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General Articles
Micro-aggression, "Victims Coalition" and other Amazing Tales on Campus: The Perils of Speaking for Israel


Editorial Note 

For some time now, IAM has reported on an emerging coalition between pro-Palestinian activists and “victims” groups - African Americans, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ and so-on.

As Professor Dershowitz explains in the article below, the highly popular notion of “micro-aggression,” meaning perceived as racial slights and insensitivities of the white majority, have newly empowered African Americans and their coalition partners.  So much so that the president of the University of Missouri was forced to resign because of alleged insensitivity to concerns of blacks on the campus. He was replaced by a black interim president.  The movement has spread to other campuses across the country, putting academic leadership on the defensive.  For instance, at the prestigious Yale University, a black dean was sent to appease a large protest of African Americans and other “victims” who demanded the appointment of more minority professors as a token of the administration sensitivity to their concerns.

As a rule, members of the “victims coalition” show up to protest pro-Israeli speakers, a harrowing experience according to Professor Dershowitz.  Professor Moshe Halbertal who tried to speak at the University of Minnesota, was repeatedly heckled and interrupted.  

In trying to prevent disruption, universities authorities are caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place.  On the one hand, they need to punish transgressors, but on the other, disciplining members of the “victims coalition” may be interpreted as micro-aggression or worse.   

Professor Dershowitz is right about the double standards since the sensitivities of Jewish students are not taken into consideration.   But given the recent development at the University of Missouri, the university authorities may not be too keen to even the scales.

Following the forced resignations of the President and Provost of the University of Missouri, demonstrations against campus administrators has spread across the country. Students -- many of whom are Black, gay, transgender and Muslim -- claim that they feel "unsafe" as the result of what they call "white privilege" or sometimes simply privilege. "Check your privilege" has become the put-down du jour. Students insist on being protected by campus administrators from "micro-aggressions," meaning unintended statements inside and outside the classroom that demonstrate subtle insensitivities towards minority students. They insist on being safe from hostile or politically incorrect ideas. They demand "trigger warnings" before sensitive issues are discussed or assigned. They want to own the narrative and keep other points of view from upsetting them or making them feel unsafe.

These current manifestations of a widespread culture of victimization and grievance are only the most recent iterations of a dangerous long-term trend on campuses both in the United States and in Europe. The ultimate victims are freedom of expression, academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Many faculty members, administrators and students are fearful of the consequences if they express politically incorrect or dissident views that may upset some students. So they engage in self-censorship. They have seen what had happened to those who have expressed unpopular views, and it is not a pretty picture.

I know, because I repeatedly experienced this backlash when I speak on campuses. Most recently, I was invited to deliver the Milton Eisenhower lecture at Johns Hopkins University. As soon as the lecture was announced, several student groups demanded that the invitation must be rescinded. The petition objected to my mere "presence" on campus, stating that my views on certain issues "are not matters of opinion, and cannot be debated" and that they are "not issues that are open to debate of any kind." These non-debatable issues include some of the most controversial concerns that are roiling campus today: sexual assault, academic integrity and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The protesting students simply didn't want my view on these and other issues expressed on their campus, because my lecture would make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

The groups demanding censorship of my lecture included Hopkins Feminists, Black Student Union, Diverse Sexuality and General Alliance, Sexual Assault Resource Unit and Voice for Choice. I have been told that two faculty members urged these students, who had never heard of me, to organize the protests, but the cowardly faculty members would not themselves sign the petition. The petition contained blatant lies about me and my views, but that is beside the point. I responded to the lies in my lecture and invited the protesting students to engage me during the Q and A. But instead, they walked out in the middle of my presentation, while I was discussing the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

According to the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, another petition claimed that "by denying Israel's alleged war crimes against Palestinians," I violated the university's "anti-harassment policy" and its "statement of ethical standards." In other words, by expressing my reasonable views on a controversial subject, I harassed students.

Some of the posters advertising my lecture were defaced with Hitler mustaches drawn on my face. Imagine the outcry if comparably insensitive images had been drawn on the faces of invited minority lecturers.

I must add that the Johns Hopkins administration and the student group that invited me responded admirably to the protests, fully defending my right to express my views and the right of the student group to invite me. The lecture went off without any hitches and I answered all the questions -- some quite critical, but all polite -- for the large audience that came to hear the presentation.

The same cannot be said of several other lectures I have given on other campuses, which were disrupted by efforts to shout me down, especially by anti-Israel groups that are committed to preventing pro-Israel speakers from expressing their views.

The point is not only that some students care less about freedom of expression in general than about protecting all students from "micro-aggressions." It is that many of these same students are perfectly willing to make other students with whom they disagree with feel unsafe and offended by their own micro- and macro-aggressions. Consider, for example, a recent protest at the City University of New York by Students for Justice in Palestine that blamed high tuition on "the Zionist Administration [of the University that] invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine [meaning Israel proper] and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY though Zionist content of education."

Let's be clear what they mean by "Zionist": they mean "Jew". There are many Jewish administrators at City University. Some are probably Zionists. Others are probably not. Blaming Zionists for high tuition is out and out anti-Semitism. It is not micro-aggression. It is in-your-face macro-aggression against City University Jews.

