In the wake of Israeli Apartheid Week, the international campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel, campus hate groups have stepped up their aggressive pressure on Jewish students and speakers. The last week of February was marked by anti-Israel ugliness at two University of California events that left Jewish students feeling, as a letter to the UC President put it, “targeted, intimidated, harassed, and unsafe.”
On February 27 at University of California at Davis, Jewish student groups presented a talk entitled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out” featuring Ran Bario Bar-Yoshafat, an Israeli reservist, and Ranya Fadel, a Druze woman whose father and brother fought in the Israeli Defense Force. The two had visited at least ten campuses across the United States in an effort to engage students of all political stripes in a dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to dispel the biased media narrative about the Israeli military.
But members of the UC Davis branch of the national Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had conspired on a strategy for suppressing the free speech of the scheduled speakers: pack the room with pro-Palestinian students, many of whom would walk out together during the event, leaving other members behind to disrupt the event relentlessly. Students for Justice in Palestine exists primarily for campus promotion of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns and others efforts to cripple the Jewish state.
The UC Davis event was attended by anywhere from 125-200 students (estimates vary). As Ran himself told it to me, approximately 20-30 seemed pro-Israel, perhaps 20 were neutral, and the remainder were very vocally pro-Palestinian. The event was disrupted from the beginning by hecklers intent on preventing it from going forward. On this video, one brazen heckler who claimed to be Indian, not Palestinian, challenged someone to “Remove me! Remove me!” (which campus security did not do), then began spewing at the speakers:
I will stand here and I will heckle. My only purpose today is that this event is shut down! My only purpose today is that this event is shut down!
He then became so incensed that spit flew as he ranted:
You have turned Palestine into a land of prostitutes and rapists and child molesters!
On a separate video he can be observed demanding of the speakers,
How many women have you raped? How many children have you raped? You are a child molester!
Again he begged to be arrested. No response from security, although he was eventually persuaded to leave voluntarily. But within minutes (as soon as Ran mentioned the word “Israel,” according to one witness), perhaps 40 students left in a coordinated walkout, their seats then filled by other pro-Palestinian students who had been lining the walls at the standing-room-only event. The talk progressed with difficulty as the heckling continued nearly unabated. When Ran and Ranya mentioned soldier friends who had been killed in the conflict, the pro-Palestinian students laughed. The question-and-answer period devolved into shouted statements of accusations of Israeli atrocities from the crowd, but no questions, and so the event organizers curtailed it.
Ran told me that some Muslim students approached him and Ranya to tell them that the disrupters were not representative of all, and that, although they disagreed with the speakers, they felt that they could at least talk with them. But many of the others closed in aggressively enough to warrant concern that things might get physical, so security escorted the speakers away.
In a letter to the UC Davis newspaper afterward, Layla Rayyan, referring to herself as co-president of the campus SJP, began her disingenuous spin on the event with this revealing perspective on Israeli-Palestinian dialogue:
I am personally against dialogue, as the word implies that both parties are on equal footing — obviously Israel as the Occupier and Palestinians as the Occupied cannot sit down as two equals. It’s the equivalent of asking a white man and black man to sit down to dinner in 1960s Mississippi — absolutely absurd.
The Israeli speakers were traveling from campus to campus to initiate dialogue, braving threats and enduring the kind of harassment they received at UC Davis; all the while they treated everyone with dignity and respect. Meanwhile the co-president of the UC Davis SJP is against dialogue.
A few days later, SJP members at UC San Diego brought to the Students Council for the third straight year a resolution asking the University of California to divest from American firms that do business with the Israeli Defense Forces. The resolution was defeated, but the Jewish students and faculty felt threatened at the meeting and afterward. According to the AMCHA Initiative, one faculty member reported that it was “emotionally difficult to bear the hatred and lies.” A student stated that “Jewish students feel targeted, and Jewish students don’t feel as safe or comfortable on campus.” Another Jewish student said, “I am unsafe on this campus when there is talk of divestment.” (In this video, Jewish students at UCSD describe the atmosphere of hostility they experienced as a result of the campus divestment campaign).
The AMCHA Initiative (“amcha” means “your people” in Hebrew) was created to express concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish college and university students, particularly at UC campuses. The co-founders sent a letter to UC President Mark Yudof regarding the two recent incidents to highlight anti-Semitic hatred on UC campuses. Their letter accused the UC administration of “failing in their basic responsibilities: to protect Jewish students from a hostile environment and to ensure their rights to freedom of speech.”
Yudof responded to AMCHA with an open letter to the UC community specifically condemning the protesters at UC Davis:
It was wrong for hecklers to disrupt speakers on the UC Davis campus at an event entitled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out.” It was reprehensible that one of these hecklers accused the speakers of being associated with rapists and murderers… Attempting to shout down speakers is not protected speech. It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech.
One of the steps that the David Horowitz Freedom Center is taking to combat such campus anti-Semitism is the distribution of over 100,000 copies of a recent DHFC pamphlet by FrontPage contributor and Shillman Journalism Fellow Daniel Greenfield. “Muslim Hate Groups on Campus” documents the radical origins and violent objectives of the main Muslim student organizations across our nation, such as the Muslim Students Association (MSA), founded by the virulently anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood, and SJP. Both are sponsors of hate-fests like Israeli Apartheid Week and Palestine Awareness Week.
What Greenfield writes about such Muslim campus groups and their leftist allies helps illuminate the nastiness of the UC Davis protests:
The anti-Israel radicals who have occupied America’s campuses have made it clear that they are not there to learn, but to teach. And they have only one lesson to teach. The lesson of their hate.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 3/14/12)