Campus Protests about Israel and the Palestinians (several updates)


This post is for discussion of the ongoing campus protests against Israel’s response to the October 7th, 2023 attack on it by Hamas, and in support of the Palestinians.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in its attack on Gaza, with two-thirds of the dead being women and children, according to the local health ministry, reports the Associated Press.

[original photo by Jay Janner/USA Today Network, via Reuters]

A round-up of recent news about protests at various college campuses can be found here.

Of particular interest are questions about how universities should (or should not) respond to these kinds of protests, and the principles, ideals, and practical considerations that underpin answers to those questions.

Details about what’s happening at your campus are welcome, as are links to news and commentary elsewhere, including links to particularly valuable social media feeds.

By way of background on the matter of free speech and campus protests, I recommend this piece by Jacob Levy (McGill). Some excerpts:

[U]niversities offer very robust protection for political and protest speech, but as an incidental byproduct, not in the same deliberate way that a liberal democratic society does. A university’s core commitment is to the discovery, transmission and preservation of knowledge – paradigmatically, what is done in research, in teaching, and in publication and library collection. The principle that defends that commitment is not freedom of speech as such, but rather academic freedom.

Academic freedom has a few moving parts:

First, the freedom to follow arguments and evidence where they lead, according to scholarly methods…

Second, the freedom to teach, within the confines of the scholarly mission of the class, and limited by the freedom of students to be secure that they will be assessed fairly…  

And finally, freedom from evaluation on non-academic grounds, of which the traditionally most important are political and religious grounds. Members of the academic community are only to be academically evaluated, for purposes ranging from student grades to professors’ tenure, on the grounds of the success of their academic work. They may not lose academic standing (student enrolment, faculty employment and so on) for their views and speech on other questions. In the early 20th-century cases that helped shape this rule, universities came to the understanding that, say, an economist couldn’t be fired for being an atheist, a mathematician for being a socialist; what they had to say on those political and religious questions was irrelevant to their work. The technical phrase here is freedom of extramural speech – outside the walls of the laboratory, the classroom and the library. Protections of extramural speech are very strong, not primarily in order to protect that speech, but in order to protect the academic integrity of what goes on inside the laboratory, classroom and library.

A rule that has traditionally accompanied and strengthened academic freedom is institutional neutrality. If academic freedom is the ability of scholars and scholarly communities or disciplines to work without having an orthodoxy imposed on them, institutional neutrality is the commitment not to declare an orthodoxy in the first place. Just like a professor at the front of a classroom shouldn’t use it as a pulpit to announce their own political and religious views, so too should the university as a whole not adopt substantive political or religious opinions that would chill the freedom of its members to pursue their own ideas and arguments. A great deal of important political inquiry and debate happens at a university, but it’s undertaken by students and professors with differing views pursuing differing arguments, not by the institution as a whole declaring official conclusions…

These principles generate some surprising and strange outcomes. For example, the odd thing about the centrality of student protests to important moments in university life is that they are so irrelevant to the university’s mission. There is very strong protection for the freedom of protest, not because protest is important to a university the way it is to a democratic society, but because it’s academically irrelevant. It’s wrong to question a student’s (or professor’s) standing in the academic community because of what they say at a protest – or on social media, or in any other non-academic setting. The only appropriate limits are not about the content of what’s said, but about the conduct of the protest action; the university has to protect not only the safety of its other members but also the security of its academic functions. It can’t rule against the language on a sign, but it must intervene to prevent violence between students, or occupations and blockades that would prevent a class from meeting, or an invited speaker from speaking.

This is easier said than done… 

I recommend reading the whole piece.

One thing to note is that the institutional neutrality Levy discusses is especially tricky, particularly in this context: one declared aim of some of the student groups is to get their universities to stop investing in companies involved in or profiting from Israel’s military efforts in Gaza. Should such investments themselves be considered a deviation from institutional neutrality, such that the student calls for divestment could be seen as a call for institutional neutrality? Or are such investments in principle relevantly different from what we might think of as paradigmatic departures from institutional neutrality, such as an official statement supporting a side in a political dispute? The details probably matter here, both on the extent to which investment in certain companies is intentional, and the extent to which such companies are “involved” with Israel’s war efforts.

And that’s just one issue.

OK, let’s see how this goes. (Comments are moderated. Please remind yourselves of the comments policy. Thanks.)

UPDATE 1 (4/25/24): The Department of Philosophy at Columbia University has issued the following statement:

The Philosophy Department is concerned for the safety, academic progress, and rights of our students. We condemn all forms of hate speech, harassment, and incitements to violence. We also regard it as quite implausible that erecting a tent on a lawn constitutes a clear and present danger, and we urge the lifting of suspensions of students whose charges stem from that act. Thus we support the joint statement by the Columbia and Barnard Chapters of the American Association of University Professors and the letter from the Columbia College Student Council. We want President Shafik to succeed, and for mutual trust between all parties on campus to be regained. Such success and trust requires visible engagement by the President and Trustees with the procedures of faculty governance.

UPDATE 2 (4/25/24): Noelle McAfee, professor and chair of philosophy at Emory University, was among those arrested for protesting at Emory.

Thanks to several readers for bringing this to my attention. Original Tweet here.

UPDATE 3 (4/26/24): Sukaina Hirji, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, gave a speech to protestors there. Watch it here.

UPDATE 4 (4/26/24): Caroline Fohlin, professor of economics at Emory University, asks three law enforcement officers who appear to be on top of a student protestor on the ground, “what are you doing?” A fourth officer grabs her, pulls her away, twists her arm behind her back, and pushes her to the ground. A second officer joins in pushing her down, heedless of the fact her head is being pushed into the sidewalk.

According to news reports, she was charged with disorderly conduct and battery of a police officer. This guy:

 

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Daniel Greco
Daniel Greco
1 month ago

I thought this piece by Keith Whittington in the Chronicle of Higher Ed was very helpful. The main theme is the distinction between content or viewpoint-based restrictions on speech (e.g., no saying “from the river to the sea…”) and content/viewpoint neutral “time, place, and manner” (TPM) restrictions on speech (e.g., no blocking access to buildings/public spaces, no setting up temporary dwellings, etc.).

Having made that distinction, he focuses on how we should think about which TPM restrictions on speech are appropriate. Hard to summarize, but lots of nice observations. E.g.:

“If students are not immediately disruptive but merely out of compliance with rules regarding expressive activities, the judgment of when to halt those activities should be guided by the need to uphold the conditions for the free exchange of ideas at the college generally. If expressive activities that violate college codes of conduct could simply be tolerated indefinitely, that indicates the rules themselves were always more restrictive than they needed to be to maintain the effective functioning of the campus. Temporary exceptions, on the other hand, are necessarily temporary and must eventually be brought to an end.”

Midwest VAP
Midwest VAP
Reply to  Daniel Greco
1 month ago

Levy also has a thread here with some suggestions about which specific TPM measures should be endorsed that sound sensible to me. (I don’t think these are included in the piece linked in the main post, but I admit I only skimmed it.)

Christa Peterson
Christa Peterson
Reply to  Daniel Greco
29 days ago

If students are not immediately disruptive but merely out of compliance with rules regarding expressive activities, the judgment of when to halt those activities should be guided by the need to uphold the conditions for the free exchange of ideas at the college generally. If expressive activities that violate college codes of conduct could simply be tolerated indefinitely, that indicates the rules themselves were always more restrictive than they needed to be to maintain the effective functioning of the campus.

The rules occupations violate are primarily rules forbidding camping etc., not rules regarding expressive activities.

But the exchange of ideas is not always the purpose of protest. For some, “disruption is the point.” The goal is to exert pressure to force change, to “become ungovernable.” … Students who instead wish to commandeer campus spaces to impose costs on others and prevent them from pursuing their own activities should expect to face discipline 

I don’t think this is an accurate parsing of campus occupations. The goal is ofc to exert pressure, but through visibility more than disruption. As an undergrad I was part of an occupation over my university’s relationship with a coal company, and they didn’t want us there making them look bad, but we weren’t impeding the functioning of anything. It is also *by far* the most “exchange of ideas”-centric action I’ve ever been part of, because we were there for 17 days, sometimes having teach ins and always there to talk to interested passerby about what we were up to.

I find it kind of disturbing how airily he moves from the abstract justifiability of constraints to deploying state force against students. But most importantly, I think, regardless of what constraints on protests anyone might choose from first principles, the reality is that the current crackdown is a VAST departure from how universities usually handle student occupations, and it is viewpoint based.

Daniel Greco
Daniel Greco
Reply to  Christa Peterson
29 days ago

I don’t think this is an accurate parsing of campus occupations. The goal is ofc to exert pressure, but through visibility more than disruption.

I think it’s hard to generalize. At my own university, the initial encampment was on a part of campus that is very easy to avoid, and struck me as highly non-disruptive. My sense is that it could’ve been tolerated for a long time. But when that encampment was cleared and arrests were made, they moved to a major downtown intersection, requiring a significance police response to divert traffic. That didn’t last long (I don’t know how it was accomplished, but there wasn’t a second round of arrests), and now they’re back on a part of campus that strikes me as non-disruptive (but without tents, so I’m guessing they’re now in compliance with the relevant TPM restrictions?)

I do think the general distinction between protest that takes the form of civil disobedience (ie, intentionally breaking rules to draw attention to the cause for which you’ve broken them) and protest that complies with relevant rules, is a helpful one. But I agree that even in cases of the former sort–and I don’t pretend to have followed closely enough to know how common such cases are–bringing in police is a weighty and escalatory step. I wish universities would respond to violations of TPM restrictions with internal academic/disciplinary sanction as a first resort, rather than asking police to arrest people for criminal trespass.

Last edited 29 days ago by Daniel Greco
David Wallace
1 month ago

Just on this last point of Justin’s:

One thing to note is that the institutional neutrality Levy discusses is especially tricky, particularly in this context: one declared aim of some of the student groups is to get their universities to stop investing in companies involved in or profiting from Israel’s military efforts in Gaza. Should such investments themselves be considered a deviation from institutional neutrality, such that the student calls for divestment could be seen as a call for institutional neutrality? Or are such investments in principle relevantly different from what we might think of as paradigmatic departures from institutional neutrality, such as an official statement supporting a side in a political dispute? The details probably matter here, both on the extent to which investment in certain companies is intentional, and the extent to which such companies are “involved” with Israel’s war efforts.

I think it’s a bit simpler than this. Universities *do* lots of things, including invest, that require policy choices and have ethical implications. Institutional neutrality doesn’t get them out of having to make calls on those things. Example: academic freedom protects the right of faculty members to advocate for different positions on sexual consent in the workplace, and intellectual neutrality means that the university itself shouldn’t advocate publicly for the country’s workplaces to adopt one position or another. But the university itself needs a workplace sexual consent policy; it doesn’t get to dodge the hard question of deciding on that policy by pleading institutional neutrality.

In the case of investment policy, in principle I think it’s perfectly appropriate in principle for a university to consider ethical issues in its investment strategy, and for other actors to pressure a university to adopt one strategy or another on ethical grounds. That said, given the way the stock market works it really makes no material difference either to the university or to the company being invested in whether the university holds stocks in that company – all this is basically symbolic – so you could make the case that the decision to invest or not invest in a particular narrow class of stocks is more speech than anything else, and by extension, that universities would be wise to invest in relatively broad and mixed funds to avoid this problem.

