In a recent Ha’aretz op-ed, Brown University student Jared Samilow made the case that self-professed “pro-Palestinian” activists on US campuses are intent on cowing anyone who is “expressing or associating with pro-Israel views.” Even lectures on Israel-related subjects have been targeted, as Samilow noted with regard to two recent cases, when activists disrupted lectures at the University of Minnesota and at the University of Texas at Austin.
Both incidents were widely covered and criticized as unacceptable attempts to disrupt entirely legitimate academic lectures (see e.g.: Israeli academic shouted down in lecture at University of Minnesota; and Disrupting the study of Israel on campus as well as UT-Austin anti-Israel student leader called for “support” of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP and additional links and updates.)
Referring to a widely-read Atlantic essay on “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Samilow argued that even though “the assault on pro-Israel speakers can be seen as part of a broader trend, it appears unique in its tenacity and fanaticism – and in the activists’ willingness to get physical and face arrest.”
According to Samilow, “it’s not entirely clear how pro-Israel students can fight this.” Outlining his own recommendations, he writes:
“From what I can see, I’d wager that disciplinary action won’t work. Most of these shouters are insistently anti-establishment. In fact, heavy-handed crackdowns may only validate anti-Israel activists by turning them into martyrs.
The real antidote to suppression is more expression. The endgame here is influence over campus climate and the contours of debate. But this battle is entirely up to the pro-Israel student community. Refuse to be cowed into silence. Plan more lectures and more active outreach to student organizers and politicians. The sort of intimidation we face only works to the extent that we are meek enough to be intimidated.”
[Image: Screenshot from Legal Insurrection report on the UT Austin incident]