Yet those who protest micro-aggressions against other minorities are silent when it comes to Jews. This is not to engage in comparative victimization, but rather to expose the double standard, the selective outrage and the overt hypocrisy of many of those who would sacrifice free speech on the altar of political correctness, whose content they seek to dictate.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Emeritus Professor at Harvard Law School and the author of two new books: "The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?, " available on Kindle and other e-book sites and Abraham: The World's First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer, available on Amazon



Anti-Israel extremists stormed into a lecture at the University of Minnesota in a disgusting display of academic bigotry against Israelis. For half an hour, protesters repeatedly screamed hate-filled slogans at Israeli scholar Moshe Halbertal, before continuing to chant outside the room in which the event was held.

Halbertal, a professor at both New York University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was scheduled to give a presentation on the ethics of war. He helped write the Israel Defense Forces’ code of ethics and is a well-respected academic.

The protesters systematically stood up one by one and yelled anti-Israel slogans. When someone was removed from the hall by university police, another began to start up chanting, making it impossible for Halbertal’s talk to proceed. The police were eventually forced to lock the doors to prevent more protests.

Protesters’ even called for the annihilation of Israel — chanting “from sea to sea, Palestine will be free” — a reference to the creation of a Palestinian state across all of Israel and the murder or expulsion of over six million Jews.

The University of Minnesota cannot allow such hate-filled demonstrations to take place on its campus.

Add your name to call on university administration to protect academic freedom and stop academic bigotry against Israelis.



3 arrested at protest slamming Israeli war crimes apologist at University of MN

By Meredith Aby-Keirstead | 
November 3, 2015

University of MN police handcuffing pro Palestine protester
University of MN police handcuffing pro Palestine protester (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Over 50 supporters of Palestine shut down a Nov. 3 lecture by Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal, a co-author of the Israeli military code of ethics, entitled “Protecting Civilians: Moral Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare.” Organized by the MN Anti-War Committee and endorsed by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP UMN), the protesters prevented Halbertal from presenting his defense of IDF conduct in last summer’s Gaza War. Three of the protesters were arrested, as police tried to maintain what they called “decorum.”

First, protesters filled the halls outside the lecture hall with signs denouncing Israel, Halbertal and the university’s violation of the international boycott of Israel. Dozens took seats inside, prepared to take on Halbertal, a professional apologist for Israeli war crimes. Before the moderator got three words out, the first interruption came, demanding challenging the University of Minnesota Law School for paying a $5000 honorarium to Halbertal, while contract negotiations are stalled with frontline union workers, hundreds of whom make less than $15 an hour.

As soon as one protester was ushered out of the lecture hall, another stood, demanding, “Why is the Law School spending $5000 for a war crimes apologist to defend Israel, while University students can’t afford tuition rates that have doubled in ten years? Why is the university flagrantly violating its commitment to human rights by refusing to honor the academic boycott of Israel, hosting a speaker that gives legal cover to apartheid?” This speaker was also pressed to leave, but the crowd joined in chants of “Free, free Palestine!” as she exited.

Speakers rose from the audience, one after another, making it impossible for Halbertal’s talk to proceed. Some 20 people intervened in the event, challenging Halbertal on Israeli war crimes in Gaza last summer, and the current violations of international law and human rights in the West Bank. Most ended their remarks with chants, such as “These are massacres, not mistakes! These are war crimes! Free, free Palestine!” and “Occupation is a crime, free, free Palestine!” Many in the audience joined in and some Palestine supporters were removed simply for showing visible support to the protesters. Observers were troubled to see police used disproportionate force in removing Palestinian and other Black and brown protesters.

The lecture was scheduled for one hour, but most of that time was taken up by interruptions. Even after being ejected from the lecture hall by campus police, the protesters continued to disrupt the event from the hallway, as Sabry Wazwaz, of the Anti-War Committee, led a rally which was audible from inside the auditorium for 30 more minutes.

Anti-War Committee member Sophia Hansen-Day was one of three arrested at the event. She told Fight Back!, “Currently, Palestinians are engaged in another wave of popular resistance against Israeli apartheid, military occupation and settler colonialism. With thousands injured and at least 73 Palestinians killed in October alone, the urgency of standing in solidarity with Palestine cannot be understated. This means demanding the university support the academic boycott of Israel, which it is flagrantly violating by hosting Halbertal, and stating emphatically that apartheid apologists are not welcome here!”

After three arrests, police cleared the protesters from the halls of the Law School. Charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, the three are expected to be released on bail tonight.

The Anti-War Committee call for the protest stated, “Halbertal must be held accountable for providing legal cover to Israeli war crimes. Halbertal distorts the language of international law to justify the apartheid wall, the military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the horrific conduct of the Israeli military in repeated massacres of Palestinians living in Gaza. In summer 2014, Israel killed 2257 Palestinians in a 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip, including at least 551 children. The UN documented a total of 140 families in Gaza partially or completely obliterated in Israeli attacks. Halbertal has attempted to justify and explain away such atrocities with statements such as ‘war is messy’ and ‘mistakes were made but only sporadically.’”

Today, this apologist for Zionist war crimes spoke only sporadically, as his lies were interrupted again and again by protesters who refused to listen to his anti-Palestinian hate speech.

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