Platypus
Platypus
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

Universities are already investing in broad and mixed funds! It’s hard to believe, but these students are protesting their universities for buying index funds and mutual funds.

Strategically speaking, this seems like a losing choice. It’s almost all symbolic value for the protesters, but it’s real money on the line for universities, who are not going to want to pull out of high-performing funds. Note that any fund with Google counts as complicit, even if it’s only a tenth of a percent.

David Wallace
Reply to  Platypus
1 month ago

Oh, I agree on the substance – I think it’s a dumb thing to protest about (and I thought that even before your point about the details of what they want divestment from, which I didn’t know). I was just interested in the academic-freedom/institutional-neutrality point.

Platypus
Platypus
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

And I agree with you about the freedom/neutrality point!

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Platypus
1 month ago

Google might be an extreme case but there are clear cases too such as Lockheed and Raytheon. Or stocks in the prison industry such as GEO or CoreCivic (which Columbia has recently divested from because of student demands). But these funds (allegedly) pay for scholarships and faculty. Just because it’s a social norm to invest in ETFs has no bearing on its permissibility.

Whatever your stance is, there are obvious moral tradeoffs. I can even concede that the protestors have unrealistic demands. But leaders always have to make difficult tradeoffs and justify these tradeoffs to their stakeholders. Failure to do so is just a plain failure in leadership. It’s a failure in understanding the ground sentiment and reacting to it. The distinction between a good leader and a bad one is their ability to manage these differing demands. The administrators deserve to be fired, not because they took some moral stand, but because they failed to convince their stakeholders. I’m not judging them on the morality of calling the cops on protestors. I’m judging them on their inability to lead and manage a school.

An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  Platypus
1 month ago

i don’t know about the prospects for divestment, but i don’t see why symbolic value is unworthy. what we call ‘symbolic’ here seems to be a perception of the history of relationship, of who can ask for what, of who’s accountable to whom, of who is above question and who has done what to remain so. universities run on dollars but also on symbols.

the students are lodging a demand that universities can acknowledge or not, whether or not they choose to meet it.

if universities don’t even acknowledge it, students do win something—they make universities look like they are unaccountable to real concerns students and others have. (obviously, that’s why what they’re doing is a protest: it applies pressure that will be interpretable by third parties, and universities care what those parties think.)

if universities acknowledge it, then the students win the recognition that they have a right to ask these things.

beyond that, suppose a university actually did self-audit and found that it held no investments in need of divestment. that would be a win for students if their demand is sincere.

if a university self-audited and found that it held investments in need of divestment, then it could act accordingly, or not. again, in either case, wins for the students. (and in all these cases, given their aims, wins for students are intended for the benefit of gazans. in contrast, what benefit, and for whom, can the universities claim to have obtained if they deny the students any wins?)

i suppose that running throughout there, there is some thought of garnering explicit support for a ceasefire, etc. it seems commonsensical enough that that demand be paired with one that is materially relevant to the universities, because tradeoffs between them can be used to obtain a result that was not possible by asking for just one in isolation.

doesn’t seem dumb to me.

David Wallace
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

Symbolic value isn’t unworthy, but symbolic value is exactly where universities ought to resist pressure, on institutional-neutrality grounds.

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

Your argument here uses phrases similar to “students’ demands” in a way that implies the “students” have monolithic voice/opinion.

For example, this statement: “students do win something—they make universities look like they are unaccountable to real concerns students and others have”

Of course, we know that there are at least some students who would feel like they’ve lost if the university so much as acknowledges the demands of the students to which you allude. So, first, I’m not convinced that this is a “win-win” for students on the grounds that “students” doesn’t represent a specific stakeholder here.

I think that “student protestors” may be the appropriate group of reference here, but I wanted to make the aforementioned point to emphasize that there are many divided stakeholders, and that painting “students” as a monolith obscures the complexity of the University’s position.

But, more importantly, I’m also not convinced this is a “win-win” for the students protesting. I tend to think this is more likely to benefit their opposition because they are losing social support outside of their demographic base. I tend to think that the cultural/media narratives are far more relevant than splitting hairs with which ETF a University owns.

As such, I have a hard time painting these protests as a “win” in any sense because, as far as I can tell, these protests are not garnering broad cultural support. Instead, they seem to be stealing headlines of Israel’s human rights abuses in favor of headlines about relatively unimportant University ETFs.

Umayr Hassan
Umayr Hassan
Reply to  Platypus
28 days ago

Do universities make financial investments that have only symbolic value and no real consequence? Probably not.

Are high-yielding funds only available to those who implicitly support killing and subjugation? Probably not.

Sure, it’s real money on the line for the universities: why would they give it up willingly? Hence the protest demands. In return, they also risk losing valuable students to other places with fewer investments in war mongering and apartheid.

So, strategically speaking, it may not eventually be such a losing choice.

David Wallace
Reply to  Umayr Hassan
28 days ago

they also risk losing valuable students to other places with fewer investments in war mongering and apartheid.

But the universities we are discussing mostly have very high applicant-to-place ratios, so losing students is just not much of a lever to influence them.

Jo E
Jo E
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

“ But the university itself needs a workplace sexual consent policy; it doesn’t get to dodge the hard question of deciding on that policy by pleading institutional neutrality.”

Everything is an easy or a hard question with you…find a new slant

(That said, I agree with your point, though I don’t think the holdings of massive institutional investors are materially inconsequential)

David Wallace
Reply to  Jo E
1 month ago

In the future I will attempt to focus more on questions of intermediate difficulty.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

That was too easy, you did it again!

(No clue what Jo E is on about.)

Jo E
Jo E
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

Oh I read your name too quickly and thought I was responding to David Chalmers, lol

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Jo E
1 month ago

You won the internet today. Priceless.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Jo E
1 month ago

Well now I’m all about what you’re on about.

TakingLivesSeriously
TakingLivesSeriously
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

I think it’s an easy question that no university should invest in funds that help the Iranian or North Korean governments. That is because they are horrible to their own people. (Iran is pretty horrible to a lot of people in the region, too)

Likewise, for a lot of us, it’s (at least now) an easy question that no university should invest in funds that help the Israeli government. While the Israeli government is pretty nice to (most of) its own people, it has upheld what Israeli human rights groups have called an apartheid system against Palestinians. And in the last seven months, it has massacred ten thousand children. I used to be skeptical of the divestment movement (and I’m still skeptical of the boycott of Israeli universities). But I think it’s ridiculous to think that divestment from Israel is a difficult question at this point.

(I get the sense that you might not disagree. Just thinking out loud!)

TakingLivesSeriously
TakingLivesSeriously
Reply to  TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

Ah just saw your other comments. You think it’s a dumb thing to protest about. I have *very* strong intuitions that we must divest from countries like Iran and North Korea, not because it impacts their economy, but because of its expressive function. Israel is in the same category.

David Wallace
Reply to  TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

I spoke a little quickly, and should probably have used more careful language. Here’s the more developed version.

I don’t think any non-negligible material consequence comes from divestment, given the way the stock market works. Activists who call for divestment often describe their reasons in material terms; I think that’s ill-judged (‘dumb’ was perhaps a bit harsh; apologies).

I agree that there is an expressive consequence of divestment, but – and now we’re back to my original point – I don’t think universities should yield to pressure to make expressive concessions, because of institutional neutrality. (Equally, a university shouldn’t actively choose to invest in company X to signal its support for X’s values.)

Craig Duncan
Craig Duncan
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

David, is your point that if university U sells its stock in defense contractor D, then “given the way the stock market works,” someone else will just buy the now-for-sale stock in D, with the effect that D is materially unaffected?

If that is your point, a couple of thoughts. If enough people/institutions sell stock in D, then the price will go down, yes? And that will have some material effect on D (albeit indirectly), yes?

If the rebuttal to THAT point is, “Sure, but ONE university divesting in D won’t have a measurable material effect on D,” then a follow-up thought: The same could be said about voting in a national election (one vote won’t make the difference), or reducing your carbon emissions (my buying an EV won’t prevent a future flood in Bangladesh). Isn’t the answer to those counsels of apathy to take a more collective perspective? E.g. my single vote doesn’t matter, but together we (We the People) do choose our rulers in our democracy. My emissions reductions have imperceptible effects, but together we (we the environmental movement, or maybe we the American People, or even we the human species) can measurably reduce climate change by decarbonizing.

Aren’t the students taking a similarly collective view? (“We the student movement can through our divestment movement materially affect companies that do business with Israel, and thereby create disincentives for doing such business, in turn creating incentives for Israel to change its course.”)

So while I think you’re right that the divestment movement is largely symbolic, I don’t think participants are forced to think of their efforts as WHOLLY symbolic, any more than I have to think of my vote as wholly symbolic.

The odds of success for the students are low, admittedly. But my point in this comment is not about the likelihood of success. I take you as saying: Even if students at U succeed in getting U to divest, that is a purely symbolic form of success. In response I am saying that like an individual vote, were the students to get U to divest, this would have both a symbolic and non-symbolic effect.

Thoughts?

David Wallace
Reply to  Craig Duncan
29 days ago

I don’t think even a collective selling of shares will harm the company. Ultimately share prices, in the long term, represent the fundamentals of the company’s economic prospects. If you manage to persuade a whole bunch of actors to sell shares in (say) Raytheon all at once, the price will drop a bit, but all that then happens is that other actors notice that the shares are undervalued and buy them up, and that just moves the price back again. I think it’s disanalogous to voting, where individually-negligible acts can add up to major collective effects – even a large number of people acting collectively can’t really depress the stock price.

(Or at least that’s my naive understanding; people who actually know how the stock market works are welcome to correct me.)

Craig Duncan
Craig Duncan
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

Fair point. On reflection, that seems largely right. I suppose the students would have to hope that widespread divestment by universities in this or that firm would inflict enough reputational damage to the firm in question, so that a significant number of investors even over the long term don’t want the potential headaches that might come with holding stock in that firm. But the “potential headaches” are likely slight, and there are probably enough other investors who are motivated purely by the profit motive — enough, that is, to make up for any non-interest by socially conscious would-be investors.

I would guess there is a literature of sorts on this. I may have to take a look. E.g. perhaps someone has been able to show that, say, tobacco company stocks trade at a price slightly lower than their economic fundamentals suggest should be the price, such that we can conclude that the difference in stock price is due to a “social opprobrium penalty” (or some such label). Maybe the experience of boycotts and divestment in companies doing business with South Africa in the 80s and 90s would be another instructive case study, either for or against some real effect on stock prices.

Honestly, though, given the power of the profit motive I’d be surprised to find enduring social opprobrium price drops in these case studies. So as I said at the outset of this comment, you have persuaded me.

Christa Peterson
Christa Peterson
Reply to  Craig Duncan
29 days ago

I would guess there is a literature of sorts on this.

There is a literature and everyone would get more from looking at it than intuiting! Fossil fuel divestment is a more recent case

Craig Duncan
Craig Duncan
Reply to  Christa Peterson
29 days ago

Thanks Christa. Any key sources to recommend? Lessons to draw?

JTD
JTD
Reply to  TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

Problem 1: On a sliding scale from North Korea and Iran to Israel there are many other countries that are either in between North Korea and Israel, or at least equal to Israel in how bad their record is. For example, China, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and so on. To divest from all these countries would be very difficult to pull off and would make the investment portfolio very risky.

