Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Ivy League University Presidents: If Hateful Anti-Semitic Free Speech Must be Countered with More Free Speech, Where is the Latter?

Universities decline to define anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic speech, including that calling for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel

December 7, 2023 - At a congressional hearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday, the presidents of three Ivy League universities declined to admit that calls for genocide against Jews violated their policies against bullying and harassment. The presidents of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all called on the primacy of free speech in a university setting and stated that only when speech was "directed and severe and pervasive" or bled into "conduct" was it considered against school policy. All three presidents acknowledged the videos shown at the outset of the hearing of large rallies calling for "Intifada" and "From the river to the sea" could be construed as calls for the genocide of Jews but all said these rallies and the speech associated with them were protected by constitutional and school policy. "Intifada" refers to violent uprisings against Jews in Israel and possibly elsewhere. "From the river to the sea" refers to eliminating (presumably by death) every Jew from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

The remedy for what each acknowledged was hateful speech was "knowledge" and "dialogue." In her opening statement, MIT President Dr. Sally Kornbluth said, "Problematic speech needs to be countered with other speech and with education."

Leaving aside the question of whether school policies at any of these institutions allow for the full freedom of the First Amendment (they do not), the timeline of events does not show Kornbluth following through with any sort of "other speech." In fact, Kornbluth deliberately held back from "taking sides," as she put it in a speech to the campus on November 14, following a week of numerous and raucous anti-Israel rallies on campus, with signs calling out individual staff members (targetting) and megaphone calls for "from the river to the sea" echoing throughout the main building and corridor (apparently not "severe" or "pervasive"). "I want to make crystal clear that our response to last week's protest [shutting the anti-Israel and counter-protest down and putting some students on disciplinary action] is absolutely not a comment on the content of the views expressed," she said in that speech.

In other words, Kornbluth - who says she is Jewish - deliberately held back from pointing out that calling for the removal of all Jews from Israel - basically calling for the mass murder of every Jew in Israel - is anti-Semitic speech. After all, doing so would be "taking sides."

But if she won't take sides against anti-Semitism, how can she oppose it?

MIT has begun a vague program called "Stand Together Against Hate." Initially framed to combat anti-Semitism, it almost immediately was called upon to oppose Islamophobia and all hate. Because there's nothing special about anti-Semitism, and if the other groups are included, then maybe anti-Semitism won't need to be discussed at all. No uncomfortable conversations will need to occur in which some people are told they just can't say those things about Jews.

Like, how you want to kill them all.


Reader Comments(2)

Bonnie writes:

Calling for the murder or physical harm of others is not protected free speech; it is a terrorist threat and illegal. These university diversity hires do not understand this basic legal concept which is pathetic and unacceptable for any educated person in this wonderful country.

HeSaidSheSaid writes:

These university professors are right to stand up for freedom of speech, which isn't always pretty or polite, but absolutely necessary for any free, First World, and functioning society. It's very dangerous to limit the free speech rights of students based on the so-called presumed meaning of a word or phrase. Who gets to define those terms and what they mean for everyone else? In this way, will the students be forced to live by the ideals of their censors, forced to remain silent because they can't speak out against them? This is why Euro-style so-called hate speech laws have no place in America. Who gets to define what hate is? It's a relative term based on personal perception, and what happens when your opinion is the one that offends the powerful and wealthy who want to shut your voice down? Ironically, the powerful people claiming student protests were bullying and harassment are using bullying and harassment to bend the presidents to their will. Censorship is the tool of tyranny.