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Anti-Israel Crybullies and the Free Speech Inversion

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill testifies during a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on holding campus leaders accountable and confronting antisemitism, at the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, on Dec. 5, 2023. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

The term “crybully” rose to prominence over the last decade, and describes a phenomenon that has become increasingly common on campus.

As defined at Dictionary.com, a crybully is “a person who self-righteously harasses or intimidates others while playing the victim, especially of a perceived social injustice.”

This is a particularly accurate label for the crowd of anti-Israel activists who have spent decades working to silence and intimidate Jewish and Israeli voices on campuses, while also portraying themselves as victims of an attack on their free speech.

Anti-Israel activists have long engaged in conduct designed to suppress the ability of Jewish and Israeli voices to speak on campus. Through the so-called “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, these activists have openly called to silence an entire category of speakers — namely, Israelis and anyone who supports Israel.

For decades, BDS activists have disrupted events, even including Holocaust memorial events, and one can only guess as to how many Israelis and Zionists have been overtly or quietly denied opportunities or platforms because of their identity.

The bullying became even more extreme over time. Student groups began banning Zionists, a term that includes most American Jews, or declaring that Zionists were not welcome on campus.

Jewish institutions on campuses became increasingly targeted for vandalism and threats. Overt expressions of antisemitism became increasingly normalized. And the effect has been palpable.

A recent survey found that 31.9% of Jewish students have “felt unable to speak out about campus antisemitism,” and 38.3% said they “would be uncomfortable with others on campus knowing about their views of Israel.” Less than half of Jewish students said they felt “very” or “extremely” physically safe on campus.

Another study found that among Jewish sorority and fraternity members, two-thirds had felt unsafe on campus at some point, and half had felt the need to hide their identity. Those students were not just withholding their speech; they felt afraid to even be identified as Jewish on campus.

Their fear is not unjustified.

Nationally, hate crimes against Jews are at shockingly high and disproportionate levels, with four times as many anti-Jewish crimes as anti-Muslim and anti-Arab crimes combined. One need only look at some of the recent scenes on campus, such as anti-Israel demonstrators besieging Jewish students locked in a room at Cooper Union, to understand why Jewish students are afraid.

Moreover, it is not the pro-Israel rallies and activists that have regularly descended into violence, intimidation, and vandalism — or barrages of antisemitic and genocidal chants.

It is the Jewish students who are being attacked at their own rallies or while putting up posters of innocent Israeli civilians taken hostage by Hamas. It is Jewish students who are being forced to reject a central part of their Jewish identity if they want to participate in university functions.

We know where much of this hate is coming from. As shown by one study, the presence of the major anti-Israel student organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is one of the best predictors for the perception of a hostile climate for Jews on campuses.

As one New York appellate court ruling explained, a university’s conclusion that an SJP chapter would “work against, rather than enhance [a university’s] commitment [to] open dialogue” was “not without sound basis in reason” nor “taken without regard to the facts.”

Which brings us to the “cry” part of “crybully.”

Anti-Israel activists shriek and howl over alleged threats to their free speech. But the evidence is thin that there is any reason for anti-Israel students to feel that their freedom of expression is under any serious threat on campus.

Moves against various SJP chapters on universities have not been on the basis of their beliefs or expression, but rather their violations of legitimate university rules, and even plausible arguments that National SJP has run afoul of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

That a handful of students have lost out on job offers because they expressed support for a designated terrorist organization that had just murdered and raped its way through southern Israel is hardly a threat to free speech, either. Private actors are not restrained by the First Amendment, and as explained in Ilya Shapiro’s brilliant piece at The Free Press, one can hardly qualify these examples as “cancel culture.”

And while there has been a rise in hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims, the demographic typically associated with the Palestinian cause, the figures still pale in comparison to hate crimes against Jews, which have skyrocketed from their already disturbingly high levels. And those hate crimes are not being committed by Jews.

Unfortunately, some otherwise laudable free speech advocates are falling for the crybully trick, and adopting some perplexing positions. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), for example, has repeatedly opposed the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s non-legally binding definition of antisemitism, incorrectly suggesting that it would limit speech. On the other hand, FIRE has curiously refused to take a position on BDS — which openly works to limit the speech of an entire category of people — and has even joined failed lawsuits against anti-BDS laws.

