A Double Standard for Campus Free Speech

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Mr. Cravatts, Ph.D., director of Boston University’s Program in Publishing at the Center for Professional Education, is currently writing a book about higher education, Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel.

In what is yet more evidence that universities have become, as Abigail Thernstrom has described them, “islands of repression in a sea of freedom,” Toronto’s York University witnessed a near riot of some 100 pro-Palestinian Israel-haters, as police had to be called to usher Jewish students to safety after they had been barricaded inside the Hillel@York offices and were “isolated and threatened” by the physically and verbally aggressive demonstrators.

York, one of Canada’s largest universities, also has a sizable Jewish student population, but that has not served to diffuse what has become an increasingly volatile, and distressing, problem on its campus, one that raises issues about what is acceptable behavior and discourse at universities worldwide. Universities, of course, have well-articulated regulations that supposedly define student behavior and place limits of speech and actions that might shatter what administrators like to refer to as the “civility” of the campus community. York’s own student code of conduct, for instance, specifically prohibits “threats of harm, or actual harm, to a person’s physical or mental wellbeing,”  including “verbal and non-verbal aggression . . . verbal abuse; intimidation; [and] harassment”—all of which were clearly violated by the demonstrators’ physically intimidating protests.

More troubling is the invidious language used in this event, mirroring a surge of unbridled Jew-hatred manifested on campuses, as well as on city streets, worldwide since Israel’s recent defensive incursions into Gaza. Parroting the morally incoherent and factually defective exhortations of Israel-haters elsewhere of "Zionism equals racism!" and "Racists off campus!," the York mob, members of both the York Federation of Students and Students Against Israeli Apartheid, demonstrated once again that what is positioned as “intellectual debate” on campuses about the Israeli/Palestinian issue has devolved into something that is not really a conversation at all; rather, it is something more akin to an ideologically-driven shout fest in which pro-Palestinians, employing a revisionist history in which the dark-skinned, third-world Arabs are the long-standing victims of white, European, colonial Zionists, have escalated the debate far beyond discussion of borders, refugee status, and the rights of both Jews and Arabs to self-determination, statehood, and peaceful coexistence.

So now, supporters of the cult of Palestinianism apparently no longer feel even a bit uncomfortable voicing what is actually on their minds when the subject of Israel comes up: when the York Hillel students were trapped inside of locked offices, surrounded by an increasingly violent and aggressive mob, the intellectual “debate” that day included such invidious and raw slurs as "Die bitch—go back to Israel" and "Die Jew—get the hell off campus." The most vicious anti-Semites have of late been able to conveniently inoculate themselves from what had become socially unacceptable in the modern age— hating Jews—by artfully masking any anti-Semitism on their part by stating, “Oh, no, it’s not Jews that I loathe, only the oppressive, genocidal, and racist policies of Zionism and Israel.”

But even that concern for appearing to be politically correct has now, too, vanished. When students are calling for the death of the fellow students based on their religion or political inclinations, something more serious and troubling is going on here that cannot be easily dismissed as part of the back and forth in the “marketplace of ideas” that universities are so fond of facilitating. But craven college administrators, who in their zeal to achieve “diversity” and “multiculturalism”  have relieved campus victim groups of any responsibility for their noxious or morally reprehensible views and regularly fail to condemn the behavior of favored groups on campus while publicly denouncing, punishing, or distancing themselves from the opposing voices coming, for instance, from conservatives, Christians, Republicans, or pro-Israel groups or faculty members.

Imagine for a moment that during the latest incident instead of Hillel, another of the University’s student organizations, the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay Allies at York, had held a press conference in the student union to give their views, say, on gay marriage, a topic over which there can, and are, many viewpoints. Imagine further that counter-protestors, joined in their demonstration by Rev. Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist Church and inflamed by what they felt was an assault on their Christian faith, angrily barricaded the TBLG Allies in their offices, pounded violently on the walls and screamed out, as the ever-sensitive Phelps is wont to do, “God hates fags,” “No fags in heaven,” “death to sodomites,” or that some of them were “Jezebellian switch-hitting whores."

