The Program for Public Discourse at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) recently hosted the event, “Frank Bruni and Bari Weiss in Conversation.” For three minutes during the middle of the talk, activists with UNC’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) shouted down the speakers, while slowly exiting the auditorium.
Ahead of the event, SJP publicized its intention to disrupt the speakers. On social media, SJP explained it planned the disruption because Weiss calls out left-wing antisemitism, and expresses concerns about intersectionality. They posted on X/Twitter, “Bari Weiss and her lies are NOT welcomed on campus!”
Days before the event, UNC initiated changes, presumably to deal with the planned disruption. The school changed the event’s starting time and the time for the box office to open. Advanced tickets were no longer available.
We arrived at the UNC box office 30 minutes early, and stood in a line that was already long. Behind me were several dozen SJP activists masked to conceal their identities. A woman in line who had escaped the Holocaust told me she has a family member currently being held hostage in Gaza. She was nervous about the planned protest and considered leaving.
Each person in line was allowed one ticket, presumably for security reasons and to prevent activists from scooping up large portions of the tickets, thereby preventing others from attending. Attendees were asked to provide ID and an email address to receive the tickets electronically.
Attending this UNC event felt similar to going through TSA at the airport. I wondered if SJP’s campus disruptions and support of violence will lead UNC to consider installing metal detectors and searching bags at future events.
Before the event began, I spoke with Jewish UNC students seated in front of me. A sophomore said she loves attending UNC, but that she and her friends are afraid to speak up in class when topics related to Judaism and Israel arise.
UNC staff deliberately seated attendees in the intimate auditorium. Some rows were kept empty. It appeared about one-quarter of the seats were kept empty. This fact frustrated those who came to the event and were unable to obtain tickets.
Almost all of the approximately 45 SJP activists were seated in two groups at the back, immediately adjacent to the doors leading out. This arrangement prevented SJP from marching through the auditorium and toward the speakers. UNC deserves much credit for the seating and other measures.
UNC’s Provost, Christopher Clemons, opened the evening by welcoming the speakers and telling the audience that civil behavior was expected. There were to be no disruptions. The audience could ask questions by writing them on paper cards that would be collected.
About 25 minutes into the event, SJP activists simultaneously stood up and slowly walked out, screeching chants of “Bari Bari, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide.” Of course, she was not hiding. She was on stage, engaging in public discourse, offering to take questions from community members, including the very activists screaming at her.
The “walkout” amounted to a heckler’s veto that prevented the speakers from talking. Uniformed police, followed by Provost Clemons, ushered SJP activists out of the event. Some activists remained outside the auditorium, heckling and shouting at the audience after the event finished an hour later.
The conversation between Bruni and Weiss offered a model of how two people can engage in civil discourse about important issues while sometimes disagreeing. I will not summarize the impressive conversation here, except to say that Weiss mentioned how her highly respected media website — the Free Press — had recently received criticism for publishing a column by Andrew Sullivan that was viewed as being strongly critical of Israel.
UNC offered free pizza to attendees as we left. There were many uniformed police officers outside, and SJP activists were shouting chants and attempting to intimidate attendees who were leaving. A group of four masked SJP activists shouted at us and followed my group. Police officers appeared to follow the activists who were following us.
One reason SJP activists feel emboldened to act in such menacing ways on campus is that UNC continues to allow them to conceal their identities during protests and disruptions. UNC policy and North Carolina law prohibit the use of masks to hide identity. The great preponderance of the masked audience were SJP members, who were easily recognized as they sat in the same two areas and walked out in unison.
The “arguments” SJP activists screamed at us after the event indicated these young adults have no interest in engaging in difficult conversations. The activists following us were yelling about what they called “genocide pizza” and “apartheid pizza” that UNC offered.
SJP activists screeched that they are Arabs, and that Arabs are Semites too. They continued by screaming that since they are Semites, they can’t be antisemitic. This “logic” continued with the activists saying anyone who calls them antisemitic are actually the real antisemites.
A UNC source told me after the event that “Chancellor Roberts is involved in consequences for violations.” I was later informed that the Provost is as well.
While some local community members feel differently, I believe UNC presented a terrific event, with strong security, and strong warnings to the provocateurs.
