This year marks the first time an Israel Apartheid Week has been mounted at Brandeis University, a nonsectarian school that operates under Jewish auspices.
As the week’s keynote speaker, Students for Jusice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace brought Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah to campus.
Abunimah, who discussed his support for a one-state solution, seemed to realize that being hosted at heavily Jewish Brandeis was noteworthy.
The national Jewish student magazine New Voices reports that he said:
“I think it is important that these questions are being asked at Brandeis,” Abunimah said in the opening of his speech. “On the question of Palestine there is so much fear in questioning and discussing, in challenging accepted narratives and claims, and this often makes people very uncomfortable.”
And Abunimah was apparently allowed to deliver his presentation without disruption. The Forward reports:
At Brandeis, the Abunimah speech went off without controversy. Like their pro-Israel counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania during last month’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions conference, Brandeis’s Zionist groups opted not to protest the Israeli Apartheid Week events.
Of course, the same level of courtesy does not always prevail on campus when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. San Francisco’s J. weekly reports on an incident at the University of California, Davis:
Ran Bar-Yoshafat and Ranya Fadel, two young Israelis on a speaking tour sponsored by the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, faced severe heckling during a Feb. 27 appearance at U.C. Davis.As Bar-Yoshafat began to speak in front of a crowd of about 125 in Wellman Hall, an unidentified man began shouting from the back, “My only purpose today is that this event is shut down. You have turned Palestine into a land of prostitutes, rapists and child molesters.” The verbal outburst can be seen on YouTube.
The disruption went on for 15 minutes, according to eyewitnesses, and many of the people there to protest, some wearing “Free Gaza” T-shirts or other items identifying them as pro-Palestinian, eventually walked out en masse. That allowed Bar-Yoshafat and Fadel to resume their presentation, but not for long.
“They finally allowed the speakers to talk for a few moments here and there,” said Gail Rubin, chair of the Davis chapter of StandWithUs. “Then they would start screaming again.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the campus fight over Israel, New Voices notes that pro-Palestinian hecklers interrupted a pro-Israeli Arab speaker at the University of New Mexico by using the Occupy movement’s trademark "human mic," which spurred a slightly violent fracas. And near the U.C. Berkeley campus, pepper spray was used by some pro-Israel protesters who got into a tussle counter-protesting at a pro-Palestinian demonstration (though the folks who got sprayed reportedly were not involved in either of the competing protests).
San Francisco’s J. editorializes that whatever you think of someone’s views, you gotta let them speak.