Problem 2: The scale from North Korea to whatever you think is the most exemplary country in the world is one of small gradations. Why stop at Israel when there are countries that are only slightly better. Should we divest from most, or all countries in the world given the their morally indefensible actions.

JTD
JTD
Reply to  TakingLivesSeriously
1 month ago

By the way, one thing I am completely baffled by is why the protesters are not demanding divestment from the US. The US government is currently supplying Israel with free weapons with which to pursue the war. If companies that sell military hardware to Israel should be divested from then shouldn’t companies that sell military hardware to the US be divested from? If companies that sell IT services to Israel should be divested from that shouldn’t companies that sell IT services to the US be divested from? It is very self-serving for Americans to conveniently forget their own country’s complicity when it comes to dishing out actions that aim to financially punish the wrongdoers.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

I think the calls for divestment probably look very different from university to university, but I hope students are not advocating something as naive as their university divesting from index funds. In the case of Columbia, I think one of the main issues has been the construction of a Columbia campus in Tel Aviv. My own alma mater, Maryland, has extremely close ties to Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin, those have, for many years, been two of the biggest corporate sponsors of the school. I would suspect any anti-war protest at Maryland’s main goal would be for the school to cut ties with those defense contractors.

David Wallace
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
29 days ago

That certainly would make a lot more sense, and certainly comes under my category of things universities *do*, and can’t avoid making an ethical judgement about just by appealing to institutional neutrality. (Without prejudice as to whether either of these examples are in fact unethical.)

RationallyDense
RationallyDense
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

Universities have large-enough endowments that if they do try to divest, it will be worth it for Wall Street to create investment instruments (ETFs and mutual funds) which follow those divestment policies. This will in turn make divestment easier for others, which will make it easier for say, pension fund participants to demand divestment. It could have a significant impact in combination with other activities.

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
1 month ago

As a student at Columbia, wanted to clarify some things, because there’s been a lot of confusion in the national press about what’s going on here. So some notes about what the situation actually is on campus.

I’ve attached an image with the location of the encampment. As you can see, it’s very easy to avoid. The paths next to it are also clear, and the encampment is under strict guidelines not to engage in harassment (which already existed before they “agreed” to them in negotiations with the university, by the way). It is also worth noting that the lawn is surrounded by hedges and before the encampment it was more often than not closed off (for pesticide treatment/setting up for events/admin just not wanting people on the lawn I guess/etc.). So it was never a thruway.

(All of this was also true of the original encampment, which was on the east lawn.)

The only restrictions of movement on campus are due to security measures put in place by the administration. All the gates to campus have been locked down, and you can only enter if you have an ID.

There are large numbers of Jewish students in the encampment, many wearing kippahs. They’ve held shabbat services & seders.

A lot of people are confusing the demonstration in the encampment with demonstrations outside of Columbia’s gates. While I believe that has been explicitly anti-semitic/pro-Hamas speech coming from outside of Columbia, I have not heard it from the encampment. (In fact, at a rally on Monday one of the arrested students talked about how horrified she was as the descendent of Holocaust & Armenian genocide survivors by the massacre of Jews on Oct 7.)

img_0537
A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  A Columbia Student
1 month ago

With regards to the clearing of the original encampment, it happened a mere day after the encampment was established. President Minouche Shafik made the decision to call in the cops unilaterally and against the recommendations of the University Senate, which is a body that was created in the wake of the 1968. She claims she satisfied the requirement to “consult” with the Senate by notifying them. While she claims the sweep was necessary because the situation was unsafe, the Chief of Patrol of the NYPD stated in a press conference that “the students who were arrested were peaceful, offered no resistance whatsoever, and were saying what they wanted to say in a peaceful matter.”

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  A Columbia Student
1 month ago

Sorry, that was supposed to be “in the wave of the 1968 protests in order to guard against precisely this sort of thing happening again”

(I’m rather distracted right now)

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  A Columbia Student
1 month ago

I am happy to answer any questions. I also want to note that we have very reason to believe that Columbia will authorize another police sweep tonight, if anyone wants to contact Columbia administration.

Also, here is a picture of how things look on campus.

img_4990
Mark Alfano
Reply to  A Columbia Student
1 month ago

Thank you for these insights and also for your courage.

A Columbia Observer
A Columbia Observer
Reply to  A Columbia Student
1 month ago

Here is the video from the Columbia protests that the American public has seen now (“Zionists have entered the camp.”)

Here is a separate monolog by the protest leader seen in the first video.

He is clearly very outspoken. Do you have a sense of how widespread his views are among the other protesters inside the gates?

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  A Columbia Student
29 days ago

There seems to be a lot of evidence that the protests have moved to harassment or antisemitism, noting:

a) https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/23/opinion/columbia-protests-israel.html;
b) at least one student was physically assaulted (https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2023/10/12/general-studies-student-allegedly-assaulted-in-front-of-butler-library-suspect-arrested-and-charged-nypd-says/)
c) https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sjk6lhu11a;
d) https://www.linkedin.com/posts/dov-greenbaum_i-would-say-that-the-following-will-shock-activity-7189514962275352576-tGET
e) https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/21/us/columbia-university-jewish-students-protests/index.html

While I suspect there is a fine line between antisemitism and some of the statements made, I suspect there is also a lot of gray. Given the intensity of the protests, the numerous reports of perceived antisemitism, and that there at minimum have been some calls for violence on campus, I don’t think it is reasonable to argue that this is a few people that are too sensitive. We clearly wouldn’t do that in other cases.

Jo E
Jo E
Reply to  Nameless
29 days ago

It seems like most of the alleged incidents of antisemitism are people saying harsh and uncharitable things about “Zionists”. While I understand why someone might be concerned that “Zionists” is just a dogwhistle for “Jews” here, I don’t think there’s much reason to believe that’s the case. The students are clearly genuinely outraged about the events in Palestine and welcoming of Jews who share their views, as evidenced by the seders in the encampment, the fact that there are dozens of JVP members there too… there may be a lack of empathy for those who still sympathize with the Zionist project, but I don’t think that’s the same as antisemitism.

Jo E
Jo E
Reply to  Jo E
29 days ago

Clearly, criticizing Zionist ideology is not antisemitic, unless you do so on antisemitic grounds (I don’t think that’s the case here – clearly, people are mostly concerned about the mass murder going on). By extension, criticizing those who hold Zionist ideas (“Zionists”) is not inherently antisemitic either. If you start saying REALLY harsh things about them (“I wish Zionists would just die”), does that suddenly shade into antisemitism? I don’t see why it would unless you think that they only hold such strong beliefs because many of the targets are Jews. I don’t think that’s the case; my guess is that they’re just angry and prone to hyperbole.

Keith
Reply to  Jo E
29 days ago

Attacking Zionism — an idea — is different from attacking “Zionists,” an actual, flesh and blood them, meant to refer to actual people, indeed a community of people. Many identifying Zionists do not support the current Israeli government or any of its policies. No such support is presupposed by the label “Zionist”; it simply names a community with a certain attachment to the State and land of Israel. Some Zionists, most famously Israel Bartal, support Israel becoming a binational, bi-religious state. That doesn’t in.the.least.make them not Zionists. One can be a Zionist simply because of what family on was born into, what schools and camps one attended, where one had a bar mitzvah, etc. Historically the Zionist movement consisted of many strands, some of which didn’t even support creating a political state.

Anyway, we don’t hate on or threaten actual people because of one feature of their identity or affiliation. There’s a word for that, even if it isn’t “anti-semitism” per se.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jo E
27 days ago

I agree. Criticizing Zionism as an ideology is not in itself anti-Semitic. That said coarse criticism of Zionism that would be reflected in statements angry hyperbolic statements, in most cases would often reflect anti-Semitism.

Please remember that Zionism isn’t that there should be a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine or that Gaza should be bombed. Rather it is the belief that a Jewish state should exist.

Considering that Jews form a majority of the population between the Jordan and the Mediterranean and would seem to meet all the criteria of a people (shared religion, shared language, shared culture), it is fair to ask how one would protect the rights of the Jews in the region without a Jewish state. That is especially so given that the two states in the region that aren’t Arab/Muslim nation states, are not exactly functioning states that are free of violence. Both Syria and Lebanon have seen vast exoduses and demographic shifts since their founding.

So angrily demanding that Zionists be killed and silenced, is often the same thing as saying that we want to silence anyone advocating for Jewish rights in the region. That would generally be considered to be anti-Semitic.

So while I agree advocating for some sort of bi-national or non-nation state is not in in itself anti-Semitic, I think it clear that an emotionally charged protest could quite easily and quickly deteriorate into anti-Semitism.

So I agree it is possible to criticize Zionism without being anti-Semitic. It is also possible to talk about immigration and the role of Christianity in the U.S. and Europe without being bigoted or racist. The problem is that it is very easy to be misunderstood when discussing all those topics (particularly passionately and in a protest) to espousing or being reasonably understood to have espoused bigoted statements.

Rather than accusing members of your community of acting in bad faith, you should be asking whether what you are doing has inadvertently crossed a line. I think it pretty obviously has.

Craig Burley
Craig Burley
Reply to  Nameless
27 days ago

This is not correct and you certainly know it is not correct. Zionism as the term is used in Israel itself does NOT denote “wanting a Jewish state [of some sort] to exist” and you know perfect well how disingenuous it is to claim the same.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  Craig Burley
27 days ago

Yeah, just to piggy back off this, even if we grant Nameless’s ludicrous assertion that Zionism denotes “wanting a Jewish state [of some sort] to exist,” that ideology would *still* be fundamentally immoral, because around a quarter of the population of non-occupied Israel are non-Jews! The idea of a Jewish state is totally incompatible with the precepts of liberal democracy. It would be akin to the U.S. declaring itself a white Anglo-Saxon protestant state.

David Wallace
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
27 days ago

But the morality or otherwise of Zionism doesn’t seem salient here. You can’t have people being harassed on campus just because other people think they subscribe to an immoral ideology.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  David Wallace
27 days ago

I agree, but the above post presents Zionism as an ideology far less controversial than it, in fact, is. If we accept the premise that Zionism is an unproblematic ideology, then protesting it would seem more like harassment. If I were to, say, start aggressively protesting the Columbia Glee Club for no reason, then that, to me, seems like harassment.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago

To put this differently, I think you are severely mistaken as to what Zionism means and what most people would consider to be Zionist. Most of the Jews I know would identify as Zionist, but support a two state solution and believe that Israel should be “Jewish” in the sense France is French.

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago

“ If we accept the premise that Zionism is an unproblematic ideology, then protesting it would seem more like harassment.”

I don’t think we can have a rule where something only counts as harassment when it’s applied to people whose ideology we find unproblematic. Some groups find Islam or Christianity to be a problematic ideology; that doesn’t license harassment of practicing Muslims or Christians.