Assuming that such a counter protest would even have been allowed to occur on campus, does anyone doubt the extent of denunciation and condemnation that would have risen from an apoplectic administration and faculty if this hateful speech and behavior took place? Would not the gay students have felt “threatened,” “harassed,” “intimidated,” or had their feelings hurt, and called for forced sensitivity training for the offenders? Is there any doubt that the counter-protestors would be de-funded, sanctioned, or punished into silence or prevented from further demonstrations or the ability to express their opinions on campus again? 

Therein lies the hypocrisy in academic free speech on campus today: while coddling selected victim groups and granting them unlimited expression as a purported way to further diversity of thought, college administrators have regularly denied those same rights and privileges to groups deemed not to deserve or need them, namely, conservatives, Christians, Republicans, and or those who seek a strong defense against radical Islam and terrorism aimed at Western democracies, principally the U.S. and Israel. So if pro-Israel and Jewish students have to be escorted by police to protect them from physical assault and nothing is said about the egregious nature of the offense, and pro-Israel, anti-terror speakers such as Daniel Pipes are shouted down and heckled relentlessly when they come to York, the university is failing in its stated objective to foster true debate and free speech where reasoned conclusions can evolve through animated and lively discussion of alternate views.

“ The ‘Israel debate,’ ” say Gary A. Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg, and Jenna Firer in The Uncivil University, “is not a true intellectual debate at all, but rather a failure of the university community at all levels to properly protect its highest ideals. No institution of higher learning should allow Jewish students to be intimidated or attacked, or pro-Israel speakers to be so physically threatened that they cannot safely visit a campus.”

Why? Because “such an environment is antithetical to the mission” of  the university, they say, and if the academy abandons that goal for the sake of selected groups and favored causes today, it clearly make victims of other groups whose views and voice deserve the same hearing in our marketplace of ideas.

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Thaddeus Brodrick Noble - 4/6/2009

This is a prime example of whining swill that has no business taking up space on the History News Network website. Cravatts and his intentional propaganda belong on a blog site outside of HNN where the dimwitted purveyor's of fantasy spin their sordid tales.

Elliott Aron Green - 3/8/2009

I answer with 2 points that I have made before:

1-- these areas are not "occupied." That is a misrepresentation common in the "bourgeois press" and the mouths of bourgeois diplomats, etc. These areas are part of the Jewish National Home set up juridically by the international community at San Remo in 1920, endorsed by the League of Nations in 1920, and NOT changed by the UN general assesmbly partition recommendation of 11-29-1947.

2-- even if this area were "occupied," there is nothing in Geneva Conv IV forbidding people from moving in at their own volition. What Geneva IV forbids is forced transfer.

AS to the UN majority, it is numerically dominated by Muslim states and by the Europeans whose oppression of Jews goes back 2000 years [in case you were wondering, the Arab-Muslims also oppressed Jews for more than a thousands years as part of Islamic religious law].

Louis N Proyect - 3/8/2009

Why can't Jews live in what you call the "West Bank"?


Er, because the lands were seized by conquest and the UN as well as just about every country in the world, except for Israel, calls for Israel to end its occupation.

Edmond Dantes - 3/5/2009

Remember Mr. Green, Ms. Paul stated in previous posts that historians shouldn't waste time reading documents or other source materials. It's actions that count. Asking her to read something is a waste of time.

If Ms. Paul made the effort to read the article she would realize that the issue at hand is free speech on university campuses. Does she condone the verbal and physical threats aimed at Jewish students? Will she continue to advocate the destruction of Israel in the name of peace? Will violence against Jews on campuses come to an end once the Jews of Israel are finally exterminated?

I would rather live among those who recognize a people's right to exist than under those who think that necklacing helps foster peace.

Lorraine Paul - 3/4/2009

Oh! Elliott, you eat it all up and say...yum! hyum! give me more!!

