This is not to suggest that the council’s report is worthless. While its call for speech restrictions is misguided, it does point to several major problems with the anti-Israel climate on UC campuses. At both the faculty and administrative level, there seems to be a widespread double standard that tolerates attacks on Israel that would be tolerated against no other country. It’s not hard to imagine a campus uproar if pro-Israel students staged mock “bomb ins” in which they dressed up as Palestinian protestors and pretended to blow up Israeli civilians, let alone if they questioned Palestine’s right to exist, yet vicious attacks on Israel and its legitimacy are rarely deplored by UC professors, many of whom actively support anti-Israel (and arguably anti-Semitic) campaigns like the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel.
That the anti-Israel cause is embraced by many UC professors also highlights the demonstrable lack of intellectual balance on UC faculties. That lack of balance may also act to stifle debate about Israel on UC campuses. For instance, according to the council’s report, many students complain that academic departments do not exhibit balance in their sponsorship or hosting of events like symposia and speaker series as they relate to Israel and Zionism. If true, this would be a serious indictment of the political and ideological rigidity of the UC system and its failure to uphold a genuine marketplace of ideas.
Both of these are real problems, to be sure, but neither one of them makes a ban on speech any more defensible. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, the best answer to bad speech is more speech, not enforced silence. In the end, Jewish students at UC schools would be best served by using their First Amendment rights to mount the kind of forceful and righteous defense of Israel against its campus critics that the faculty and administrators will not.
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