On May 4, a panel entitled “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights” will be held at the University of Massachusetts. This panel, which was organized by the Media Education Foundation, seems to be designed to influence students into supporting a one-sided message against Israel. The panel lacks a diverse viewpoint, and attendants will only hear arguments against the Israeli government’s policies without any scholar to defend those ideas. It’s propaganda, unworthy of higher education.
Linda Sarsour, the Women’s March leader now known for undermining the movement’s reputation by associating it with anti-Semitism, has somehow been able to find applause in the academic world. Universities, including UMass, are turning a blind eye to Sarsour’s discriminatory and hypocritical behavior throughout her tenure as a leader of the Women’s March. Sarsour purports to be a woman for all peoples, fighting for minorities and the oppressed, yet she singles out Jews, trivializing attacks made against them and demonizing Israel with blood libels. Sarsour acts as an ally to other movements such as Black Lives Matter by drawing purported analogies between the Black and Palestinian communities; but all this is only to advance her narrative of perpetual Palestinian victimhood at the hands of Israel.
Marc Lamont Hill, another pro-Palestinian speaker, was fired from CNN after defending Hamas and calling for the elimination of the State of Israel at the United Nations.
Free speech allows these people to address interested spectators, but free speech does not compel UMass, a state-funded university, to endorse this one-sided event. A University-backed lecture should consist of various viewpoints, providing students with a means to better educate themselves and learn how to dialogue and debate with one another respectfully. This upcoming panel will be doing the exact opposite.
“Not Backing Down” is therefore not worthy of an academic setting. The panelists are anything but honest advocates for liberal principles. They only seek to create an echo chamber on campus for their anti-Israel ideology.
And that’s not all they’re doing. In 1994, notorious Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom Sarsour and Lamont Hill have defended, spoke at UMass. Just this past year Farrakhan claimed that “Satanic Jews have infected the whole world with poison and deceit,” and a few months later called Jews “stupid” and compared them to termites. The UMass community didn’t accept Farrakhan’s presence in 1994, after 800 students voiced their disgust and protested his speech. Twenty-five years later, Farrakhan’s defenders are here to spread his ideas under the guise of human rights.
Given the panel’s lack of viewpoint diversity and its embracing of defenders of Farrakhan, one can only wonder: Has UMass since lost its moral compass?
Aviva Slomich Rosenschein
Class of 2008