This is not to say that FIRE shouldn’t stand up for anti-Israel activists when their legitimate rights are infringed. To the contrary, I encourage FIRE to continue to do so. But free speech advocates, like those at FIRE, should rethink their role in protecting America’s sacred belief in free speech. When substantial numbers of Jews and Israelis are afraid to express themselves and are being pushed out of entire academic communities because of who they are, that is as big of a threat to free expression as any.

Just the other day, the concerned father of a Jewish student, who was personally facing intimidation on campus, shared with me his conversation with a senior university official. The official acknowledged that most Jewish students were afraid to even report the antisemitism they were facing, given the hostile climate. But, the father explained, the official wasn’t saying this because he had any intention of addressing the hostile environment he just acknowledged existed. Rather, it was a warning: make a fuss over this and it might get even worse for your son.

That is the disturbing reality Jews and Israelis are facing on campus: not just hostility, but apathy from those in a position of responsibility to address the situation. That is why I hope free speech advocates will find a constructive way to help address the situation before it gets even worse.

David M. Litman is a Senior Analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). 

The post Anti-Israel Crybullies and the Free Speech Inversion first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘The mobs will not silence my voice’ says Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman after her Thornhill office is plastered with anti-Israel posters

Posters slamming Israel and decrying Canada’s suspension of funding to UNRWA were found at the Thornhill, Ont., offices of Melissa Lantsman, a pro-Israel and Jewish Conservative MP who serves as deputy leader of the Official Opposition.   “Blood on Your Hands,” “Stop Arming Israel” and “Fund UNRWA Now” were among the messages found taped to […]

The post ‘The mobs will not silence my voice’ says Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman after her Thornhill office is plastered with anti-Israel posters appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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IDF Chief Weighs in on Ultra-Orthodox Military Service, Week After New Draft Bill Proposed

FILE PHOTO: Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks during his transition ceremony with the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and the outgoing chief, in Jerusalem, January 16, 2023. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi called on the ultra-Orthodox public to mobilize for the current and future wars, a position at odds with their historic role in the state, in which they enjoy near blanket exemptions from military service.

“In these challenging days, there is one thing that is very clear: Everyone should mobilize for the defense of the homeland,” Halevi said.

He added: “This is a different era, and what was before it will certainly be re-examined. The IDF has always sought to bring into its ranks from all sections of Israeli society. This war illustrates the need to change. Join the service, protect the homeland. We have a historic opportunity to expand the sources of recruitment for the IDF at a time when the necessity is very high. We will know how to create the right solutions and conditions for any population that will join this noble mission.”

The issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF has been a hot button issue since the state’s establishment in 1948 and, in more recent years, the cause of wide scale backlash against the community. As part of an agreement when the state was founded, the ultra-Orthodox public was exempted completely from service. However, as the years progressed and the population grew exponentially, critics of the policy decried the unfairness of it.

A bill last week was introduced by the ruling Likud Party that called for an increase in military service time, particularly for reserve forces, yet failed to discuss the ultra-Orthodox issue. Backlash from both opposition and coalition members was swift.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the time said, “The ultra-Orthodox public is dear and loved and contributes a lot to the State of Israel, and it is now essential that it also take a more significant part in the tasks of defense and security. This move should happen out of dialogue and discussion and not by coercion or, God forbid, by defamation. Religious Zionism proves that it is possible to combine Torah study and observance of minor and severe mitzvot together with military service at the front. My ultra-Orthodox brothers, we need you!”

Halevi’s comments were his first on the highly contentious issue.

The post IDF Chief Weighs in on Ultra-Orthodox Military Service, Week After New Draft Bill Proposed first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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A legal brief documenting the kidnapping, rape, torture and executions of Israelis who are being held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza has been filed at the International Criminal Court by the Canadian-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. The 1,000-page dossier documents the brutality of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, which killed […]

The post Israeli victims of the Oct. 7 attacks present their case to the International Criminal Court, hoping for arrest warrants against Hamas appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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