When I was a student at Columbia, one of the student organizations invited George Lincoln Rockwell, Leader of the American Nazi Party to speak. For “political balance,” they later invited Gus Hall, Leader of American Communist Party to address the student body.
In the same spirit of free speech, Penn allowed an extremist organization, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which is rabidly anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic to hold a conference on our campus advocating boycotting, divestment and sanctions toward Israel.
Our university allowed this event to occur on its premises as Columbia did in order to demonstrate our dedication to presentation of all points of view. Penn is adhering to the principle (attributed to Voltaire, but actually originating from Beatrice Hall) that states, “I disagree with what you have to say but will fight to the death to protect your right to say it.”
Surely, if the BDS conference was promulgating the premise that the earth was flat or supporting the genetic principles of LaMarc and Lysenko over those of Darwin, there might be an outcry about the limits of academic free speech when it is used to promulgate false and disproved ideas.
A university has, after all, the right to maintain standards for what is taught on its campus. In addition, the First Amendment does not give anyone the right to cry “fire” in a crowded movie theater or to incite a crowd to riot, carry out a lynching or perform other acts of violence.
The BDS conference is akin to granting The National Socialist Party the right to march through Skokie, Illinois and display swastikas in front of a population that included many holocaust survivors.
The U.S. Supreme Court eventually sent that case back to the Illinois State Supreme Court, which permitted the Nazis to march through Chicago instead.
Had the Ku Kux Klan proposed to march through Penn, it is likely that the administration would find some basis for denying them a marching permit.
The Administration of the University of Pennsylvania banked on the tolerance of its Jewish faculty and students to avoid confrontations during the conference. They were probably correct in this assumption, but this did not give the administration the right to discriminate against the rights of its Jewish faculty and students by permitting this meeting to convene on our premises.
As a holocaust survivor who lost both of his parents fighting the Nazis and as a coinvestigator on a U.S.-Israel Binational Research Foundation Grant directed towards cancer research, I feel deeply offended by this action. Let them meet elsewhere in Philadelphia.
The political position of the BDS organizers and participants is untenable. For 19 years (1948-67) the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Transjordan and Egypt, respectively.
There was no outcry by the Palestinians for a separate Palestinian state. Under Jordanian administration, access to Jewish holy places in Jerusalem was denied and the Jewish cemetery on the Mt. of Olives was desecrated with tombstones being used to line roads and urinals.
Now Jordan and Egypt advocate that Israel grant the Palestinians statehood that they themselves refused to do. This is total hypocrisy. However, both the majority of the Israelis and Americans favor a two-state solution. The Isrealis want to negotiate this with the Palestinians, but the Palestinians would prefer to have the boundaries of their state imposed by a third party.
The real problem is that none of the Arabs, Palestinians or BDS participants are coming up with answers to the most pressing issue confronting them — not only how to create a Palestinian state, which essentially everyone wants to see happen, but how to make it economically viable.
If the Palestinians were prosperous, they would be spending their resources to send their children to college and to improve their standard of living rather than on sending rockets and suicide bombers into Israel or running around the world spreading hatred and lies.
There is an obvious way by which this could be achieved, but it requires collaboration between the Arab states and Israel. The only commodity in the Middle East that can bring wealth to the region is oil. Let the Arabs build a pipeline from the Persian Gulf to Gaza, and let them construct oil refineries on the West Bank and in the Sinai at El-Arish. Also, let them resume pumping oil to Haifa and Beirut through pipelines already in place. Then let them export the oil through tankers docking at Gaza, Haifa and Beirut. Israel can then share its technology to help the Palestinians and Lebanese develop industries based on petroleum products including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, etc.
If you want to discuss this and other constructive ideas, then by all means convene a conference at Penn and we will help you do it, but a conference to make false allegations and promulgate hatred and discrimination against Israel and the Jews should not have been permitted.Comments powered by Disqus
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