Ever seen or heard Zionist students admit that they no longer feel safe on campus? Wonder how big of a problem anti-Israel intimidation really is? Have censorship and boycott of Jews really appeared in Western academic institutions? Read on to find out…
Today, the folks over at Spiked published a piece on their affiliate website, FreeSpeechNOW!, identifying the problem across the pond, in England. Students at Kings College, London report that they no longer feel safe enough on campus to proudly wear Jewish symbols, and events featuring pro-Israel speakers are stifled, silenced, or shut-down for making anti-Israel students feel “unsafe.”
Yet, shouldn’t college campuses encourage spirited debate between different points of view? Why are only pro-Israel speakers targeted with this kind of opprobrium? Find out below.
The rage against pro-Israel students exposes the farce that student politics descends into when intolerance seeps in. While keffiyeh-waving campus politicos may feel they’re helping the Palestinian cause by shouting down the other side, actually such intolerant behaviour devalues their position. By refusing to argue, to pit their ideas against those of the opposition, they display weakness, not strength. Elliot Miller, president of University College London’s Jewish Society, tells me of his ceaseless attempts to get his pro-Palestinian peers to share a platform. In the end, his society posted an open letter to UCL’s Friends of Palestine Society, pleading for a chance ‘for students at UCL to hear both sides of the debate on an equal and civil platform, from which they can form their own opinions’. As yet, they’ve had no response.
These students’ experiences of being shouted down or shut up are repeated on campuses across Britain, and increasingly in other Western countries, too. Zionist speakers are no-platformed or booed off campus, while both students and academics agitate for their universities to have nothing to do with Israeli universities or thinkers. The end result is a climate of intolerance around the issue of Israel, making students who are pro-Israel, or who are in Jewish societies sympathetic to Israel, feel that it is a risk to express themselves and hold public debates.
One of the most pernicious ways in which pro-Israel sentiment is shut down is through the branding of it as ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing’ to the student body. SUs and others are now obsessed with keeping students ‘safe’ – by which they mean safe from certain ideas. Safe Space policies, now on statute at students’ unions across the UK, mandate, to quote one example, that the university should be ‘free from intimidation or judgement’; students, it says, should ‘feel comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation’. The message here is clear: debate is dangerous, and students shouldn’t be challenged.
Check out the rest of the piece, published here.