JPOST Editiorial: “In trying to silence Oren, they made a mockery of the university’s commitment to freedom of speech and treated its dedication to respectful dialogue with downright disdain”

Away with campus timidity
JPOST EDITORIAL
09/02/2010
In trying to silence Oren, Muslim campaigners made a mockery of UC-Irvine’s commitment to freedom of speech.

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful… The members of the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, condemn and strongly oppose the presence of Michael Oren on our campus… Oren personally participated in the Israeli Defense Force in wars that took place in Lebanon and Palestine…Oren and his partners should only be granted a speakers platform in the International Criminal Court…

In the name of demonizing the Jewish state, intimidating its supporters and making it ever more difficult to present Israel’s case, Muslim campaigners and their allies at the UC-Irvine campus on Monday repeatedly disrupted a talk by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. Eleven of the louts were detained, issued summonses and released.

In trying to silence Oren, they made a mockery of the university’s commitment to freedom of speech and treated its dedication to respectful dialogue with downright disdain. Yes, they probably discomfited our ambassador, but they shamed UC-Irvine and its alumni.

UNFORTUNATELY, what happened on Monday in southern California mirrors the experience of Israeli spokespeople on the European continent, in Britain and increasingly on liberal American campuses. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s address last October at the University of Chicago was disrupted by Muslim student organizations and their fellow-travelers. Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St James’s, described efforts in British universities to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state as a “daily obsession.”

Next month, Israel’s enemies on campus will hold a series of vitriolic, well-orchestrated events aimed at delegitimizing this country and hammering home the poisonous idea that the Jewish people has no right to self-determination or a national homeland. In the words of Jerusalem Post columnist Gil Troy, they will be continuing the campaign to “make Israel toxic.”

Related: At Oxford, student shouts ‘Kill the Jews’ at Ayalon

A colossal untruth promoted by the anti-Zionist camp – that Israel is “an apartheid state” – is starting to be believed by the gullible or intellectually dishonest. The old Arab boycott of Israel has been reinvigorated by calls for “divestment.”

Troy is right to argue that friends of Israel can hardly expect to sway those who have “swallowed the apartheid libel and drunk the anti-Israel Kool-Aid.”

The Zionist goal, he argues, should be bolstering “wavering Jewish students and the vast uninformed and uninterested middle.”

WE SUSPECT Jewish college students are doing a bit too much “wavering.”

It is true that Jerusalem speaks with many voices – but it has done so since the 1970s. Spurious efforts to “redefine” what “being pro-Israel means” are also not new.

Moreover, campuses have never been bastions of pro-Israelism. Not in the 1960s, when America’s black power movement became enamored with the Arab cause; not in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter struggled in vain to conceal his contempt for Menachem Begin, and when Time magazine demonized our premier as a modern-day Fagin.

It was no picnic being on campus in the 1980s, when an NBC anchor stood on a Beirut rooftop, with smoke billowing in the background from burning PLO targets, and declared, “…Nothing like it has ever happened in this part of the world. I kept thinking… of the bombing of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War…We are now dealing with an imperial Israel.”

Nor did pro-Israel activism come easy in the early 1990s, when a “pitiless” Yitzhak Rabin expelled 415 Islamic fanatics to southern Lebanon; international pressure eventually forced him to rescind the move, setting the stage for the flowering of Hamas.

In the 21st century a difficult campus situation got even worse, partly due to an influx of Muslim students and the affinity of the anti-globalization movement for the Palestinian cause.

NONE OF this absolves the current cadre of Jewish student activists from stepping up to the plate. The Twitter generation even has the advantage of circumventing the silencing of Israel by utilizing new media.

Never has it been more important to cast timidity aside. To reassert that no one has a stronger claim to this land than the Jewish people; to denounce the notion that Israel’s “original sin” was being re-born after 2000 years; and to explain that the “occupation” and settlements are fundamentally red-herring issues that would fade away, were the Palestinians to negotiate in earnest for a two-state solution.

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