Imagine it’s 1940, and picture Adolf Hitler speaking at a US university, receiving a polite reception, while Winston Churchill is barred from speaking because his safety cannot be guaranteed.
It’s unthinkable, yet the very same pro-fascist dynamic is a reality in 21st Century America.
Protestors at Berkeley, the campus once synonymous with the term “free speech,” forced the cancellation of Netanyahu’s speech there, as well as two subsequent speeches, in November 2000. The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California reported:
Hundreds of protesters shouting “Support the Palestinians, choose a side” and “No free speech for war criminals” blocked the gate leading to the Berkeley Community Theatre Tuesday evening, forcing the cancellation of a scheduled speech by former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Waving banners reading “Zionism=Nazism” and “End U.S. aid to Israel,” the crowd was estimated at more than 500 by the Berkeley Police Department and at 200 to 250 by observers…
The vitriol that greeted Netanyahu at Berkeley only worsened in the ensuing years. Anneli Rufus of the East Bay Express recalled that in 2001:
“…Students for Justice in Palestine had become large enough to stage a high-profile sit-in at UC’s Wheeler Hall. The group had demanded that the regents divest from companies with significant holdings in Israel. When the regents failed to respond, dozens of group members chained shut nine of the building’s twelve doors. They formed human chains to block two of the remaining doors and ushered students out of the building through the last door. Professor Gordon, who had an important class scheduled that day in Wheeler, burst through the chain of students only to be showered with spit and hit by a student…”
Later that year, 23-year-old Aaron Schwartz was walking toward the Hillel building as part of an obviously Jewish group celebrating the annual holiday Simchas Torah. According to accounts in The Daily Californian and the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, one onlooker mocked the procession by goose-stepping in place, chanting “Heil Hitler,” and performing the Nazi salute. After punching Schwartz in the face and knocking him to the ground, the man and his two companions strolled away.
But many remember spring 2002 as the season the screaming really started. On spring break, someone hurled the cinderblock through the front door of Berkeley’s Hillel Center, scrawling the words F— JEWS nearby…
The same mentality was on display in spring 2002 at San Francisco State University, where pro-Israel students and elderly Holocaust survivors trying to hold a rally were stopped by violent protestors screaming “F– the Jews,” “Jews, go back to Russia,” “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job,” and “Get out or we’ll kill you.”
Threats of “we’ll kill you” appear to have led to the logical next step in the recent violent death of 38-year-old pro-Israel activist Daniel J. Kliman in San Francisco.
It appears that present-day northern California is to Jews what Mississippi in the early 20th Century was to African-Americans-the epicenter of explosive hate-although the same bigotry permeates much of the academic world.
That would include Concordia University in Montreal, where Netanyahu was prevented from speaking about the war against terrorism. Daniel Pipes, writing in the New York Post on September 17, 2002, described the violent scene:
“… he never made it onto the campus – because a thousand anti-Israel demonstrators staged a mini-riot with the intent of preventing him from speaking…
The anti-Israel forces physically assaulted the would-be audience…
They smashed a plate-glass window and threw objects at the police inside.
They hurled furniture at police from a mezzanine. As Toronto’s Globe & Mail
put it, “By lunchtime, the vestibule of Concordia’s main downtown building was
littered with paper, upturned chairs, broken furniture and the choking
aftereffects of pepper spray.”
The police, saying they couldn’t assure Netanyahu’s safety, canceled the event…
On Thursday, Hanan Ashrawi, the former spokeswoman and colleague of Yasser Arafat, went to Colorado College in Colorado Springs to give a keynote speech at a symposium on “September 11: One Year Later.”
Protestors noted that Ashrawi is smack on the side of America’s enemies in the War on Terrorism. For example, while the U.S. government formally designates Hamas a terrorist group, Ashrawi states she doesn’t “think of Hamas as a terrorist group.” Also, she considers Israeli civilians living on the West Bank to be “legitimate . . . targets of Palestinian resistance” — that is, legitimate targets for deadly violence.
Yet the protestors did not block the terrorist spokeswoman from expressing her opinions (a mere year after the 9/11 attacks), and she is just one of countless pro-terror speakers who are welcome on US campuses. Sheikh Khalid Yasin, a convert to Islam, has been invited to numerous colleges to preach that terrorism is justified, homosexuals should be murdered, and Christian missionaries in Africa are injecting people with AIDS. …
Little wonder that when the genocide-espousing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University on September 24, 2007, the event did not seem out of the ordinary. His politely received speech was hailed by many observers as a fine display of one of the noblest ideals of institutions of higher learning -the free exchange of ideas.
Hardly anyone in the media noted that, the day before he departed for America, Ahmadinejad re-emphasized the two most heartfelt ideas to which he and his regime are dedicated–“Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” emblazoned on signs in a military parade over which he presided.
Were the deaths of America and Israel debatable propositions? For many in the academic world, the answer apparently is yes. After all, they would tell us, that’s what universities are for. Let all views be heard.
All views, that is, with certain exceptions, including the anti-terror message of the prime
minister of Israel.
Edward Olshaker is a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.
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