The identity of all or most attendees should be known by UNC. The University gave fair warning as to the expected rules of conduct when the event began. Photographs of all attending were presumably taken and available to authorities.
It is likely that SJP activists will continue to intimidate, menace, and disrupt the campus community — while concealing their identities — until UNC makes it clear to them that such behaviors are unacceptable.
Now I ask, what will follow? Will UNC continue to tolerate SJP activists wearing masks to deliberately conceal their identities while disrupting campus functions? Or, will the university act against those who violated University policy? Will SJP be suspended as a University-approved organization?
Peter Reitzes writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.
The post UNC Event with Bari Weiss Offers a Model for Israel Events on Campus first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Countering the Lie That Israel Is a Settler-Colonial State
Many college students, and all of the anti-Israel protesters, erroneously believe that a country called “Palestine” was populated by a people called “Palestinians” until World War II, after which Jews who escaped the Nazi Holocaust began migrating there as “settlers” and took the land from Arabs.
Today, according to this narrative, Israelis are colonial occupiers of “stolen Palestinian land,” as the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “Day of Resistance Toolkit” puts it.
There are many things wrong with these claims, most glaringly the fact that there has never been a country called “Palestine,” and that Jewish people were the original inhabitants of this territory.
While it’s true that many Jews migrated to the British Mandate Palestine in the aftermath of pogroms in the 1930s and then the Holocaust in the 1940s, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Israel since the beginning of recorded history — centuries before the birth of Muhammad and the advent of Islam. Jerusalem is mentioned 667 times in the Hebrew Bible and zero times in the Koran. Not once.
The further back in history one goes, the less accurate the term “settler” is when applied to Jews living in Israel. King Solomon’s Temple, built sometime between the 10th and 6th century BC, was destroyed by Babylonian invaders in 586 BC, rebuilt between 30 and 20 BC, and then destroyed again by Romans in 70 ADC
Islam ventured into the land of Israel as a colonial force in the 7th century. Muslims built the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of Solomon’s temple as an expression of their triumphalism. Academics who universally condemn European colonialism and American imperialism rarely acknowledge Islamic imperialism, especially when it comes to Israel.
For most of the 19th century, the land was sparsely populated and in ruins. When Mark Twain traveled there in the 1860s, he found it largely abandoned. In his book Innocents Abroad (1869), he called it “desolate and unlovely,” declared it “a silent wilderness,” and mourned that “renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is [sic] become a pauper village.”
Various Islamic caliphates occupied the land until the Ottoman Empire lost it in World War I. The League of Nations then turned the land over to Britain in order to re-establish the Jewish national homeland and renamed it “British Mandate Palestine.” It stretched from Egypt in the west, Syria in the north, Iraq in the east, and Saudi Arabia in the south. In 1922, Britain cut three quarters of the land off and unilaterally established a new country called Jordan.
Yet another overlooked component to the simplistic claim that “the Jews took the Arabs’ land” is that many hectares of land in Israel were purchased by Jews from Arabs.
As Robert Spencer points out, Jews who returned to Israel “in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries didn’t come as armed marauders, seizing land from its owners by force. They obtained the land in a far more conventional and prosaic way: they bought it.” Spencer quotes one British government report from 1930 that smugly notes they overpaid for it.
After World War II, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. No Arabs called themselves “Palestinian” at this time. Palestinian nationalism may have begun in 1920, but Arabs did not begin calling themselves “Palestinians” until after the Six-Day War in 1967.