Laura
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
27 days ago

I thought Zionism did mean wanting some sort of Jewish state, and that disagreement exists among Zionists about how to make that commitment compatible with democratic ideals. Last I had heard, about 90% of Jewish people in the US are Zionists by this definition, even if they are secular and want a fully secular state, or want a two-state solution with self-determination. This is one reason I’m puzzled and troubled by the blanket verbal attacks on “Zionists” as apologists for genocide, since I thought many Zionists disagreed with the current Israeli government’s actions. I honestly do not know whether or why any of the above is wrong and would appreciate any reasonably unbiased information.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  Laura
27 days ago

Zionism is pretty obviously incompatible with democracy just as, say, white nationalism is incompatible with democracy. You cannot say you want a Jewish state or a white state, and simultaneously treat all citizens as equals before the law. (This is why so many white nationalists are fans of Israel.) In Israel, Zionists are starting to realize this, which is why labour Zionism and other left-wing Zionist traditions are practically extinct in the 21st century after dominating early Israeli politics.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago

France is a French State, but treats all nationals as equals before the law.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

Is that the argument? lol. You’re born a Jew or an Arab. It’s not a choice. You can simply decide to immigrate to France and become French by becoming a citizen and learning the language. You don’t become a Jew by moving to Israel and learning Hebrew! These two things are not similar at all.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago
  1. I think your view as to what constitutes a Jew is too narrow and doesn’t actually reflect modern practice and certainly what is going on in Israel. My son was not born a Jew (in the religious sense), but he’d certainly be Jewish culturally. A lot of the Russians in Israel would not be “Jewish” in the sense you are using.
  2. I also think your argument as to what it is to be French doesn’t fully reflect the complexity of that issue either. Most people wouldn’t agree that simply learning French and moving to France makes you French. Most states in the EU are currently having discussions on what it means to be French or Polish or German. And I doubt most French would agree that simply moving to France and learning French makes you French. I doubt a Japanese person would say that moving to Japan and learning Japanese makes you Japanese.
  3. There is certainly an issue with the Palestinians living there before the state became Jewish, but there are also issues in Canada and the US of First Nations living in Canada and the US.
  4. The argument would be that a two-state solution is based on two-states: One Palestinian and one Jewish. If you are a Palestinian Arab, you can live in a Jewish state as a minority or a Palestinian state as a majority. You can live in Israel and become culturally Jewish by learning Hebrew and Israeli customs. The idea would be that you are culturally Jewish or a protected minority. You do not move to France and automatically become of French descent, and Israel is far from the only nation state with a substantial minority. I suspect most people would envision a two-state solution as eventually involving some ability of both sides to live in some form of economic confederation like the EU.
  5. A majority of the Jews in Israel would actually be considered to be at least quasi-Arab by descent. A majority are not Ashkenazi.
Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

To put this slightly differently, most people experience Jewish culture in a minority context. One doesn’t become Jewish in the United Kingdom in the same way one wouldn’t become French in the United Kingdom. There is no reason to think that this would continue to apply in a Jewish majority context. While I appreciate the question is why can’t you just say “Israeli”, and the answer to that is that is what is meant. The dominant culture of Israel is Jewish.

Just as a note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion.

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

Define being “of French descent”. Naturalization is a thing, whether in France or elsewhere. One of the pathways is being born in France to foreign parents, which automatically grants you French citizenship as soon as you turn 18. I guess you have a conception of real Frenchness working in the background, which many French nationalists have, but it requires elucidation. Again, define what it really means to be French.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
26 days ago

I think the issue is why can you have a French state but not a Jewish state? My point is just that there is no prima facie reason to assume that you can’t also have a similar concept of Judaism (or Israeli Judaism). I’m not saying that I have a definition, but national identity is a murky concept.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago

See comments below. Whether you like or dislike the argument, arguments you disagree with are not usually met with demands for exclusion. And possibly to the chagrin of philosophy TAs, belief in bad arguments don’t typically justify threats of homicide.

I think you’re missing a lot of nuance in the arguments being made as it is a lot less clear when someone becomes Japanese and what culture may entail.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

Sorry not chagrin, but perhaps disappointment.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago

The vast majority of Europe is comprised of nation states, but almost all of those countries would be identified as democratic. A lot of people would identify as culturally Jewish. At some point France was almost entirely Catholic and white. Why can France be a French state, but Israel can’t be a Jewish state?

Louis
Louis
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
24 days ago

Jonathan Kendrick:

First, you are factually incorrect about the way that the term ‘zionism’ is used. A zionist, in the broad sense, is simply someone who believes that the jews should have a jewish state in the land of Israel.

This is compatible with the co-existence of a Palestinian state in the same land. The vast majority of jews are zionist in this sense and identify themselves as ‘zionists’ or ‘zionistic’.

Of course, there are jews that don’t identify using the term ‘zionist’ but the vast majority do. You can insist on a more narrow definition of the term ‘zionist’ but why would you use a term that so many jews use to define a core part of their identity when you mean something very specific?

Second, it is not obvious that zionism is incompatible with democracy although there is certainly a tension. But even if it’s incompatible, there is a good case to be made for it.

It is perfectly reasonable for jews to believe that after two thousand plus years of persecution culminating in the holocaust, it is an absolute moral imperative that there exists a jewish state where jews can flee from persecution.

IF the existence of a jewish state is incompatible with democracy, then we should live with that incompatibility until we’re convinced that the world is more-or-less free from antisemitism.

However, anyone who is jewish has become acutely aware in recent months (often from their own person experience) that there is still a deep undercurrent of antisemitism even in western countries.

Jonathan Kendrick
Reply to  Laura
26 days ago

Also, a quick comment about the 90% statistic, because it keeps getting bandied around and it bothers me. I think this almost entirely depends on how you phrase the question. Anecdotally, from talking to the Jewish side of my family and Jewish friends, those that aren’t anti-Zionists, like me, can’t neatly be classified as Zionists: I would say they have a negative opinion of Netanyahu, but largely have no opinion on the question of whether or not there should be a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jonathan Kendrick
26 days ago
  1. Zionism is simply the support for a Jewish state. Yesh Atid and Labour are both Zionist parties and support a culturally Jewish state with equal rights.
  2. Israel is a nation state and criticism of Israel along with other nation states is certainly not anti-Semitic. The issue is that the vast majority of Europe is comprised of nation states. England, for example, literally translates to the Land of the Angles (i.e. Anglo Saxons) and the Church of England enjoys special status there. Here is a list of countries with state religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion. A majority (if not all) European states are nation states. The vast majority of Israel’s neighbours also claim some sort of nation state like identity. The constitutions of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all explicitly state they are Arab and Muslim states (Egypt has a significant (about 10%) Copt – non-arab, non-muslim, minority). Singling out Israel for special treatment when there are literally hundreds of other nation states, has been suggested to be a fairly good indicia of anti-Semitism.
  3. Just as a note the majority of Jews in Israel are Sephardic/ and not European
Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Craig Burley
26 days ago

Craig, That is exactly what Zionism means in both Israel and the United States. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism and https://www.vox.com/2018/11/20/18080010/zionism-israel-palestine. Nearly every major Israeli political party is Zionist, including Labour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Labor_Party) and Yesh Atid, both of which support a two state solution. It is notable that both those parties want a Jewish State and a Palestinian state. Both those parties also advocate for a secular and democratic state. That is also how the word “Zionism” is used in the United States.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Craig Burley
26 days ago

Take this as just a layperson’s view, but I think of Zionism as first and foremost meaning that there should be a Jewish homeland in what was roughly the location of the Jewish nation in ancient times. Consulting encyclopedias and dictionaries online offers support for this view.

Having this understanding of Zionism, it’s been jarring to hear students (including my own college-age child) speak casually of opposing “the Zionists.”

Listening to their rhetoric suggests to me that Zionism is being defined by protestors as a belief in ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. So defined, Zionism is right opposed! But this seems to me to be a redefinition of the term, and a dangerous one at that, given the more standard “Jewish homeland” definition. Given that, opposing Zionism can easily be understood to mean opposing the existence of a Jewish homeland. That in turn could mean one or more of several things:

(a) Kill all Jewish Israelis.
(b) Expel all Jews from Israel.
(c) Disestablish Judaism in Israel and turn Israel into a single wholly secular democratic state that includes all of Israel and the occupied territories (Gaza, West Bank)

Options (a) and (b) are genocide and ethnic cleansing, respectively. As such, they are morally appalling, and insisting on either is a political non-starter that will just set back any hope for durable peace in the region. (It shouldn’t need saying, but I will say it any case: I oppose any genocide and ethnic cleansing, regardless of whether Palestinians or Jews are the targets.)

Unfortunately, I think (a) and (b) are the most natural interpretations of opposing “Zionism” in the “Jewish Homeland” sense. That’s what alarms me about the students’ casual usage of this term.

But what about option (c)? Isn’t calling for THAT a morally non-appalling act, a far cry from calling for genocide or ethnic cleansing of Jews in Israel?

In the abstract, I’m inclined to say Yes. In the abstract, a single state solution in which Jews and Palestinians live together in peace on a footing of mutual respect and equality would be ideal.

But from a realistic point of view (rather than an abstract point of view), even option (c) is a political non-starter, and insisting on (c) will set back any hope for durable peace in the region. Why? A main reason is that, demographically, Jews are apparently now a minority in Israel + the Occupied Terrotories: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220831-israel-jews-now-minority-in-state-and-occupied-territories-says-demographer/

In light of that, I’m inclined to think it reasonable of Israeli Jews to be wary of agreeing to make themselves numerically a minority in a new political arrangement, given the fraught Jewish-Palestinian. (What gives me pause in this normative assessment is that much the same worry would have construed it reasonable for SA Whites to oppose dismantling apartheid. I’ve got some more pondering to do on this score.)

And whether or not it’d be reasonable for Israeli Jews to be wary, I’m certain that such an arrangement would be rejected out of hand by the Jewish voting public. So if students’ “anti-Zionism” means they support option (c), then I see it as not very constructive. Still, neither do I see calling for (c) as anti-Semitic per se. It’s the most charitable interpretation of students’ opposition to “Zionism.”

But to repeat, given that “anti-Zionism” could easily mean supporting (a) or (b), not just (c), the causal use of “Zionism” by student protestors strikes me as more than just “not very constructive.” I think the student usage is reasonably viewed as alarming by Jewish students and others.

What would be nice is a term that clearly refers to those who support Israel’s war in Gaza and its apartheid-like policies before that and its support for land-grabs and settlers in the West Bank. Maybe “Likudites”? “Netanyahu-ists”? Something else?

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

*given the fraught Jewish-Palestinian relations.

(Typo fix in my post above)

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

Why should the fact that Israeli Jews feel wary of the secular one-state solution count against it? I am pretty sure many White south Africans felt wary of ending apartheid because their living standard would inevitably take a hit due to losing their colonial privilige. Indeed, this has led to almost 800000 White South Africans emigrating from the country between 1995 and 2016. I assume no one here would take this to be an argument against dismantling apartheid. The same applies in Palestine. Westerners need to start creating narratives that center the Palestinians instead of always treating them as secondary in the Jewish Israeli narrative. Apartheid would still be here if Black South Africans’ basic human rights were not prioritized over fears of a ‘living standard change/drop’ for the White minority.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
26 days ago

Because Israelis, unlike South Africans, form a majority; the Israelis have a right to national self-determination under international law; and it is wholly unclear that the two groups could live in one state without some form of ethnic cleansing or violence – Syria and Lebanon are the two states in the area that are not nation states, and both have been pushed into repeated civil wars and ethnic cleansing. Further, given that both sides have significant groups that are highly religious, it is unclear that a secular state is wholly viable. Turkey for example had been secular until very recently, and there have been significant issues in India in this respect as well.

