Attacks on student protests and false claims of antisemitism threaten everyone’s right to free expression.

by Ari Paul, FAIR

With the encouragement of the state, universities from coast to coast are taking draconian steps to silence debate about US-backed violence in the Middle East.

The Columbia University community looked on in shock as cops in riot gear arrested at least 100 pro-Palestine protesters who had set up an encampment in the center of campus (New York Post4/18/24). The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, had just the day before testified before a Republican-dominated congressional committee ostensibly concerned with campus “antisemitism”—a label that has come to be misapplied to any criticism of Israel, though the critics so smeared are often themselves Jewish.

students hold flags and protest banners at a palestine protest

A sense of delight has filled the city’s opinion pages. The New York Post editorial board (4/18/24)  hailed both the clampdown on protests and Congress’s push to ensure that such drastic action against free speech was taken: “We’re glad to see Shafik stand up…. Congress deserves some credit for putting educrats’ feet to the fire on this issue.” The paper added, “Academia has been handling anti-Israel demonstrations with kid gloves.” In other words, universities have been allowing too many people to think and speak critically about an important issue of the day.

In “At Columbia, the Grown-Ups in the Room Take a Stand,” New York Times columnist Pamela Paul (4/18/24) hailed the eviction, saying of the encampment that for the “passer-by, the fury and self-righteous sentiment on display was chilling,” and that for supporters of Israel, “it must be unimaginably painful.” In other words, conservative pundits have decided that campus safe spaces where speech is banned to protect the feelings of listeners are good, depending on the issue. Would Paul (no relation!) favor bans on pro-Taiwan or pro-Armenia demonstrations because they could offend Chinese and Turkish students?

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