New York, NY, February 9, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed concern over the increasing use of undemocratic, bullying, confrontational tactics intended to silence Israeli officials and the expression of pro-Israel views on campus.
"America's college campuses are the cradle of our democracy, where the marketplace of ideas thrives and young people – often for the first time – are exposed to new and different ideas," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
"Unfortunately, anti-Israel activists on our campuses are increasingly resorting to undemocratic, bullying, confrontational tactics in order to silence Israeli officials and the expression of pro-Israel views. Such mean-spirited efforts to stifle speech have no place in an academic environment where speakers need to be free to express their ideas – and interested audiences have a right to hear those ideas – without fear or intimidation."
Continuing on a trend that began in earnest last year by anti-Israel activists, Israeli officials have been shouted down, heckled and otherwise intimidated by students and other protesters. These disruptions have resulted in the arrests of some students and the removal of others, and required security to escort the pro-Israel speakers out of the venues as a protective measure.
"While students and community members certainly have the right to engage in peaceable protest, the tactics employed by anti-Israel activists have significantly disrupted the speakers and prevented the free flow of information and ideas that are so critical in a democracy," said Mr. Foxman.
Recent incidents include:
- University of California, Irvine: A talk by Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, was disrupted by a well-organized group of students and others protesters on February 8. Approximately 100 individuals repeatedly interrupted Oren's talk, reportedly accusing him of murder and shouting, among other things, "How many Palestinians have you killed?" and "Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech." Eleven students—nine from UC Irvine and two from UC Riverside—were arrested in connection with the disruption. At one point during the talk, Oren was escorted out of the room by security.
- University of California, Los Angeles: Anti-Israel activists disrupted a talk at the law school by Daniel Taub, Senior Deputy Legal Adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, on February 8. Audience members wearing t-shirts with anti-Israel messages and duct tape covering their mouths, stood up and blocked views of the stage. They were asked to leave by the faculty members multiple times before being escorted out by campus police.
- University of Pittsburgh: Anti-Israel activists disrupted a talk by former Israeli Knesset member Effie Eitam on February 3. Interruptions occurred throughout the speech. Some of the protesters were asked to leave the building by campus Hillel, which organized the event. Approximately 25 individuals participated in a protest outside of the venue, organized by the university's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and a local peace and justice center.
ADL has a number of resources available to college and university students, administrators and others:
Anti-Israel Activity on Campus: 2009 in Review provides an overview of the three notable anti-Israel campaigns on campus in 2009; Boycott and divestment initiatives targeting Israel, the promotional and fundraising tour for Viva Palestina US and the use of increasingly confrontational tactics to disrupt pro-Israel events fueled tension on campus surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Fighting Back: A Handbook for Responding to Anti-Israel Rallies on College and University Campuses answers students' common questions about what type of speech is protected by American law and campus code of conduct, and what type of speech crosses these lines. The guide provides specific action steps for responding to anti-Israel protests on campus.