Peace or Insult

I guess what follows is what peace is all about. The Jews at UCLA have been pretty nice about the question of Israel. They don't taunt Muslims. They don't boast about how they will tear down Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. They don't call the Arabs names. They go about their business. And they know that if they engaged in exercising their freedom of speech, they might be within their rights, but they would increase tension on campus.

Is there a right to free speech? Yes. And it applies to Moslems. To Third Temple Jewish extremists. To genocidal Nazis. To everyone. There is a right to do something that "shouldn't" provoke people. The question is whether or not it is necessary to do so. On the question of Har Homa, I think the answer was that it finally became essential to provoke people, since Israel had backed down from exercising its right to build on Jewish land very consistently, and backing down on Har Homa would have ceded all of East Jerusalem to the Arabs on the spot, a very steep price to pay. But why is it so essential for the Moslems to provoke a fight with the Jews at UCLA? Suppose the fighting got worse. Who would be hurt? UCLA would be hurt. Many Jews and quite a few Moslems would start avoiding the place. And the Moslems, if they kept behaving this way towards others (I suspect they will find others to fight besides the Jews if they keep acting like this), will be hurt as well.

None of these people were literally yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater. They behaved legally. They were within their rights. And very little happened. A few signs got ripped down. But the MSA lost some potential good will by slandering Jewish organizations that were suspect on campus in the first place.

Now watch what happened when the MSA at UCLA decided to exercise its right to start a fight:

Free speech, even when unpleasant, must be protected

Vandalism reveals some won't allow opposing view a voice

By Omar Hamoui

Freedom of speech is a fundamental American principle which we pride and are often envied for. However, on April 15, just a few steps from the "freedom of speech" podium at Meyerhoff Park, this principle was challenged.

Freedom of speech can only be a freedom when dissident views not held by the mainstream are allowed to be expressed and considered in the decision-making process of an institution or country. An attack on free speech is an affront to rational thought and progressive thinking as a whole. The only reason to attack free speech is the fear that some idea or truth may resound with the people, causing a facade which has been constructed of lies to crumble.

This is why the events that took place on Bruin Walk this Tuesday were so shocking and distressing. A coalition of student groups consisting of the Academic Affairs Commission, the African Student Union, Al-Talib, the General Representatives Office, La Gente, MEChA, the Muslim Student Association, NOMMO, Pacific Ties and Samahang Pilipino put up a number of signs to expose the fallacies and inconsistencies of Zionism and the plight of the Palestinian people. They were torn down. The signs were not filled with empty rhetoric or fiery accusations. Rather, they showed simple statements made by prominent Zionist (Israeli) leaders. These statements were not fabricated or modified and they were all well-documented.

The signs contained statements such as this one made by the former chief of military intelligence, Yehoshofat Harkabi: "Because we took the land, this gives us the image of being bad, of being aggressive. The Jews always considered that the land belong to them, but in fact it belonged to the Arabs. I would go further: I would say the original source of this conflict lies with Israel, with the Jews - and you can quote me." ("Peace Won't be a Plane Ticket to Cairo," International Armed Forces Journal, October 1973, p.30)

Another example is a statement made by the former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, in reference to the black African nations who voted in support of the 1975 U.N. resolution, which denounced Zionism as a form of racism. He said, "It is unacceptable that nations made up of people who have only just come down from the trees should take themselves for world leaders ... How can such primitive beings have an opinion of their own?" (Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, November 14, 1975)

This is the key. These statements were not made by Muslims or by the PLO. They were not made by Jewish dissidents or anti-Semites. Rather, they were made by prominent leaders of the Zionist movement. Now these statements are not pleasant nor do they reflect positively upon the ideology of Zionism. However, the fact remains that they are the truth. They are the things which, unbeknownst to many of us, have been said by the leaders of the nation which receives more foreign aid from the United States than any other country.

The signs were ripped down. They were ripped from their boards simply because they made clear an unpleasant reality. What is even more distressing is that I personally witnessed them being torn down on two separate occasions - once by a man who was stopped only when several CSO officers arrived to prevent him from destroying the rest of the signs.

As I witnessed these events, I was truly shocked. I did not understand how those who have traditionally championed free speech could all of a sudden throw these ideals to the wind simply because someone's idea of free speech was offensive. I did not understand how someone could become so enraged by statements made by their own leadership.

I would have welcomed rational dialogue or refutation of the points made by the signs. I would have welcomed proof that any of the statements made by the Zionist leaders were fabricated. Any of these things would have been better than the irrational vandalism which took place.

Let me preemptively attempt to sidestep all the accusations of anti-Semitism which I am sure to encounter. I am a Semite. I am not anti-Jewish. The issue here is not Judaism at all. The issue is not even Zionism as a political ideology. The issue on the table is free speech. If you choose to respond to this article, please do not begin by flinging accusations of bigotry at me. If you choose to respond to this article, I challenge you to tell me why this coalition, made up mainly of minority student groups, should not have the right to put up these signs. Why should the minority groups always remain silent? I challenge you to present a cogent argument as to why the right to free speech should be eliminated when it comes to speaking out against Israel.

I understand that this freedom is not absolute and has limitations. However, the posters unveiling the truth of Zionism and the state of Israel were neither a threat to national security nor did they endanger lives. But perhaps they did endanger lies.