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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Guest Opinion: LSA decision a victory for free speech

Bravo to the UC Davis Law Student Association (LSA) for being strong enough to withstand the velvet-gloved tactics of the Palestinian Lobby and ignore a deliberately inflammatory proposal (“Law school student government dodges Irvine 11 resolution”).

While its backers claim the resolution was not political, evidence suggests otherwise. First, the author was Fatima Alloo. If she was really as concerned with freedom of speech as she claims, why did she never write a resolution about Davis’ fee-hike protesters? Or maybe a resolution defending “South Park” for Episode 200? Or Jyllands-Posten?

As the Davis LSA pointed out, for them to pass a resolution on the Irvine incident without having made a peep about protests on our own campus would have been highly suspect. Indeed, had the target not been an Israeli Jew, nobody would care. I’d wager the five revisions Alloo’s resolution underwent were to remove any trace of these motives: phrases like “Zionist conspiracy” and “Jewish influence” were gone by draft three.

This is not the first time that activists couched such “lawfare” against Israel under the guise of free speech. In November 2007, former Harvard Professor Lorand Matory attempted to insert a motion at a faculty meeting promoting protection of “unpopular ideas.” The motion was tabled, not only because a free speech resolution was passed a decade earlier, but also because the faculty knew Matory was motivated solely by his hatred of Israel. In an Op-Ed to The Harvard Crimson, Matory tried to claim that he was only concerned with free speech, but his article quickly degraded to a rant about the Israel-Palestine conflict. With that slip of the tongue, all support he had vanished, as he had just proven that his detractors were correct: He was not concerned with “free speech” for everybody, but only for himself. There’s probably an Op-Ed next to this one that’ll do the same thing.

This resolution was never about freedom of speech, but was a product of the same exceptionalism we see in many Islamist organizations and dictatorships today – radical groups expecting to be treated better than anyone else and demanding the exact same rights that they are denying to others. For if Alloo et al truly cared about freedom of speech, then why aren’t they defending Michael Oren? He had freedom of speech too, as did the Anteaters for Israel who invited him. By silencing Oren and cutting him off before he could speak, the Irvine group was denying those UC Irvine students the right to express themselves, and the right for those in attendance to hear what Oren had to say. The protestors may not have even found the contents of his nonviolent talk objectionable, if they had bothered to listen. Furthermore, calling someone a “murderer” and other names is not nonviolent protesting. It’s ad hominem attacks, it’s verbal abuse and it’s bullying.

When noted anti-Semite Malik Ali spoke at UC Davis this school year, the Aggies for Israel were in attendance. We did not shout at him, we did not insult him, and we certainly did not censor him. We didn’t even protest. We just sat there and listened, with open minds and ears. We took notes. We gave him the respect he would have never given us. We did not make headlines, and neither did his speech. If we had, would Alloo defend us, or would she make a resolution condemning us instead?

The Irvine students’ behavior was odious and, like shouting “Fire!” in a movie theater or blasting loud music during a lecture, illegal. Case closed.

Matan Shelomi is a graduate student in entomology at UC Davis.

1 COMMENT

  1. Matan clearly didn’t read the resolution. There were no references to Zionist conspiracies or Jewish influence. Rather, the resolution was aimed at preserving free speech and the right to protest, for Muslims and Jews.

    In fact, Ms. Alloo co-founded an organization at Northerwestern called “Peace of Mind” supported by the university’s Hillel to facilitate positive dialogue between Jewish and Muslim students on a polarized campus.

    Matan’s argument is perhaps the most unsound argument I’ve ever heard. Protesting against a political figure is not illegal and in the case of the Irvine 11, the punishment did not fit the crime and instead was part of an Islamophobic campaign against Muslims.

    Furthermore, it’s interesting how saying anything against Israel is deemed “anti-Semitic” when Israel claims to be a secular state.

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