Elliott Aron Green - 3/4/2009

Lorraine, since the "Left" and much or most of the West are so much misled by the media available to them, you do nedd some help to overcome your factual deficiencies. Try these two links which are based on research by WOMEN. Therefore you can trust them more than anything that I could say.



Lorraine Paul - 3/4/2009

I would rather have the humiliation of a dhimmi reign on me than the rain of phosphorus bombs from the IDF...

Lorraine Paul - 3/4/2009

Read my Bible, which one??? I have three versions in my home alone.

I really hope that you come back to read MY words.

You and your father are life-haters and it is a good thing that none of your so-called followers demonstrated outside the Rod Laver Arena the day the memorial service was held for those who perished and were made homeless by the bush-fires in Victoria.

What sort of evil could overcome someone to the point of saying that men, women and children, not to mention the unique wildlife of Victoria, were destroyed by YOUR god because there are gay people in the world.

Australians, particularly Melbournians, know how to deal with life-haters. We did it to the neo-Nazis and they couldn't run quick enough. Nothing like a ripe tomato or an egg landing on one's body to focus the mind and set the legs moving!

It is everyone's right to demonstrate but it is not everyone's right to foster hatred and fear.

Elliott Aron Green - 3/3/2009

Besch, the Arabs who are Israeli citizens have citizen rights. About 1/10 of the Knesset [parliament] are Arabs. An Arab judge sits on the Supreme Court. Arabs in Judea-Samaria are allowed to apply for and receive Israeli citizenship, which many have done. Not most to be sure. The nowadays commonplace charge of apartheid against Israel is a lie of Nazi-like, Goebbels-like magnitude.

As far as genocide goes, the Arab nationalist movement was mostly pro-Nazi during WW2 and the Holocaust. The chief Palestinian Arab leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini, spent most of WW2 in the Nazi-fascist domain in Europe urging the Germans to kill more Jews, as many as possible. He made special efforts to prevent the release of Jewish children from the Nazi-fascist satellite states of Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, and Croatia. Hamas ideology calls for the mass murder of Jews [see especially Article 7 of the Hamas charter].

Jews living in Arab/Muslim lands were oppressed and humiliated as dhimmis for more than a thousand years [as were Christians too in those lands]. On this, you might look up my article on the HNN site entitled "The Myth of Arab Innocence."

Elliott Aron Green - 3/3/2009

Proyect fails to see that denial of the Jewish right to inhabit and build homes in those areas is racism. Proyect refers to "the world's insistence." I am startled that someone who ordinarily considers himself a Leftist and freethinker could be such a conformist as to hold up "the world" as an arbiter of morality.

Mr Proyect, when did "the world" stop meaning the imperialist governments? The governments that fund the UN are "imperialists," are they not? You are referring to the UN, aren't you? The UN plus all major powers plus the member states of the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference]? Aren't they what you mean by the world? Or do you mean conscience laden journalists on the BBC, CNN, France24? Tovarishch Proyect, you do know that the BBC is directed in its reporting from abroad by the Foreign Office?

Do you believe in ethnic exclusionary housing practices in the United States? If not, then why in the Land of Israel? Why can't Jews live in what you call the "West Bank"?

Randll Reese Besch - 3/3/2009

This hack job by a Ph.D? From where, Bob Jones U.? A new low but as long as others of different perspectives can also list then that is okay. Freedom of speech includes everyone.

Curious he should dilute and misuse that all important word "genocide." Considering that is what the Zionists, who govern Israel, are doing slowly to the Palestinians. Though much faster these days. But isn't that what you do with inferiors? The Palestinians have no rights much less equality with Israel who doesn't recognize then either.

John Connally - 3/3/2009

Translation: "Fire up the ovens!"

Louis Nelson Proyect - 3/3/2009

I feel sorry for Mr. Cravatts. Trying to make the case for Israel nowadays is tougher than trying to defend the George W. Bush presidency. Israel just announced plans to build 73,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank in clear defiance of the world's insistence that the expansionism stop. So Mr. Cravatts tries to divert attention from this by complaining about student protests in Canada. What an exercise in futility.

Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/2/2009

Thank you very much Dr. Cravatts for lucidly and carefully exposing the execrable and odious brown-shirt style behavior that is now tolerated on American campuses by feeble, petrified and feckless administrators who are unwilling to defend students from the outrageous shouting and threatening outburst from these anti-Semites, now parading around as merely anti-Israelis.

While deciding what, if anything, campuses can do to neutralize or challenge this mindless blather, I suggest an important new book by Dan Diner, "Lost in the Sacred: Why the Muslim World Slept" (Princeton University Press, 2009).

It is a dense scholarly tome in many ways, but an early chapter on "Knowledge and Development" is highly relevant in drawing attention to the breathtaking and abject infirmities afflicting the Arab world which get easily and purposely avoided and ignored while obsessing about Israel.

Diner quotes extensively from the annual UN Reports entitled "Arab Human Development Report" (AHDR) which offer a devastating examination of the unrelenting failures of the Arabic speaking world.

According to Diner, the AHDR which was compiled by Arab sociologists, political scientists, economist and cultural scholars "provides a meticulous, unsparing and comprehensive account of the lamentable state of the Arab world: chronically stagnant economies, restricted freedoms everywhere, declining levels of education, hampered scientific and technological development - not to mention the deplorable situation of women."

The AHDR "pitilessly reveals an ongoing hiatus in the Arab world: the wide gap between, on the one hand, an elevated feeling of self-esteem based on an alleged superiority in religion and civilization and, on the other hand, the constant denial of this superiority by reality."

If nothing else, Diner's book helps remind us why the abusive attacks Israel enable people to avert their glance away from the real catastrophes of the Arabic speaking world.

Elliott Aron Green - 3/2/2009

Richard, you're right about a double standard.

You mentioned that the supposed "Left" and/or the pro-PLO, pro-Hamas community make an issue of alleged skin color differences. In fact, skin color is a red herring when it comes to Jews and Arabs. There is a broad range of skin colors among both groups. Many Jews are darker than many Arabs. To use known persons for examples, PM Siniora of Lebanon is clearly much lighter skinned than I am. But nobody objects to his presence in the Middle East. His authenticity is not questioned. Further, Assad Junior of Syria is blue-eyed. We might even call him a "blue-eyed devil." Preacher Farrakhan may have used that pejorative on occasion and Preacher Farrakhan is now quite socially acceptable nowadays, although he would probably have only praise for Junior Assad, despite his blue eyes.

Skin color in the Arab-Israeli conflict is a red herring which political fanatics who are not very capable of empirical observation use with gay abandon. The distinctions drawn for political purposes are demonstrably false and are merely a political football at best.

John D. Beatty - 3/2/2009

As Ms Phelps-Roper most succinctly demonstrates: Those with only one view only listen to their own counsul.

Shirley L. Phelps-Roper - 3/1/2009

Fred Phelps does not and never has said or carried a sign that says Death to Sodomites. We have WORDS - they are the Word of God - they are found in the scriptures - they are words of peace and life and health and happiness and security and comfort to those that would live in them and walk in them in this life. We don't bang on buildings or otherwise, we stand peacefully on a public right of way and put the words before your face.

If you don't like the words, your quarell is with the Lord your God - your creator - they are HIS standards and he requires that you OBEY HIM!!

So - unless you like the rod that across the Doomed american back at this hour (think of all the traum that IS Doomed america - yea - that's the rod) then put away your idols, your false gods and your FILTHY manner of life and get a Bible, shut your mouths and READ THE WORDS - then OBEY YOUR GOD!!

The Lord is coming and america is DOOMED!! When you land in hell - WHAT WILL YOU DO?? The worm dieth not and the fire is NEVER quenched and the smoke of your torment ascends up for ever and ever. WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Your duty is to fear God and OBEY HIM! How about you STOP lying about us and worry about your never-dying soul! That's a thought! :)

Your best friend,

Shirley Phelps-Roper