It isn’t about living standards. It is about what is the best way to achieve a lasting peace between two groups of people where they can best exercise their rights.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

As the comment above shows, Palestinians actually form the ‘majority’ of people from the River to to the sea or would be in a few years and that is not counting the Palestinian refugees in the diaspora. You point out to countries with ethnic tensions and propose that only nation states can avoid them which of course in your lingo (as can be seen in other comments) means a nearly-homogeneous ethno- state. Where does the right of national determination of all Palestinians (including those in the diaspora) figure in all of this? Again, any narrative that doesn’t center on the Palestinians is doomed to fail.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
26 days ago
  1. They don’t. They’re slightly under 51% unless you count people currently residing in Lebanon and Jordan.
  2. Most of Europe underwent an extremely unstable period that eventually resulted in nearly the entire continent being divided into national states.
  3. A two-state solution entails national self-determination of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, so I’m not sure why you think they would be denied this right. A very large portion of the Israeli voting population has and continues to vote in favour of a Palestinian state.
  4. The real issue is whether both sides could have national self-determination within a single unitary state, and to be blunt, at present that looks impossible. At present it looks like a single-state is asking for civil war. Noting that a secular state appears to be impossible because both sides (especially the Palestinian side) are not secular.
Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

Ok. 51% is a majority and again that’s not counting the Palestinian diaspora. The Palestinian diaspora has as much as a right to national determination as those in the West Bank and Gaza. Actually, there is already a one state on the ground, only that it is an apartheid one. The two state solution is already dead. Israel killed it with land grabs and settlements. Again, if a democratic one state results in Israeli Jews losing colonial priviliges like what happened with South African Whites then this should not count against prioritizing the national determination right of ALL Palestinians. Nothing will convince Palestinians to let go of this right. Not even a genocide.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Yazan Freij
26 days ago

My suspicion is that we’ll see a Palestinian state and a Jewish state pretty soon after this conflict is over. The immediate reason for the conflict was that Arab states were normalizing relations with Israel. There is going to be a big push to do this after the war ends. I don’t think the world is going to tolerate either of these parties’ maximalist aims.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Yazan Freij
26 days ago

Yazan, to quote from the post of mine that you criticize:

 “I’m inclined to think it reasonable of Israeli Jews to be wary of agreeing to make themselves numerically a minority in a new political arrangement, given the fraught Jewish-Palestinian. (What gives me pause in this normative assessment is that much the same worry would have construed it reasonable for SA Whites to oppose dismantling apartheid. I’ve got some more pondering to do on this score.)”

So I did indeed consider the very analogy you make, and I deemed it worthy of further consideration.

For what it is worth, my gut (and very non-expert) take is that there are relevant differences which make the Israeli-Palestine case more complicated. As far as I know the African National Congress was not explicitly committed to the destruction or expulsion of White Afrikaners. Nor had any neighboring and hostile African countries committed themselves to this goal. Nor was there any real counterpart of October 7. By contrast, Hamas was until recently — and perhaps still is — explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel. And, of course, Hamas perpetrated October 7 and its atrocities. I think this makes the social trust required for a viable one-state solution all the more difficult to achieve than in the South African case.

(My qualifier “perhaps still is” in the previous paragraph is meant to refer to the debate over what exactly the 2017 changes to the Hamas Charter signify. That there is debate over these changes suggests it’s not crystal clear that Hamas has abandoned its goal of Israel’s destruction.)

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

First, my apologies. I just saw after I posted that you indeed made the analogy with South Africa. Now, I think that while there are indeed differences between South Africa and Palestine, there are good reasons to make the analogy :

1) The destruction of Israel should be compared with the dismantling of Apartheid and not with the killing of White South Africans. No Palestinian major group has ever called for a complete ethnic cleansing of Jews. Even Hamas in its infamous old charter with its anti-Jewish religious war cries had an explicit end goal of one state where all three religions can ‘co-exist’ under ‘Islamic sovereignty’. Of course, the PLO prior to Oslo had always pushed for a secular state with equal rights for all. So I don’t think it is accurate to conflate the destruction of Israel with the ethnic cleansing of Jews.

2) The ANC as well as other more radical groups like the PAC and it’s armed wing the APLA have repeatedly targeted civilians. In fact, the ABC killed 130 people between 1976 and 1986 a hundred of whom were civilians (40 of them black). It is true that no attack was on the scale of 7 Oct where around 600 civilians were killed in one day, but then neither was the apartheid regime rate of killing Black South Africans anything near the scale of Israel killing the Palestinians. In other words, the entire conflict in South Africa was on a ‘lower scale’ of bloodiness.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Yazan Freij
26 days ago

Thank you for the reply, Yazan. One thought:

You write, In other words, the entire conflict in South Africa was on a ‘lower scale’ of bloodiness.”

Indeed so. A corollary of this, however, is that the entire conflict in Israel is on a “higher scale” of bloodiness.

Given that, and sad to say, I’m just pessimistic that the social trust now exists for a viable single state solution. I agree that that is the ideal solution. It’s lovely to imagine Palestinians and Jews living together in a not-friction-free-but-still-peaceful way as (say) the Walloons and Flemish live together now in Belgium. But I just don’t see it as a realistic possibility for the foreseeable future.

So we are in a “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good” situation, and a two-state solution is “the good” here.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

An addendum to explicitly say that I favor a two-state solution and the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I’m not sure what the best form of the two-state solution is, and I admit the non-contiguity of Gaza and the West Bank are a big issue. So, it’s hard to imagine. But for now I see it as the best hope.

Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

By contrast, Hamas was until recently — and perhaps still is — explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel. And, of course, Hamas perpetrated October 7 and its atrocities. I think this makes the social trust required for a viable one-state solution all the more difficult to achieve than in the South African case.”

This is not the position of Hamas or any of the other Palestinian armed resistance groups. See their 2017 charter for starters. Or, the recent overtures (as early as in the days after Oct 7 which called for an all-for-all hostage swap and ceasefire, by the way) which also iterate their position of an extended ceasefire and a willingness to accept the 1967 borders: https://apnews.com/article/hamas-khalil-alhayya-qatar-ceasefire-1967-borders-4912532b11a9cec29464eab234045438

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Phineas
26 days ago

I don’t mean this as a “gotcha question,” but rather as something I’d genuinely like to understand better. In the 2017 charter, right before Hamas mentions their willingness re: 1967 borders, they say:

“19. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, judaisation or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.

20. Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

This doesn’t explicitly call for the destruction of Israel. But I could understand someone who thinks that the call is implied, or at least that the existence of Israel as a state is incompatible with meeting these demands. Is that a misreading of the charter? And if so, what exactly is meant here—how can Hamas not want the destruction of Israel while also fighting for aims which include “no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity,” etc.?

Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Meme
26 days ago

Any formal “recognition of Israel” by Hamas is not forthcoming any time soon. Nor is it going to come from any popular Palestinian political entity. This a political non-starter with their own population but it does not mean forever war.

I would read those aspects of the Charter with that in mind because Hamas’ leaders have at the same time openly been willing to neogitate *long term* truces. Formal recognition is off the table but a “hudna” or ceasefire which implicitly recognizes Israel was offered by Hamas multiple times. Both in 2004 and 2008 Israel rejected it – this was a 10-year long truce along the 1967 borders which are recognized internationally and the ceasing of settlement building.

I think too many people get caught up on formal recognition which is counterproductive – the Palestinians are at the end of the day rational political actors we can engage with. The very fact that they offer and continue to offer truces and talks with Israel goes some ways towards their “recognizing Israel’s right to exist” all without saying it.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
25 days ago

Isn’t another way of saying this that Hamas won’t agree to a peace treaty with Israel? I get that you are saying they may make a truce, but every other country in the world makes peace (including potentially Saudi Arabia). Considering the animus behind this does in part appear to be motivated by we can’t destroy you, and under those circumstances, we’ll make peace until we can, I can see why a country wouldn’t except that.

That’s also leaving aside the issue of whether a peace would entail the return of the descendants of refugees, which would significantly change the demographic balance of Israel.

I don’t think anyone is saying the Palestinians aren’t rational actors. The issues is that the Hamas is a hard line organization which does want the whole of the land.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Phineas
25 days ago

Thanks, that’s helpful. So, is the idea that Hamas does not seek the destruction of Israel *in the sense that* they are open to long-term truces, although they *are* explicitly committed to the non-recognition (which perhaps is not the destruction) of Israel as a state in the *longer* term? I can see the distinction there. At the same time, it still kinda seems like it could reasonably be construed as calling for the destruction of Israel, even granting that they want long-term truces. In which case, I’m not sure how the original poster (who claimed they want destruction) has been addressed.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
26 days ago

This isn’t accurate. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are both expressly stated to be dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The 2017 Charter did not renounce the previous Charter, and if you read the 2017 Charter it doesn’t allow for a Jewish state.

I’d note the following from the article:

  1. They offer a truce in the article (not a permanent peace deal);
  2. The article explicitly notes that Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago
  1. A truce that can be renegotiated and extended. A 10-year truce was offered in 2004 and 2008. See my comment above on why a “permanent peace deal” is not possible in theory – but practically can be if we take these truces seriously.
  2. Yes, Israel as a Zionist ethnostate which continues to expel Palestinians is something Palestinians want to destroy.
Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
25 days ago

See comments above.

Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

> “Maybe “Likudites”? “Netanyahu-ists”? Something else?”

I think the issue is that these are policies entrenched in Israel’s laws, constitution, and very essence. Those apartheid-like policies *are* Israel. Ergo, philosophers shouldn’t shy away from saying Israel does not have a right to exist.

This need not entail genocide, just as opposing SA apartheid did not entail genocide. States typically have no right to exist, why should they?

I think a far more constructive way to go about it is ask what the anti-Zionists have in mind. Barring some fringe voices, they do *not* advocate a) or b) as you layed out. Why think c) is being extremely charitable? It is what they constantly say, including the Palestinian resistance to Zionism.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
26 days ago

Here is a list of states with a state religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion

Here is a list of states that allow for a right of return: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_return#:~:text=The%20right%20to%20return%20is,to%20return%20to%20his%20country.

You can also look at the following states with a nationality law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationality_law

These aren’t all the laws that may favour Jews, but they are some of the most cited. And they are often wrongly stated to be unique to Israel.

The bigger issues with a one-state solution are: (a) it is unclear that the two populations won’t kill each other; (b) almost every multi-ethnic state in the region has failed; and (c) it is highly unlikely that the Israelis or the Palestinians are going to settle for an actual sharing of power without a civil war.

I think everyone would like to see some sort of stable political entity in the region, but at the moment the obvious answer appears to be a two-state solution.

Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Nameless
26 days ago

I’m not going to debate the one state or two state solution here. There’s 50 years of debates on this and we can’t do any better on a blog.

I’m not sure I understand your point about other states in the region – ethnostates in the region have also failed! This isn’t an essential aspect of ethnostates or multi-ethnic states. It’s about making peace happen with concessions from both sides, not by absolutist demands like “recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and forego all your demands and maybe we’ll allow a state for you” (mind you, this has been thwarted by the Israelis more than any other actor).

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
25 days ago

My point is that every state that isn’t a national state has failed in the region. It is dubious whether a non-national state in the region could function given the outside influences and crazy religious sentiments. Further, given that both sides have extremely religious populations, it is doubtful that a secular state would work.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Phineas
26 days ago

Phineas wrote, “ I think the issue is that these are policies entrenched in Israel’s laws, constitution, and very essence. Those apartheid-like policies *are* Israel. Ergo, philosophers shouldn’t shy away from saying Israel does not have a right to exist.”

