Students at California State Polytechnic University - Pomona shouted down a group of Israeli soldiers who were invited to speak on their campus by Hillel on February 27, 2014.
The soldiers, who had introduced themselves and explained that they would be delivering personal stories about their lives and experiences while serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), were interrupted by student protesters who shouted “baby killers,” “rapists,” and “terrorists.”
Even before the soldiers began their presentations, students in the audience covered their mouths with black tape and held posters that made various allegations concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shortly after the soldiers started to introduce themselves, the protesters persistently shouted in such a way that other students in the room were unable to hear what was being said.
Although some protesters were asked to leave the room, attendees had difficulty hearing the soldiers’ presentations. Doron Feuer, the President of the Cal Poly Pomona’s Hillel, told the campus newspaper, The Poly Post that, “It was extremely difficult for people to hear what the soldiers were saying, even for the people sitting at the very front…What was supposed to be an educational event rapidly became a disruptive and chaotic experience.”
One of the soldiers also spoke to the campus newspaper and claimed he felt insulted by the protesters’ tactics, stating, "It was supposed to be a civilized dialogue, but I heard hatred and I saw hatred in their eyes...We came to talk about peace."
ADL in Los Angeles provided resources to the Hillel on the Cal Poly Pomona campus and continues to work closely with the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel & Pomona Valleys on the community’s response to this incident. ADL is equipped with a broad range of preventive and reactive programs and resources to address the challenges of hate on campus. We work to empower students, faculty, staff and community members to stand up on their campuses and in their communities and effect change.
Student efforts to express opposition to speakers or events on campus are generally part of a healthy campus environment fostering a free exchange of ideas. But are certain disruptive tactics commonly used by anti-Israel activists that are anathema to those ideals.
While anti-Israel protests may be protected by free speech rights, the protests cannot disrupt normal school functions, obstruct access to school buildings, create pervasive, severe, or persistent harassment, or physically intimidate or threaten individuals. When the protests violate these parameters, students should alert the university and ask administrators to take action.
These disruption tactics vary and can range from interrupting the speaker and preventing him or her from speaking to silent protests. For example, on March 3, 2014, Israeli Professor Josef Olmert faced silent protesters at San Diego State University as he delivered a guest lecture to a Political Science class.
The students stood in the back of the classroom and held signs with provocative statements such as, “Zionism = Racism,” “SDSU DIVEST,” “Boycott Israel.” After Olmert’s presentation, the students continued to protest outside of the lecture hall.