Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I (heart) Academic Freedom

There are two interesting reviews of the conference on the Middle East and Academic Integrity on the American Campus, one in the Jewish Week and one in the Forward. From the Jewish Week:
When [Phyllis] Chesler defended Israel’s actions regarding the 2002 battle in Jenin, one woman in the audience shouted, “We should have bombed them from the start,” referring to the Palestinian residents of Jenin.

“We should have killed them all,” a man yelled.

Another man in the audience, who turned out to be a member of the leftist group Jews Against the Occupation, rose to ask a question, prefacing his remarks by saying that he had once been shot by the Israeli army.

He was drowned out by a sea of invectives.

“Too bad they missed,” shouted a young man with a denim shirt.

Another man added, “They should have shot you in the head.”

Members of the press, who sat in an easily recognizable section of the room, were not immune from the harsh words.

Several reporters were approached numerous times by angry audience members demanding that they identify themselves.

“I want to know who you are,” one man told a freelance reporter, wagging his finger near the reporter. “I want to see how your obvious bias affects your reporting.”

The Jewish Week’s reporter was approached with similar demands for identification and was flash-photographed repeatedly by a woman in the audience. When asked to stop, the woman said, “We’re taking pictures of you. We want to know who you are.”

A New York Times photographer, taking photos of the silenced dissenter from Jews Against the Occupation leaving the room, was surrounded by a large group of people telling her to put down her camera.

“You have no right to do this,” one woman yelled, waving her hand in the photographer’s face.

Another man said, “It’s our event, not his. Don’t distort it like the Times always does.”

The photographer left the auditorium.
Wow, I just love open discussion, free debate, and all the other hallmarks of academic freedom (like bullying the press, shouting down dissenters, etc.). Here's what the Forward had to say:
"I have to take serious issue with many of the statements made here today," said Ariel Beery, one of the students whose protests helped launch the Columbia furor. Beery is co-founder of Columbians for Academic Freedom, which helped produce and distribute a documentary film alleging that Arab professors bullied pro-Israel students.

"Much of what has been said today is not only unproductive, it is counterproductive," Beery said. "Anything that is said in order to disparage or to generalize or to characterize some type of people is wrong."

The students drew angry shouts from an audience that had applauded their arrival onstage moments earlier. Their appearance was billed as a question-and-answer session, but the students were cut off by the organizers after just a few minutes....

The conference was titled, "The Middle East and Academic Integrity on the American Campus," but of the 21 listed speakers, only four work on an American campus.

The Columbia students were the only speakers during the day to dissent with other presenters. They were also the only members of the Columbia campus community listed in the printed program....

One of the sharpest-edged speeches came right at the end, from the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein. "There is no occupation," Klein said, referring to Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza.
Apparently, Beery was uncomfortable with certain speakers and with situations like the one described by the Jewish Week above and by the Forward here:
When Chesler was talking about the ethics of the Israeli army, one person called out that he had been shot by Israeli soldiers, but members of the audience yelled, "Get out" and the boos from the audience drowned out the questioner. Later in the day, a protester rose to leave the room, with duct tape over his mouth. As he walked out of the room, many booed, and one man yelled, "Maggot."
Understandable, though I don't know why Beery, who has no problem doing legwork for Daniel Pipes and his Campus Watch group, would find anything here that would upset his sensibilities. Whatever it is, though, I can't say I feel too much sympathy for him and the other students. You'd think Columbia students would be smart enough to realize that this would be the logical outcome of their actions.

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