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Separate the issues

Reader comment on item: The War on Campus

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Sep 17, 2002 at 12:35

The behavior of the students at Concordia is certainly disgraceful, but the idea
that they "are the face of" Israel's critics is a stretch. The behavior of Concordia
is not representative of Israel's critics; it's par for the course on North American
campuses on issues that have nothing to do with Israel.

Here is this morning's (9/17) Trenton Times, reporting an incident at The College
of New Jersey: "Standing atop a short wall lining the busiest walkway on
The College of New Jersey campus, a traveling evangelist from Philadelphia
got a loud, sometimes violent response to his religious sermon yesterday

"A number of students reacted strongly to the words of Stephen White. Some
threw stones and mulch at him, others spit in his face....There were no arrests,
campus police Sgt. Joe Skrajewski said."

Such incidents are commonplace on American campuses. The more plausible explanation for what happened at Concordia is not something
intrinsic to criticism of Israel, but a deficiency in college campuses' commitment
to free speech and the rule of law.

As for pro-Israeli students, when I was a student at Princeton in the early 90s,
the pro-Israeli students had no hesitation about inviting the likes of Meir Kahane
to campus, where he gave a speech advocating transfer ... --and got a favorable reaction from the audience. The people who invited him are now
prominent in Israeli politics, in the Likud Party and on the editorial board of the
Jerusalem Post. Would Daniel Pipes say that Kahaneist politics represents the face
of the Israeli right?

Likewise, while I never saw pro-Israeli students shout anyone down, I certainly
have seen them wield the phrase "anti-Semitism" as a functionally-equivalent
rhetorical club. Ready use of that accusation usually obviates the need for
shouting anyone down, or initiating violence against them. You just make the
accusation and walk away. Voila: your opponent's reputation is ruined, and further
discussion has been rendered pointless.

Having said all this, there is a claque of anti-Israel students out there that has
gone off the deep end and needs to be restrained (or arrested, or whatever). But the issue is free speech on campus, not criticism of Israel per se. The two issues should be separated.

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