Sunday, February 24, 2013
Free Speech under Threat
The following report comes from Avi Mayer http://storify.com/avimayer and should be circulated as widely as possible.
Crushing Free Speech in Essex UK
How Were Protesters Able to Deny an Israeli Diplomat His Freedom of Speech?
A few weeks ago, Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler -- the former a leader of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the latter a cheerleader therefor -- spoke at Brooklyn College in an appearance co-sponsored by the institution's political science department. The talk, which sought to promote the effort to punish and isolate Israel until it accepts its own elimination, was hailed as a triumph of free speech.
"As an institution of higher education," wrote college president Karen Gould, "it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree... We [...] uphold their right to speak, and the rights of our students and faculty to attend, listen, and fully debate."
In the days and weeks leading up to the event, anti-Israel activists of all stripes railed against efforts to have the event cancelled, hailing the talk as a vivid example of free expression. Ali Abunimah, editor of the hate site Electronic Intifada, encouraged his readers to sign on to a petition expressing "support for free speech" and denouncing "Zionist bullying." Alex Kane, a writer for anti-Israel site Mondoweiss, later gushed about Barghouti and Butler's talk, calling it "a fantastic event and a real big victory for free speech." Participants in the event reported a heavy police presence, meant to ensure that the event could proceed without a hitch. And so it did (if you disregard multiple accounts of pro-Israel students being ejected from the event -- which is a subject for another time).
Meanwhile, Across the Pond...
... support for free speech, it seems, only extends so far.
On Wednesday, Alon Roth-Snir, Deputy Ambassador of Israel to the United Kingdom, was scheduled to give a talk at the University of Essex in Colchester. In the period leading up the event, anti-Israel activists on campus had strongly denounced the decision to permit Roth-Snir's appearance, even starting a blog to collect statements on the matter, of which there were three in total. All three statements slammed what they referred to as the Department of Government's "invitation" to Roth-Snir. A Facebook event hosted by the University of Essex Students' Union called for a protest against the visit