I was glad to see that Nadine Strossen (former ACLU President, an NYU law professor, and daughter of a Holocaust survivor) was at UWV talking about free speech as part of the Festival of Ideas. Her 3-19-19 seminar was entitled: “HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship.”

As a progressive, I believe that free speech is the foundation of our colleges. Therefore, it surprises and disturbs me that censorship from the far left has recently become an issue at numerous American universities. The best example is debate regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

As someone who firmly believes in an equitable two state solution, I see fault with both the Palestinians (especially terroristic Hamas) and the Israelis (especially Netanyahu’s right wingers who want to annex more of the West Bank) on this issue. However, both sides should be able to express their viewpoints on our campuses. That is simply not happening due to pressure from the far left. Pro-Palestine campus protestors do not let both positions be publicly expressed. In undemocratic fashion, they prevent debate from occurring, for example:

  • U of Virginia: “Video of the event obtained by the university showed that Rabbi Jake Rubin, executive director of Hillel at the university, asked those protesting to let the program go on and said they could ask questions of the panelists and otherwise engage in discussion with attendees. The protesting students refused to do so and continued to shout at the speakers, making it impossible for the event to proceed as planned”; (Inside Higher Ed, 2-26-18)
  • San Francisco State University:  Per Mark G. Yudof, former president of the University of California, and Oliver Benn of Hillel: “SFSU is doing a disservice to its community and society as a whole by failing to enforce its rules on nondiscrimination and disruption of campus events, to assert leadership and to educate its students about anti-Semitism.” 

U of Va. and SFSU protestors (and others like them, see Michigan State University) are deceiving themselves and others about the basics. They mislead uninformed people by repeating the oft stated disingenuous left narrative that Israel is totally composed of “invading” Europeans. 

In reality there are millions of Israelis who either emigrated from hostile Arab nations or are their descendants. These “non-Ashkenazi” Jews now comprise the majority of Israel’s population (Tucker-Roberts, 5-12-08). 

Furthermore, Israel as a Jewish state is clearly the underlying issue for Arab countries. Arabs say they have no trouble recognizing Israel…as long as it first becomes a majority Moslem nation. Given this fact, campus protestors very quickly can become anti-Semitic versus just anti-Israel.

Being of Jewish heritage has generally not been a major point of contention in modern American life. However, both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicate that anti-Semitism is dramatically on the rise, not surprising given the abusive, nationalistic, racist rhetoric constantly spouted by our purposefully divisive President on the right and Rep. Omar (D) on the left.

Per the ADL, school anti-Semitic incidents alone rose 86% last year, many on college campuses. Nationwide, there were 1,986 total anti-Semitic incidents of all kinds in 2017, a rise of 57%.  “The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses.” (ADL) 

Prejudice can raise its ugly head anywhere. What is surprising is that anti-Semitic attacks are coming from both the left and right.

Attacks from the left combined verbal assaults on Israel with anti-Jewish statements. For example, as noted above and stated in court documents, Jewish SFSU students were being harassed and speeches being interrupted.

Once again, this column is not intended to take sides in the basic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The point being made is that there should be free speech on our university campuses and a calm, objective discussion of ideas. Isn’t that a basic principal which all patriotic Americans should support?

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Image Credit: Censorship - man with mouth zipped shut by © Sergiy Tryapitsyn licensed by LikeTheDew.com at 123RF.com using the generous contributions of readers like you.


Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.