Oh please. I’m not one to carry water for Israel, but that is an extremely jaundiced view of the nature of Israel. I would wager more than a million Israeli Jews — at least — would disagree strongly disagree with this characterization.

Phineas
Phineas
Reply to  Cee
26 days ago

They are free to disagree with it. You can decide for yourself if every respectable Human Rights Org calling it an apartheid state is wrong or not.

Law of return (1950) and Citizenship Law (1952) allow Jews from anywhere in the world to immigrate freely to Israel and to gain citizenship, but they exclude Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes in 1947-1952 and 1967.

Citizenship and Entry into Israel law (2003): denies the right to acquire Israeli residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the occupied territories, even if they are married to citizens of Israel. Does not apply to Israeli settlers living in the West Bank.

Absentees Property Law (1950): All property belonging to absentees became “absentee property” and could be expropriated by the state without compensation. Includes Palestinians who were still in Israel but had to temporarily leave their homes due to war – tough luck! 40-60% of Israel’s Palestinian citizens had their land expropriated.

Admission Commitees: operate in 700 agricultural and community towns inside Israel. Their purpose is to filter out Palestinian citizens of Israel who apply for residency in these towns on the basis of their “social unsuitability”.

Israel Jewish Nation State Law (2018): declares the exercise of national self-determination to be a right enjoyed by Jewish citizens only. Also commits to expanding Jewish settlement as “a national value”. 

This is the tip of the iceberg, you’re free to see more here: https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771

And this is not Netanyahu or Likud only. It is something integral to the Israeli state from its inception.

Cee
Cee
Reply to  Phineas
26 days ago

Thanks for this list, Phineas.

I’m willing to agree that the idea of “a Jewish homeland” — i.e. the core idea of Zionism — entails some type of ethno-state with differentiated citizenship. And I’m certainly uneasy with that, to put it mildly. (Indeed, apart from the historical experience of the Holocaust, I don’t think I would have any sympathy for it.)

However, does differentiated citizenship *necessarily* entail “apartheid state”? I am doubtful of this.

I’m willing to agree that Israel *in its current form* is an apartheid state, and I would turn cartwheels of joy to see Bibi charged and the custody of the International Criminal Court. (Not that that is going to happen, but still, a boy can dream.)

The question before us, though, is whether all forms of Zionism necessarily entail an apartheid state.

I can see the logic that might lead to such a conclusion:

differentiated citizenship –> unequal citizenship –> second class citizenship –> apartheid.

However, that logic is a bit “all or nothing” for my liking. E.g. until shockingly recently in Germany, children of Turkish guest-workers who were born and raised in Germany their whole lives were denied German citizenship. That was an injustice in my view. Did it make Germany an “apartheid state”? That seems a hyperbolic label.

Let me be clear: I agree that Israel’s nationality laws have a lot more bite than Germany’s former laws. My point is only that differentiated citizenship exists on a spectrum, with apartheid near one end. At the other end is non-apartheid injustice.

Indeed, maybe some possible forms of differentiated citizenship are so innocuous as to not even qualify as injustice, in which case the other end of the spectrum might be called “difference without injustice.” I’m not sure, personally. I don’t know enough about what forms differentiated citizenship takes around the world to be able to assess that.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I still do not believe that “I want a Jewish homeland” *must* equate to “I want an apartheid state.”

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Phineas
25 days ago
  1. By definition, “self-determination, [is] the process by which a group of people, usually possessing a certain degree of national consciousness, form their own state and choose their own government.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/self-determination It would be definition typically only be enjoyed by one group in a state. While controversial the Israeli High Court has arguably gutted the Israel Jewish Nation State Law. A huge number of countries, including many European ones, define themselves as nation states constitutionally.
  2. Many countries offer a similar law to Israel’s right of return. A list can be found here: This is a list of countries with similar laws: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationality_law. Greece, for example, offers a priority right of citizenship to persons of Greek ancestry.
  3. A huge number of people were displaced globally in 1948. Almost all of them have been legally prohibited from returning home. India, for example, provides broad return rights but excludes millions of people displaced in 1948. I doubt any of them received compensation. A good chunk of Poland use to be Germany, and there has been no right of return of the Germans displaced or, as far as I know, payment for property.
  4. There are some problems with housing, which is related to huge chunks of Israel being owned by the Jewish National Fund. Prior to becoming about planting trees, the Jewish National Fund is a charity which was founded to promote Jewish Settlement at a time Jews were being massacred in Europe. It has created some awkward issues with how to address some legacy issues with land use.
  5. Basically, it is unclear why these issues are unique to a Jewish national state as opposed to any other national state.
Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Nameless
25 days ago

A couple thoughts.

  1. As a general matter, the claim that group X has a right of self-determination to “their own” state does not entail that group X has a right to “their own” state wherever they please–still less that they have a right to “their own” state where members of group Y currently comprise a majority. All too often in these discussions, people move from the attractive premise that Jewish people had a right of self-determination to “their own” state after World War II to the much stronger conclusion that they had a right to “their own” state in what was then Palestine. But that simply doesn’t follow.
  2. Being Greek, German, French, or Polish are not religious identities. Being Jewish is (at least in large part) a religious identity. This seems like a relevant difference between the cases.
  3. In addition to the laws Phineas mentioned, there’s obviously a panoply of quasi-legal or extra-legal practices and policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which justify the allegation of apartheid. You can read about them at Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, B’Tselem, and other organizations. With the exception of India–not exactly a flattering comparator–there’s simply nothing comparable in any of the other countries you mention. Again, this seems like a relevant difference. Pointing out that difference doesn’t mean anyone’s “picking on” Israel.
  4. Whether Zionism “entails” apartheid or whether apartheid is a contingent consequence of Zionism might not be the right question. What is clear is that if you want to set up a state FOR group X, in territory currently majority-occupied by group Y, in practice you’re going to have a trilemma:
  5. Unequal citizenship: keep the Y’s, but make them second-class citizens
  6. Expulsion: kick out the Y’s
  7. Extermination: kill the Y’s
  8. That is, if you don’t do (a), (b), or (c), then unless voluntary immigration of X’s and/or voluntary emigration of Y’s organically changes the demographic balance, you’re not going to be able to have a state FOR group X in that territory. Since in this context neither voluntary immigration of Jewish people nor voluntary emigration of Palestinian people has been nearly sufficient to create a durable Jewish supermajority in the territory between the river and the sea, the only options compatible with realizing the Zionist vision have been some combination of unequal citizenship, expulsion, or extermination. And indeed, that’s what we’ve seen.
  9. Given these facts, although it may be too strong to say that Zionism “entails” apartheid or any other crimes, what we can say is this: Zionism inherently contains *at least the possibility* of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and (yes) genocide. In that respect, Zionism is no different from any other ethno-statist project implemented on land already majority-populated by other people.
Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Daniel
25 days ago

Daniel,

I’ve responded to your points in order:

  1. I would tend to agree that it isn’t obvious that Palestine ought to become a Jewish state. That said there are about 6,000,000 Jews living there now, the Jews weren’t offered anywhere else, and of the 6,000,000 Jews currently in Israel, the vast majority were born there and have no where else to go.
  2. While Judaism can be a religious identity, it isn’t always. There are many people of Jewish descent who are not religiously Jewish, and historically Zionism was almost exclusively a secular movement referring to the “Jewish people” not the Jewish religion. I would agree that if Israel were to become a theocracy this would be distinction, but I think a lot of Zionists are not calling for a religious state or referring to Jews as a religion. France was predominately Catholic at one point, but that doesn’t stop it form being a secular nation today.
  3. I appreciate that there are other laws and practices where it is obvious that Israel needs to improve. It isn’t a paradise. That said, it is in the middle of an ongoing brutal dispute with its neighbor as to whether it gets to continue to exist. Apart from the occupation, it is actually a lot closer to other nation states and would have a high degree of tolerance for the region – where religious and ethnic tolerance is notoriously low.
  4. Your assuming there is no two-state solution. Jews are currently a super-majority in the pre-1967 borders. Some demographic studies have suggested that super-majority will decrease until about 2035 at which point, Jews will be a larger and larger majority in that area – it is actually likely that part of Hamas’ concern is that with demographic changes, Jews would form a majority in Israel and the West Bank. There is no reason to think expulsion, extermination, or oppression are necessary to maintain a majority in Israel. If you are referring to the need to maintain control over the whole of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, then yes, that is a problem. I’m not sure why you are excluding that arrangement as it is the one that was endorsed by the UN in 1948 and has largely been the pre-text for any settlement since.
  5. As per 4, there is no reason to believe that Zionism requires any of those things. In terms of the range of Zionist beliefs: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/apr/29/zionism-jews-palestinians
Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Nameless
24 days ago

Just a couple quick reactions re: (3)-(5).

Re: (3), it is an understatement to say that Israel’s regime in the occupied territories “isn’t a paradise” and is something which “Israel needs to improve.” Again, the leading international and Israeli human rights organizations have reached a consensus that the occupation constitutes an apartheid regime. That is not exactly a conclusion they would have reached lightly.

A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution | HRW
Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians – Amnesty International
Apartheid | B’Tselem (btselem.org)

Re: (4) and (5), I don’t think these observations are responsive to the point that Zionism inherently contains the potential for ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and genocide. Even if a happy demographic coincidence obviated the need for these measures, it would still be true that absent such a coincidence, some combination of oppression, expulsion, or mass killing would be necessary to maintain a Jewish supremacist state in the territory between the river and the sea. That is the sense in which these measures are inherent to the logic of Zionism. Likewise, the fact that opinion polling of self-identified Zionists does not reveal widespread explicit support for apartheid, ethnic cleansing, or genocide would not show that Zionism as a political project isn’t inherently, implicitly committed to these measures as potentially valid solutions to the “Palestinian question.”

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Daniel
24 days ago
  1. Intention on point 3 was not the Occupied Territories but pre-67 Israel. Obviously the occupation needs to end, and a two state solution implemented. A lot of people who are Zionists would say that.
  2. Your argument was that Zionism, which is defined as supporting a Jewish state. Your argument is that Zionism necessitates oppression, expulsion, or mass killing because a Jewish state cannot be maintained without that. However, that isn’t a necessary implication because it is possible to have a Jewish state in pre-’67 Israel without oppression, expulsion, or mass killings. If you look up demographic projections for Israel, an increasing Jewish majority in pre-’67 Israel is what is anticipated after about 2035. Hence, it is possible to have a Jewish majority state.
Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nameless
24 days ago

Basically, even if Zionism was Jewish supremacism, which it isn’t.

If the argument is that Zionism could result in oppression, expulsion, or mass killing, that doesn’t mean that Zionism, then yes, I suppose it could. But many things “could” result in oppression, expulsion, or mass killing. A group of people could say that under no circumstances will they stop torturing baby bunnies, and someone who was adamantly against torturing baby bunnies could elect to oppress, expel, and kill those people on mass. That doesn’t mean opposing killing baby bunnies is an evil ideology.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nameless
24 days ago

Sorry, first sentence should be “Basically, even if Zionism was Jewish supremacism, which it isn’t, to establish what you’re arguing, you’d need to establish that Zionism had to entail mass murder, etc. That obviously isn’t true for the reasons I said above.”

