The Price Of Freedom–Of Speech

Yesterday was the 54th anniversary of Earth Day, an event that these days all but goes unnoticed except by those truly as invested in the cause as the 20 million who took to the streets to make their views on the environmental crisis known.  New York City Mayor John Lindsay even consented to give them a two-hour window to march between Union Square and Central Park.  They chanted.  They held signs.  They used megaphones.  They even drew on the sidewalk; frankly, more creatively than many of those who did so to scrawl messages to drive-byers during the pandemic.

It was a scene that generation had seen played out across cities and especially on college campuses many, many times in that era in similar peaceful protests against the Vietnam War.  An impassioned generation, feeling personally threatened by the prospect of a forced draft that could easily have of them wind up in the middle of it all if a lottery drawing virtually no one wanted to win came up in their “favor”, spoke their minds.  Again, they held signs.  Some even handed out pamphlets articulating their viewpoints.  You do remember the concept of paper and ink, don’t you? At least I hope your parents and grandparents might have told you about it.

I take on this tone as I see and read what happened on this year’s April 22nd, with what has started out as a movement focused on New York’s Columbia University now spreading like a wildfire to other New York City campuses and Ivy League schools.  To campuses in “solidarity” as far away as the University of North Carolina.  Pro-Palestian supporters, with signs this time in Arabic, exercising what they interpret as their constitutional right while they yell “Death to America” and similar threats against their fellow students, especially the ones who wear their Jewish heritage proudly.  They are emboldened by what they see going on on the bridges and freeways in their hometowns with rush-hour traffic being ground to a halt by those that believe sitting down on concrete and making themselves human traffic cones will somehow convince elected officials to clamor to put an end to the horrors and genocide they see going on in Gaza.  And they effectively defy college leaders to cut off all ties with any interests in Israel or any countries that is not vehemently against their actions.

At Columbia, these Pro-Palestinian protests have now reached a tipping point, with classes now being held virtually amidst a growing concern among Jewish students and their supporters. As the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’ John Annese reported:

(T)he school’s Orthodox Jewish rabbi sent a message to hundreds of Jewish students urging them to stay home to ensure their own safety.

“The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy,” Rabbi Elie Beuchler wrote in a warning sent out to more than 290 students via WhatsApp.  “It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible ad remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”

On X.comCNN’s Jake Tapper said Beuchler told him he sent the message “in response, he says, to ‘just horrific’ videos of ‘protesters on campus calling for Jews to be killed, just off campus Jews being yelled at to ‘go back to Poland,’ text messages I’m getting constantly from Jewish students about how unsafe they feel.’”

And this is how a fellow Jewish member of the Columbia faculty community woke up on Earth Day 2024, as reported by the WASHINGTON EXAMINER’s Heather Hunter:

Shai Davidai, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School, was seen on Monday in a viral video having a combative exchange with university administrators when he was told his staff ID had been “deactivated,” stopping him from entering campus due to safety concerns.

AM NEW YORK’s Dean Moses picked up the aftermath:

The incident unfolded just before 10 a.m. at the school entrance located on West 117th Street and Broadway when the controversial professor — known for his particularly harsh rebuke of pro-Palestine supporters — attempted to lead an opposing sit-in against the ongoing encampment set up on the campus lawn. “You support Hamas on campus but me, a professor, you won’t let me on campus?” Davidai roared. “I wish you would let me into my job!”

Perhaps the university officials had read what Davidai had previously written, as Hunter reported:

I got a tip that the administration is negotiating with the leaders of the pro-terror organization. The same organization whose members called Hamas to kill Jewish students,” Davidai wrote on X, likely referring to the organizers of the protest, the Columbia University Apartheid Divest and Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, which have been adamant that its members have been nonviolent. “If this is true, this is huge. Columbia is negotiating with terrorists.”

And yet, as this was occuring, some more Columbia leaders were taking sides, as THE GUARDIAN’s Gloria Oladipo and Eron Salam chronicled:

Hundreds of faculty members at Columbia University in New York held a mass walkout on Monday to protest against the president’s decision to have police arrest students at a pro-Palestinian encampment protest last week. Bassam Khawaja, an adjunct lecturer at Columbia law school and supervising attorney at the school’s human rights clinic, said he was “shocked and appalled that the president went immediately to the New York police department”.

By day’s end, as Moses reported, some degree of sanity was being restored:

While Davidai and his band of protesters were denied entry, Chief Operating Officer of Columbia University Cas Holloway stated that the professor would be permitted back inside to teach on Tuesday.

Nice.  Not that students are being allowed back in the classroom.   And on a Jewish holiday no less.  Great timing, Cas.

So why are some voices being allowed to amplify while others aren’t?

