Academic Freedom Initiatives16 Nov 2015
With the rise of the BDS Movement on college campuses, pro-Israel students are confronted with a major problem: how does one counteract a movement that uses tactics that we ourselves will not use for moral reasons? While BDS has proven itself perfectly comfortable lying, disrupting academic lectures and intimidating anyone who disagrees with them into silence, supporters of Israel are, unsurprisingly, unwilling to use these same anti-academic bully tactics.
So before we discuss what we will do, let us be clear about what we refuse to do:
We will not lie to win allies.
We will not disrupt academics or events we disagree with.
We will not become bullies, forcing others into silence, even if they disagree with us.
However, there is one BDS tactic that we can and must adopt if we are to properly stem the anti-Israel tide on campuses: we must make full use of student governments by writing and passing resolutions of our own.
The disruptive tactics of BDS thugs, like the ones recently put on display at UT Austin, must be recognized as the anti-academic bullying that they are and those who employ them must know there will be serious consequences for using them. If students knew that they would be fined, suspended and/or expelled for preventing other students from learning, far fewer of them would do so and eventually the real troublemakers who refuse to change would no longer be on campus.
Before this is misinterpreted, let us clarify: We do not seek to ban pro-Palestinian events on campuses. Pro-Palestinian students, as much as we disagree with them, have just as much a right to express their opinions as we do and they should not be prevented from doing so. What they do not have a right to do is prevent others from speaking, disrupt university sanctioned events or bully others into silence. That is not them expressing their freedom of speech but rather preventing others from expressing theirs.
In these “Academic Freedom Initiatives,” the right to protest peacefully alongside an event must be enshrined. However, it will make clear that protests at events or lectures that impede the free exchange of ideas will result in severe disciplinary action.
It should also be made clear that Academic Freedom Initiatives, as their name suggests, are not just pro-Israel resolutions but rather pro-academic freedom. When university events are prevented from taking place, we all lose. When professors are unable to teach their students because BDS bullies are shouting and chanting, we all lose. When academics self-censor their lectures and work to avoid becoming targets of BDS thugs, we all lose.
Today these radicals are targeting Jewish and pro-Israel events, but the same tactics are starting to be used against others. The rise of the “safe space” movement has led to the intimidation of professors and administrators who have not pledged sufficient fealty to the cause of political correctness, leading to a number of high profile resignations. We have natural allies to work with on this as it is becoming clear yet again that it starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews.
BDS has made these disruptions the new reality on far too many campuses and it is time those of us who care about Israel and Academic Freedom fought back.