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Jo E
27 days ago

Anti-Semitism, like other bigotry, usually doesn’t emerge from an intention to be bigoted. Most racists don’t know that they are racists, and the vast majority of bigoted remarks are made by people with no intention of being bigoted. Harassment doesn’t require a guilty mind, and the vast majority of bigoted statements are made out of ignorance.

While criticism of Zionism is not itself racist, there are many people who are inadvertently being anti-Semitic when they think they are being anti-Zionist.

The Jerusalem Declaration on anti-Semitism, for example, provides the following as examples of anti-Semitic conduct:

  1. Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).
  2. Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.

Please note this is a response to the  IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, and a lot of people have suggested the definition doesn’t actually cover enough.

So the outright exclusion of Zionists could very well be anti-Semitic depending on the basis that is being done, as can the saying of harsh or uncharitable things about Zionists.

If you are saying the Jews in Israel should return to Poland, that is anti-Semitic. Saying Jews shouldn’t have a state but you are okay with the Palestinians having one would also likely be anti-Semitic.

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  Nameless
29 days ago

So this is probably going to sound like I’m refusing to acknowledge any concerns, but the fact is the articles you shared are, by and large, examples of exactly the sort of misleading media coverage I was talking about:

a) As Jo E notes below, we need to distinguish between anti-Zionist and anti-semitic chants, which McWhorter does not.

b) This article is from October, so is not related to the current situation.

c) I have heard “We don’t want no Zionists here”. Prior to the establishment of the encampment I had heard “there is only one solution, Intifada revolution”, though I do not believe I have heard it used since the encampments were established. I have never personally heard the other three chants on campus at all. (Also I would be extremely surprised if anyone has chanted “From the water to the water, Palestine is Arab”, simply because that does not work as a chant.)

d) I recently learned about this and am concerned, however it is very much out of line with anything else I have heard from or seen in the encampment.

e) As far as I can tell, except for a description of one incident there is no factual evidence in that article that Jews are unsafe on campus (unless, as Jon Ben-Menachem notes, they are Jews in the encampment who up until yesterday assumed there would be another police sweep), though they may be unsafe outside of campus.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  A Columbia Student
27 days ago

I suspect you agree that at least some of the rhetoric immediately off-campus is anti-Semitic? If so, shouldn’t that in and of itself be cause for alarm by the Jewish students and the University? Assuming this hasn’t spread to campus, which is highly doubtful and does not accord with what I’ve heard, you still have an ongoing protests around the university that have left Jewish students feeling unwelcome and unsafe. If the KKK shows up to support someone saying affirmative action is unfair, would you say that the anti-affirmative action protest should continue?

That’s leaving aside whether saying Zionists should be banned from campus is enough to create an unsafe or harassing environment, which it likely has – especially given the Khymani James incident.

To be blunt, you have a large number of people saying Jewish students don’t and shouldn’t feel safe. Your writing it off to either bad faith or not understanding their own safety is kind of begging the question of why you are so callous about their safety concerns.

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  Nameless
29 days ago

Also one thing I can say unequivocally is that while there have been credible instances of genuine antisemitism and calls for violence on campus, they are not part of any significant protest action.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  A Columbia Student
27 days ago

One of the leaders of the movement literally said it was ok to kill Zionists and your university has several professors who celebrated attacks on Jews. Leaving aside that it is unacceptable to say killing anyone on campus is unacceptable and that some of the people killed are peace activists, 90% of Jews is the US would identify as Zionist. That doesn’t meant they want to see babies die or Gaza be bombed. It means that they are also concerned with the six-million Jews in the region.

Those Jews currently have a state. They have a shared language. They have a shared culture. They are also the descendants of refugees (a majority of whom are from Arab countries, not Europe). And they currently form 51% of the population of Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank. Almost all realistic proposals suggest they should have a state, and every example of a bi-national state in the region has failed and seen a massive displacement of the non-Muslim population. It is pretty clear that Hamas will not accept any real rights for the Jews who have spent their whole lives in Israel. At least not a right of national self-determination, and that is what you’re getting a reaction to.

That is not to say that the Palestinians shouldn’t have a state too or that the Palestinians in Israel (not the West Bank and Gaza) shouldn’t be treated better. It is possible to be a Zionist and believe that.

The protests on campus aren’t only calling for an end to war. They aren’t condemning violence. They are often calling out Zionists and demanding an end to a Jewish state. It is reasonable to interpret that as being a call for violence against and the exclusion of Jews.

I’d note that I’m not relying on media reports entirely, and I’m pretty well aware of what is going on through several students. There is a significant portion of your campus that feels unsafe.

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Nameless
27 days ago

Hey Nameless, do you know that one of the links you shared only contains photos of protesters ouside Columbia University, and not inside? Do you know that when McWhorter says cites “an Israeli Arab activist” being “roughed up on Broadway” the incident must have occurred outside Columbia’s gates, and not inside the encampment? This, plus the article shared from October, makes me seriously doubt your credibility as to what is going on inside Columbia. You are trying very, very hard to make this protest look bad, and it shows.

For what it’s worth, I don’t doubt your final claim. However, the vast majority of Columbia protesters are more vexed by the fact that a million+ people in Gaza feel unsafe, and not in the somewhat vague sense having to do with the interpretation of a word, not because of second hand reports and rumors, but in the sense of being threatened by cluster bombs and starvation. If you actually asked them–not the crazies showing up outside the gates, them–you’d hear the overwhelming majority of protesters deny that they want Israel to disappear or for any violence to occur. They just think that joining the anti-war chorus is morally vital.

And because unashamedly power-hungry politicians have seized on the concerns you’re raising, that huge majority has been threatened with actual violence. They don’t just feel unsafe, they are unsafe; the people slamming them to the ground and cuffing them have guns. This is orders of magnitude more violent than anything a Jewish student has experienced during the protests. I have no issue with people expressing concern for the safety of Jewish students, but when that concern does not appear to be tempered at all by concern for the moral rights of protesters, something is amiss.

And so again in this thread I remind everyone that this huge majority’s right to protest is not conditional on their somehow preventing rare bad actors from saying the wrong things, nor is it conditional on their somehow publicly showing contrition for those individuals. Collective punishment is evil, whether it is practised by Hamas, Netanyahu or Minouche Shafik.

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Nick
27 days ago

But a right to protest isn’t a right to violate an institution’s TPM constraints on assembly and protest. If you do that, the institution is going to make a cost-benefit analysis of whether your rule-breaking should be tolerated or not, and it’s not inherently unreasonable to consider whether it’s facilitating harassment of community members in that analysis, even if it’s only a minority actually doing that harassment.

A Columbia Student
A Columbia Student
Reply to  Nameless
29 days ago

(Ah OK I see that the article failed to specify that “from the water to the water, Palestine is Arab” is a translation of an Arabic chant. I can’t speak to that.)

ECD
ECD
Reply to  A Columbia Student
25 days ago

Has the recent takeover of Hamilton Hall changed your view of the protests/their interference with campus operations?

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
1 month ago

A comment I was replying to seems to have disappeared along with my reply. It doesn’t matter. As was noted in a different comment section, the hasty conflation of harm and speech, both left and right, seems to play a large part in current and recent misguided and illiberal decisions made by university administrators, and we can now see they will affect both left and right. I’ve insisted many times, here and there, that you should never promote weapons (whether ideas, norms or actual enforcement tools) that you wouldn’t want to be used against you, even if you could use them to squash your enemies. I am ever more confident of my position. Let students protest; prevent actual violence, incitements, and threats, and sanction violators, but let the protests be the nuisance that they are rightly meant to be. That apparently administrators (and many students and faculty) have trouble appreciating the distinction is concerning if somewhat unsurprising.

Last edited 1 month ago by Nicolas Delon
Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

This is an view which often causes me to get mass opprobrium but here goes…
 
I have never bought into the equation of the right to free speech with the right to block the highway, make lots of antisocial noise in public, or inconvenience others in any way which would normally be prohibited if you did it for other reasons (e.g. because you wanted to hold a rave in the street).
 
I completely support the right of everyone, including nasty extremists to SAY anything they want that isn’t actually properly illegal (like incitements to specific acts of violence). I am stronger on this than current legislation in most countries, so I would totally permit people to say completely odious things; I also do endorse the obvious extension of speech per se to writing, publication etc.
 
But I don’t think people should have any right to assemble for long periods of time in big masses and get in the way of other people going about their business, make a mess etc. And if they do this and refuse to disperse then eventually when asking nicely has not worked, the police should move them on, and if they aren’t easy to move on the police may have to do this roughly.

You have a right to say what you want, not to try to make others listen to you if they aren’t interested.

Jeffrey Stewart
Jeffrey Stewart
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

So just a consideration for that. I think you would have a hard time pointing to a protest that at the same time didn’t bother anyone and made a difference. It seems that the power for protest comes from its disruption of people’s lives. Not even making judgments about whether your stance is wrong or right, if you have the conception that nonviolent protest is the best way to effect change, then you probably don’t want to hold this view.

Rollo Burgess
Reply to  Jeffrey Stewart
1 month ago

Yes I agree with that; I don’t have that conception.

On the other hand, I do think that there is a genuine phenomenon of ‘dirty hands’ whereby sometimes it may be morally necessary to do bad things, which nonetheless remain bad. But I don’t think this counts. Still less, eg, the demonstrations every Saturday in London about this same topic, for months now… many of the demonstrators on which are the same people who go to almost every other demonstration on whatever is being demonstrated about that weekend.

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

If A Columbia Student is to be believed, even if we granted your restrictive view of legitimate protests, it wouldn’t apply to Columbia (I’m not sure about other campuses but I suspect the situation is even less dramatic there). The inconvenience is the point, but also the inconvenience seems relatively innocuous. The basic functioning of the university doesn’t seem to have been hindered except by decisions taken by the administration itself.

Last edited 1 month ago by Nicolas Delon
Rollo Burgess
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 month ago

Yeah agreed it sounds from the post above that the actual encampment is fine even on my basis. If it’s private property and the owner is ok for this to go on then happy days. Not so the protests outside the university.

Eric Steinhart
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

Here’s part of the First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Enrico Matassa
Enrico Matassa
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

So just for clarification under the Burgess conception of free speech it would be wrong for say someone protesting an unjust law to say bother people who are trying to to say have lunch at Woolworth’s? And they should definitely leave when asked no question about it. That much you make clear. Also, it would very clearly be wrong on the Burgess view if you say delayed a bus by refusing to follow the stated rules and not only created a disturbance but probably made everyone late to work as well when you’re told to move? By definition blocking a bridge would be a no no right? I’m curious though what do you have in mind by “rough treatment”? Would you advocate include say firehouses and attack dogs? If I’ve missed something here enlighten me. I’m trying to bring out the nuances of what is clearly a very carefully thought out, and definitely extremely interesting, view on free speech.

David Wallace
Reply to  Enrico Matassa
29 days ago

Doesn’t this comment conflate free speech with civil disobedience? The latter is obviously a morally legitimate form of protest in some circumstances (and I didn’t take Rollo Burgess to deny this) but it’s not simply an exercise of free speech.

Enrico Matassa
Enrico Matassa
Reply to  Rollo Burgess
1 month ago

Just one more clarification: What would you say about say the army shooting protesters who are getting in everyone’s way or running them over with tanks? Does that fall under appropriately “rough” treatment?

Daniel Brunson
Daniel Brunson
1 month ago

WATCH: Among those arrested today were Noelle McAfee, Chair of the Philosophy Department at Emory University.

I’ve asked for a comment from Emory on this arrest, no word yet.