One need look no further than a fascinating piece by INVESTIGATIVE ECONOMICS’ Llewellyn Jones.  And while it’s from October, 2021, the conclusions from  the statistics he references are still very much the order of the day:

Total foreign contributions—as donations or general payments—to American universities in 2019 almost topped $4 billion.  While 155 countries donated over the past five years, a handful of countries stand out for the largesse of their contributions, to specific universities and to a wide array of other schools. While the type of schools ranged from small private institutions to large public schools, it was largely schools with prominent technical or medical colleges and ivy league institutions.

Qatar in particular sticks out for providing over $2.7 billion in total—over $1 billion more than the next largest contributor. Much of that largesse went to schools like Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, Northwestern, and Georgetown, but that may be related to how those schools also operate separate campuses in the middle eastern country—Weill Cornell Medical College, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Northwestern at Qatar, Georgetown at Qatar.

And while the specific schools and countries involved in what’s going down now aren’t cited in Jones’ work it is noteworthy that Ivy League schools and Hamas-empathetic lands are clearly joined at the financial hip.

So it’s unsurprising that our vaunted Congress has asked for more updated and relevant data, as FOX NEWS’ Danielle Wallace reported:

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., sent a letter to Columbia University on Monday asking for documents and information relevant to Congress’ investigation into soaring antisemitism at American college campuses that reached a fever pitch in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The 16-page letter, addressed to Columbia University President Dr. Minouche Shafik, Columbia Trustees Co-Chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman, Barnard College President Dr. Laura Rosenbury, and Barnard College Board of Trustees Chair Cheryl Glicker Milstein, provided examples of how, as Foxx categorized it, “an environment of pervasive antisemitism has been documented at Columbia for more than two decades before the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack.” 

Included on the list of 25 specific items sought by the committee were all documents and communications “relating to or reflecting sources of funding for Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia-Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Law Students for Palestine, Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine, and Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, including, but not limited to university, departmental, faculty, and student organization funds, as well as foreign donations.” 

Foxx is also seeking documents showing the annual total amount of foreign donations and funding (including but not limited to governmental bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and private individuals) to Columbia since Jan. 1, 2021, by country; documents sufficient to show all foreign donations and funding to Columbia of $50,000 or more since Jan. 1, 2021; and documents sufficient to show all donations and funding to Columbia from Qatari sources (including but not limited to the Qatar Foundation, governmental bodies, nongovernmental organizations whether incorporated in Qatar or elsewhere, and private individuals) since Jan. 1, 2021.

And lest you think that this is  merely politically motivated rhetoric from a distracted Congresswoman, let’s bear in mind that right on the Columbia campus–at least until recently–is the extremely vocal and media-hungry offspring of one of her fellow Congresswomen.  And per the NEW YORK POST’s Megan Palin, we learned a  lot more about her:

The daughter of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar — kicked out of her college dorm at prestigious $90,000-per-year Barnard last week following her arrest for protesting against Israel — has previously boasted of her pride in being “hyper-woke”.

During a Ted Talk in February 2020, Isra Hirsi, 21, told the audience she had become known as “token activist, the politically correct (PC) police, and the angry black girl” for “always” speaking up against “something offensive or problematic”. 

“I would say something all the time and kids in my classes used to get super annoyed at me pointing out everything even if it was slightly sexist…but I was proud of it,” she said during the talk she titled “the angry black girl”.

Hirsi was one of more than 100 anti-Israel protesters arrested by New York police on the campus of Columbia University last Thursday for refusing to clear out from a tent encampment on the Ivy League school’s campus. Hirsi said she was held in custody for roughly eight hours, then complained about not getting support from her Barnard, which informed her she had been suspended the same day. “I was a little bit frantic, like, where am I going to sleep? Where am I gonna go?” she told Teen Vogue after learning she’d been evicted from campus housing and banned from using the dining hall.

Somehow, I have a hunch Mom could help her find suitable alternative housing even in Manhattan.  I mean, does this look like the family is living in the projects?

But let’s not even take the risk of offending Omar, who happens to represent a crucial district in a swing state that in an election as tight as the one we are currently in could single-handedly impact the fate of Michigan’s 15 electoral votes.  The future of democracy could be at stake, right?  All the more reason to let those “peaceful” bridge protests continue, right?

Does anyone bother to actually look at Pew Research Data to take a look at the actual composition of religious demographics in the state of Michigan? Well, moi did. And you too can click on the results.    Statistically just as many of those who identify as Jewish as there are those of the Muslim faith.

So remind me again, college presidents, especially Dr. Shafik?  Tell me why you’re more than willing to accommodate those that yell “from the river to the sea” who take their lead from those determined to physically block regular people from crossing them in their cars?  And yet, it takes several media outlets to guilt you into restoring the access to your campus for someone who simply wants the other side of the argument to be heard at all?  Without blocking traffic?

Show me the money.  Or the lack of it.  And a Zeesan Pesach to you, too.

Until next time…

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