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Dersh on Columbia's Free Speech

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John Beagle View Drop Down
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    Posted: Sep 26 2017 at 2:00pm


by Alan Dershowitz

On Wednesday evening, I am scheduled to engage in a public conversation at Columbia University about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. The question — a critical one at a time when far too many campuses are hostile to ideas that challenge existing dogma — is whether I’ll be heard or shouted down.

I am a centrist liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. I support a two-state solution. I have long opposed Israel’s settlement policies. I am not one of those hard-right provocateurs who come to campus in order to stoke the flames of controversy (though they too, have First Amendment rights). I am a retired professor who wants to contribute to the education of students with regard to a complex, divisive issue.

Yet according to reports in the media, radical students plan to disrupt my speech in an effort to prevent me from sharing my moderate ideas with Columbia students. The protesters are apparently afraid that I may actually persuade some open-minded students that the issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict are nuanced and that Israel alone is not to blame for the current stalemate.

The students who would prevent me from speaking would also prevent other centrist moderates from expressing views on other hot-button issues with which they disagree. They see no reason for conversation, since they believe they know the truth. And they are certain that the truth is a matter of black and white, with no greys.

Though young — and enrolled in an institution of higher learning that’s supposed to be opening their minds and challenging their beliefs — they are enemies of ideas, complexity and thinking for oneself. They believe that the university should not be a place for open-minded students to hear diverse views and make up their own minds, but rather an institution where professors propagandize captive students to one particular point of view.

In too many classes at Columbia and elsewhere, that has been the norm for too long.

This closeminded approach to the role of universities is particularly evident when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it transcends that conflict as well. It applies to virtually all issues on which the hard left has a singular point of view.

I expect that my speech will be protested not only by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic students and outsiders, but also by some radical feminists, gay rights activists, Black Lives Matter supporters and others who, under the false banner of “intersectionality,” believe they must stand together against their common oppressors.

These days, their supposed common oppressors include the United States, Israel, Christianity and other personifications of western culture. These “intersectionalists” will try to censor me despite my lifelong devotion to feminism, gay rights, civil rights and other liberal causes.

They believe that you can’t be both a Zionist and a feminist, a Zionist and supporter of gay rights, or a Zionist and a supporter of equality for African Americans. Under their narrow and exclusionary way of thinking, support for Israel — even critical support for its very existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people — disqualifies one from supporting other liberal causes. Indeed, it disqualifies one from expressing views at a university.

I will challenge that censorious worldview at Columbia on Wednesday night. I will do it politely but firmly, and I expect Columbia to assure not only my physical safety and the physical safety of those students who come to listen to me, but also my ability to communicate my views to openminded students.

In commencement remarks earlier this year, the school’s president, Lee Bollinger, said “being able to listen to and then effectively rebut those with whom we disagree — particularly those who themselves peddle intolerance — is one of the greatest skills our education can bestow.”

I will defend the right of protesters to hold signs, distribute literature and communicate their disagreement with my views by brief boos or other manifestations of displeasure. But I will not be shouted down, silenced or frightened away. I will insist on my right, and that of my audience, to hear what I have to say from beginning to end. I will invite those who disagree with me to pose challenging questions, which I will try to answer. Indeed, I will prioritize critical questions over favorable ones. Everyone will have an opportunity to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.

That is what universities should be about.

Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of “Trumped Up! How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy.”
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
-Joseph Campbell
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John Beagle View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Beagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 28 2017 at 2:13pm
Here's a guy on the left expressing what everyone in America (left or right) should agree with. Only in America can we have free speech. Yes there can be consequences for free speech but it never should be violent. There is a lot of misguided hate in our country today. And it didn't start with Trump.

There is such anti-antisemitism on our school campuses.  
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
-Joseph Campbell
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John Beagle View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John Beagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 28 2017 at 2:16pm
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
-Joseph Campbell
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Houndog View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Houndog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Sep 29 2017 at 11:45pm
No comedians will play college campuses anymore for this reason. Sad really. At one time they were the last hold out for free speech. Not do much any more.
College campuses are now strangle hold.
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