Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I'm Granny Goodness and I Absolutely Approve of Institutional Violence and Coercion!

theatlantic |  At the University of California, there are students who believe that Israel’s creation was a mistake, that its occupation of Palestinian territory is unjust, that it should cease to exist as a Jewish state, or even that it should cease to exist entirely. And there are students who believe that Israel’s creation was an indispensable lifeline for Jews, that its residents have been under siege for most of the country’s existence, that Arabs and Palestinians bear outsized responsibility for regional conflict, and that anti-Semitism lurks beneath many condemnations of Israel.

Thanks to liberal norms and speech protections, these students co-exist at public institutions of higher education, where all can voice their opinions. Yet the illiberal temptation to declare the other side’s position to be illegitimate is ever-present.

Enter the UC regents. As yet, the body that governs one of America’s largest systems of higher education hasn’t weighed in on whether human life begins at conception, whether or not God exists, or whether the Yankees or Red Sox are the better baseball team. But it just decided to declare that “anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

Almost no one objects to non-coercive denunciations of anti-Semitism. But the declaration that anti-Zionism has no place on campus has divided the UC  system’s faculty:
One letter signed by more than 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism, saying students need guidance on “when healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel's right to exist.”
But another letter from more than 250 UC professors expressed fear that the proposed statement would restrict free speech and academic freedom to teach, debate and research about the complex and tumultuous history of Israel and the Zionist movement.
The latter group has the better argument. The UC regents’ position seems like “a warning to those students or faculty members who have fundamental disagreements with the state of Israel,” the Los Angeles Times editorializes. “It apparently rules out of bounds an assertion by, say, a Palestinian professor that Israel's creation was unfair and unjustifiable, or by a Jewish student that Israel should be replaced by a nonsectarian state. Both are ideas that this page opposes but they are fully entitled to protection at a public university under the 1st Amendment.”