As a result of UN Resolution 181, which authorized the creation of a Jewish and Arab state alongside each other, many thousands of Jews living throughout the Middle East and North Africa were expelled from their homes. Few were permitted to take their belongings with them. They were forcibly exiled and sent to the nascent state of Israel. The Arab population thought this would become “the big graveyard of the Jews” in the war to come, as five Arab nations invaded and sought to strangle the Jewish state in its cradle. But the Arab nations lost the war. The victorious Jewish fighters called it their War of Independence, and the Arabs began referring to their loss as the “nakba” or great disaster. However, for many Jews living in Arab, Muslim-majority countries, the UN partition vote and subsequent war became their disaster too.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Throughout 1947 and 1948, Jews in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen (Aden) were persecuted, their property and belongings were confiscated, and they were subjected to severe anti-Jewish riots instigated by the governments. In Iraq, Zionism was made a capital crime. In Syria, anti-Jewish pogroms erupted in Aleppo and the government froze all Jewish bank accounts, In Egypt, bombs were detonated in the Jewish quarter, killing dozens. In Algeria, anti-Jewish decrees were swiftly instituted and in Yemen, bloody pogroms led to the death of nearly 100 Jews.” While some left to start new lives in Europe and the US, “586,000 were resettled in Israel — at great expense to the Israeli government, without any compensation from the Arab governments who had confiscated their possessions. The majority of the Jewish refugees left their homes penniless and destitute.”
These hundreds of thousands were genuine refugees.
In spite of the charge that Israel is “occupying Palestine,” nearly all (over 90%) of the Palestinians who live in the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority. Referring to this territory as the “occupied West Bank” is as nonsensical as referring to the Arabian Peninsula as being “occupied” by Arabs, or France as being “occupied” by Gauls.
The United Nations is the most egregious proliferat0r of the idea that Israel is a settler-colonial state that occupies the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem. A 2016 Wall Street Journal article documented 530 UN General Assembly references to Israel is an “occupying power” versus zero for Indonesia (East Timor), Turkey (Cyprus), Russia (Georgia, Crimea), Morocco (Western Sahara), Vietnam (Cambodia), Armenia (Azerbaijan), Pakistan (Kashmir), or China (Tibet). UNESCO’s “Occupied Palestine” document uses the phrase “Israel, the occupying Power” thirteen times.
The most vocal protesters, especially college students, are blissfully ignorant of this history. They have been conditioned to respond to the terms “colonial” and “settlement” with images of white Europeans encroaching on the ancestral territories of red, brown, and black peoples. But, as Elliot Abrams put it, “the term ‘settlement’ loses meaning when applied to Jews building homes in their nation’s capital city.”
Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) Senior Fellow A.J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum where he is also a Ginsberg-Milstein fellow. A version of this article was originally published at IPT.
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When rape crisis centres drape themselves in (metaphorical) keffiyehs: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the broken woke-liberal alliance
When I read that the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre is in hot water after deciding to pick a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no, not the side of Israeli women sexually assaulted on Oct. 7, the only part of this story that surprised me at all was that there would be a consequence. Was […]
French National Assembly Speaker Again Highlights Record Levels of Antisemitism Amid New Hate Crime Statistics
The speaker of the French National Assembly has warned that the resurgent antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel posed a threat to “the foundations of our republic and what we are, as French people.”
In an interview on Sunday with broadcaster France Inter, Yaël Braun-Pivet — who is Jewish — spoke of her alarm at the spread of bigotry targeting Jews and at her own experience of antisemitism in the wake of the Hamas massacre.
Referring to what she called “the liberation of speech,” Braun-Pivet noted that antisemitism was spreading in the mainstream media as well as on social media platforms. Increasingly, she said, antisemitic opinions are being expressed on camera without those articulating it feeling the need to “hide their identity.”
Braun-Pivet revealed that she had filed 23 separate complaints over antisemitic barbs directed at her. “They send me yellow stars, they regret that my family was not completely exterminated in the [concentration] camps,” she said, referring to the six pointed Star of David which the Nazis forced Jews to wear on their outer clothing.
Braun-Pivet’s interview came at the end of a week in which France’s main Jewish organization published disturbing statistics for the current wave of antisemitism.
In a report last Wednesday, the French-Jewish umbrella organization Crif disclosed that 1676 antisemitic incidents had been recorded in 2023 — four times the number registered during the previous year and an unprecedented record,
While in past years the majority of the incidents involved vandalism of property, in 2023, 58 percent of the incidents recorded were directed against people, with 13 percent occurring in schools.
The Oct. 7 atrocities had “acted like a catalyst for hatred by activating latent antisemitism,” Crif president Yonathan Arfi told the AFP news agency.
The assault “could have had an effect of compassion, like a vaccination,” Arfi added. “The opposite has been the case.”