don’t criticize that Stalin with Alzheimer’s fellow for his blood libel about Gaza. Probably because Libertarian Nazi Holocaust deniers agree with that Koranic injunction where if you kill one Islamic terrorist, it is as if you have killed the whole world. The so-called Students for justice in Palestine is the 2nd worst purveyor of antisemitism in the United States. That is why the Rhomites here oppose the efforts courageous Dov Hikind to shut it down.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here.”

    1. Lol. Whereas for all I know, you might be right about the activist group (don’t know, don’t give a shit), shut the fuck up about generalizing about libertarians, you cunt.

      This is the most persecutionist post I’ve ever read on here.

  10. As much as they were being douchy assholes and I would have personally made that known to them, how was the activist group’s actions not an exercise of free speech?

    Look, no one ever said that you have the right to free speech without ramifications from people who disagree with you. I see this all the time from GOPers complaining that people telling them to stop being assholes on their posts are anti-free-speech. No, you have the right to free speech, and I have the right to call you an asshole for said speech.

    Sometimes freedom of speech can arise in civility, and sometimes discontent. Things aren’t always going to be perfectly respectful and we are idiotically naive if we assume that.

    1. Because it’s not “free speech” to shut down someone else’s speech.

      1. That said, maybe it’s time to have somebody with a megaphone on hand so they can be louder than the protestors. I know if someone started to shout down my speech, I’d keep going – louder if possible – and give them the finger.

  11. Political activism nowadays really progresses and gives a lot of new progess, not ony politican but social as well. Back in the days people were not so active in political way, so it did not change a lot, however now people changed and start to be more active , as Research paper writings says, people start to change a lot more and show the government who really decides what to do. Also there is another good article at http://www.people-press.org/20…..-activism/ that shows another proof of political activism.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.