Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Breaking: UC-Berkeley Students Protest Against Allowing Israeli Politician To Speak on Campus

A petition -- launched by a UC-Berkeley student organization, and now with ~8000 signatures -- demands that the UC-Berkeley admin "take action" to prevent a former member of the Israeli Knesset from delivering a presentation on campus

While purporting to "fully support freedom of speech," the activists contend that "we stand against hateful indoctrination and explicit lies being sold to an audience at an academically sponsored event." Hence, the petition demands that the faculty member who invited the speaker be "held accountable", insisting that campus officials must take "immediate administrative action" against him and to ensure that the Israeli speaker is not given "an academic platform to spew her propaganda". "If no action is taken immediately," the petition states ominously, "we will have proof that our university does not care about its academic, intellectual, and moral standards."

Of course, such protests against permitting Israelis to speak on campuses like Berkeley perhaps does not surprise certain readers, who have heard tale of an emergent campus culture of censorial illiberalism, perhaps particularly when it comes to Israel and Israelis.

But I do wonder how many of those unsurprised readers might be a little surprised to learn that the Israeli politician in question is Haneen Zoabi,* and the student group seeking to bar her from campus is (the right-wing pro-Israel group) Tikvah. Apparently, the movement to obstruct engagement with (certain) Israeli perspectives runs deeper than we thought!

* I am, needless to say, no fan of Zoabi, and I am likewise no fan of the faculty member who invited her to campus or his assessments of who is and isn't a useful contributor to academic discourse. But my belief in academic freedom as ensuring an unqualified right for campus community members to host and engage with speakers of their choosing, free from any de jure or administrative sanction, is not tied to my personal agreement or disagreement with any given speaker. I am not an especial fan of Nir Barkat either, but I understood the attempts to shut down his talk at San Francisco State for what they were. And, to the extent the claim is that Zoabi's talk is not balanced by other academic offerings at UC-Berkeley that provide a different vantage point on Israel, that is flatly spurious -- Berkeley has one of the largest and most vibrant Israel Studies programs in the country, recently supplemented by a $10 million gift, and offers a wealth of stellar programming -- from talks to courses to study-abroad programs -- on Israel-related issues from a variety of perspectives.

(For the record, this petition is from a few years back -- I thought it looked familiar! -- but it nonetheless is illustrative of how the wheel turns on these sorts of things).

1 comment:

Ben said...

To be fair, Madam Zoabi's political career is kaput and she isn't smart or talented enough to find any other sustainable way to keep herself from being homeless. She needs the money that she'll get from making speeches to left-wing dorks, and this is as viable a path for someone like her to make some of it, which I don't have a problem with--as long as I don't have to be within 500 miles of her truly ugly self.