This video provided to us by an #Emory PHD student. You can hear him in this video. 

https://x.com/PatrickQuinnTV/status/1783532600637681964

Serial Offender
Serial Offender
1 month ago

Levy writes that part of what we need is “… a clear stand against professors using their classrooms as political platforms.”

While I think I’m sympathetic to the ideal articulated here, I find it difficult to know what this means given that so many academic fields integrate political commitments into the fields themselves. If, to take an example I’ve heard recently on my own campus, to be a professor of Africana Studies is to be committed to decolonization, then an Africana Studies classroom will necessarily be a political platform, right?

I sill think college and university administrations can and should be politically neutral, but I don’t really see how individual classrooms can be.

Closet conservative
Closet conservative
1 month ago

one declared aim of some of the student groups is to get their universities to stop investing in companies involved in or profiting from Israel’s military efforts in Gaza. Should such investments themselves be considered a deviation from institutional neutrality, such that the student calls for divestment could be seen as a call for institutional neutrality? Or are such investments in principle relevantly different from what we might think of as paradigmatic departures from institutional neutrality, such as an official statement supporting a side in a political dispute?

I’m finding it hard to think through these questions abstractly. A concrete example would help. Until then, two major ambiguities are bothering me:

(1) What does it mean to “stop investing in companies involved in or profiting from Israel’s military efforts in Gaza”?

If we’re talking about endowment funds being invested in companies, how do you “divest” from specific assets? Shoot an email to the guy or gal heading the hedgefund running your investments and say “Hey, please avoid investing in companies X, Y, and Z”?

(2) What counts as a “company involved in or profiting from Israel’s military efforts”? Suppose Columbia’s endowment is invested in Lockheed Martin, and Lockheed sells jets to Israel. Is this non-neutral on the University’s part? That sounds weird. Lockheed sells jets to lots of countries.

Or what about tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google? They’re indirectly profiting from the war. But it sounds very strange to consider investments in these companies non-neutral.

In sum, I’d be appreciative if someone could propose a concrete case (I skimmed the AP stories that Justin linked, but didn’t see any).

Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
Reply to  Closet conservative
1 month ago

These are great questions! I was also looking for more detail and couldn’t find it.

A couple ideas:

1. Take an “easy” case, like Philip Morris. Sure, we could tell our hedge fund managers not to hold any positions on cigarettes. Various mutual funds would be excluded. S&P indices that held PM would be disallowed. Many other “passive” investments that tracked the market (and therefore held positions on PM) would also be out. That seems straightforward.

2. But that doesn’t get us very far here. Lockheed (LMT) is selling planes to Israel, which are used to attack Gaza. It also sells planes to Ukraine (or NATO) to defend against Russia. The divestment folks still want LMT divested because LMT plays a proximate role in Gaza violence, in addition to whatever else LMT does. The divestment line can go further, saying we also can’t invest in Israeli banks, or any other economic entity that underwrites Israeli military action. That seems “more extreme” than just the LMT argument. But, in principle, it could scale to anything that touches the Israeli economy. Which is like, a lot.

3. The tech cases (e.g., GOOG et al.) seem too distant, in my view, to be appropriate targets. I guess I’m using this legal framework of “proximate cause”, albeit in some vague way. But, in point of fact, the law does terminate (proximate) cause, such that everything with (but-for or necessary) cause doesn’t count. So maybe we can draw lines somewhere.

Again, great questions, just some thoughts.

An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  Closet conservative
1 month ago

do a google scholar search for ‘socially responsible investing’

it’s not as if no one has ever pondered the questions

Meme
Meme
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

This isn’t Twitter. “It’s not my job to educate you” is not a helpful response to someone genuinely soliciting feedback from other philosophers. Especially when the stakes are so high, we ought to engage and convince those who do not agree (or do not know whether they agree).

Last edited 1 month ago by Meme
An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  Meme
1 month ago

if the poster is genuinely interested, they would do well to look into the extensive literature rather than adopting the posture of having uncovered serious questions that forestall taking any concrete action. the posture can itself serve to impugn more thoughtful positions on an issue. typical philosopher behavior, to act like no one has ever thought about anything before and that since they’ve been visited by ~questions~ they’re owed an account that satisfies them personally before they can give their sanction to something others may well decide to do without them.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

This is an unfounded and bizarre reading of the poster. Also, I have to ask: are you a non-philosopher, or just one of the coveted atypical ones?

Last edited 1 month ago by Meme
Closet conservative
Closet conservative
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

I would point out that “socially responsible investing” (an idea I’m familiar with) isn’t the same as “viewpoint-neutral investing,” which is the topic of Justin’s original post. My personal views on the Israel-Palestine conflict would not be inaccurately described as pro-Israel (with qualifications). Thus, my viewpoint clashes with that of the average student protestor at e.g. Columbia. However, I strongly favor academic freedom and the viewpoint-neutrality it entails. Thus, despite being pro-Israel, I would be interested to hear an argument of the sort Justin has alluded to (e.g. something like “Columbia acquiescing to student demands to divest from certain companies is required by principles of academic freedom”). Such an argument might actually sway me (and others like me), whereas more claims about Israel committing genocide, or whatever, won’t (I and others like me have been hearing these claims for six months at this point, after all, and haven’t been converted).

An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  Closet conservative
1 month ago

it’s like a lawyer relinquishing a client in order to avoid a conflict of interest, or even an appearance of impropriety regarding one. or similarly with a judge.

if universities are going to administer restraints on student speech, as their policies will sometimes require them to do, they need to able to not just to maintain institutional neutrality but to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

in circumstances where one viewpoint attracts more restraint than others, and the university has some arguable interest in the cause of the others, the university’s ability to restrain the speech while maintaining its neutrality is undermined.

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  An adjunct
1 month ago

This is a totally unwarranted response to someone who seems earnest in trying to understand what is going on, asking questions that are perfectly relevant to the post under discussion. Yes, some of the answers are relatively easy to find, but the request seems well within the spirit of the post.

I support the protests, though I’m mildly skeptical of the demands for divestment. My sense (based solely on debates about fossil fuels) is that divestment doesn’t work well if at all. Granted, you may think symbolic value is sufficient for the demands (I’m too much of a consequentialist to believe mere symbolic value matters independently of what it can achieve, but I can grant its importance for now). Regardless, if I were on the fence, I would hope that you’d try to convince me to support your movement rather than talk to me like we’re fighting on Twitter. Whatever I think, the protests won’t achieve much, and their symbolic value will be opaque, if any attempt at conversation is met with knee-jerk howls.

Confused Junior
Confused Junior
1 month ago

Events like the ones we’ve seen this week make me depressed about our field & the widespread apathy of many in it. By all appearances, the vast majority of us would rather sit around discussing the finer points of just war theory than ever go so far as to say that *this* war *here and now* is unjust and attempt to do anything about it.

While faculty members from many departments have either issued or signed statements condemning the violent suppression of peaceful student protests, and some have even joined in the protests, philosophers at these institutions have, as far as I can tell, been stone-cold silent, with the sole exception of Columbia faculty and Professor McAfee at Emory.

The silence is deafening and damning. I worry about what it says about the discipline and about the message it sends to our students, to the public more broadly, and to vulnerable members of our field, including especially our Palestinian colleagues.

Last edited 1 month ago by Confused Junior
Meme
Meme
Reply to  Confused Junior
1 month ago

Perhaps they are not sure whether *this* war is unjust?

Confused Junior
Confused Junior
Reply to  Meme
1 month ago

QED.

”Well like, what even *is* justice bro???” is a prime example of exactly what I meant.

Last edited 1 month ago by Confused Junior
Meme
Meme
Reply to  Confused Junior
1 month ago

I don’t get your point. I agree that this war is unjust, fwiw. But I have no clue about the “vast majority of us,” and uncertainty over the war (or even just activism) would explain the silence. Seems more likely than “everybody agrees with us and simply prefers navel-gazing.”

The Point
The Point
Reply to  Meme
1 month ago

I take it that the point is that what is happening right now in Gaza is extremely obviously unjust (I find it really hard to believe that in a demographic as left-leaning as academic philosophy there is legitimately widespread uncertainty over the morality of this “war” or political activism more generally, particularly when every major human rights group in the world is in agreement that what is happening in Gaza is a genocide of the Palestinian people), and it is absolutely horrific to have police violently attacking peaceful student protesters on our campuses. In observing such dramatic and evident wrong-doing, one would hope that especially those who are faculty would stand up to defend and protect their students. That this is seemingly being done by many faculty members, but not many philosophy faculty members, is what I would suppose Confused Junior finds dispiriting (to say the least). Indeed, the comments on this thread involve a lot of thoughtful discussion about what freedom of speech should entail, etc, but seemingly ignores the real problem, which is that we are literally seeing cops in riot gear tasing non-violent, handcuffed students when they’re already restrained on the ground. No matter what we think about the nuances of free speech, I should hope none of us think that this level of violence is acceptable, and none of us want our campuses to turn into militarized zones where students are assaulted by law enforcement and expelled for their political beliefs. Confused Junior wants us to be saying or doing something about these very obvious wrongs, and most of us aren’t (if I am understanding them correctly).

Confused Junior
Confused Junior
Reply to  The Point
1 month ago

Thank you!

Meme
Meme
Reply to  The Point
1 month ago

Yeah, I get that point. I meant that I don’t get the point of the response “QED.” I wasn’t starting a debate of the sort the poster envisions, I was pointing out why maybe their dispiritedness is misplaced (namely, because we shouldn’t just assume that everyone agrees and prefers navel-gazing). Of course, I agree that dispiritedness is called for anyway, for the obvious reasons that the war is genocidal and terrible, and protestors are being stifled unjustifiably, and so on.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  The Point
29 days ago

It is wholly unclear at this point whether a genocide or at least a legal genocide is occurring. The ICJ found that there was a plausible case that the Palestinians needed to be protected from genocide. I’d note that the German judge issued a concurring opinion saying that there was not a plausible case, and that Donoghue seems to pretty clearly believe there is a difference between the two: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-68906919.

Basically, it sounds like it is dubious that that a genocide is occurring, but there is plausible case that there is a risk that one could occur if certain steps are not taken.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nameless
29 days ago

Let’s put it this way, its obvious what is occurring in Gaza is awful. It is obvious that Israel has contributed to the awfulness. It also appears obvious that Hamas is significantly contributing to what is occurring. It is far less obvious that: (a) the US is making the situation worse; or (b) that pressure on Israel will provide a better situation. It is clear that a significant portion of the population of both sides wants the other gone and are happy to resort to any means necessary. I think it is fair to ask whether those types of statements, which are calls for ethnic cleansing, should be tolerated on a university campus.

David Wallace
Reply to  Confused Junior
1 month ago

There are a thousand places on the internet to express an opinion on the first-order issue of the Israel-Gaza war. It’s not surprising that a philosophy blog is a place where people discuss philosophical issues. It’s also not surprising that most philosophers (exception for those with domain expertise, e.g. just war theorists) don’t express an opinion qua philosophers: what do they have to offer that other informed lay people do not? (Of course they can express an opinion qua citizens.) I’m honestly not sure what purpose is served by posters (even non-anonymous posters) on a philosophy blog expressing a first-order opinion on whether the war is unjust. Join a protest or counter-protest, or write your congressman, if you want to express that opinion usefully.

Campus protests and their suppression is a better example, because here we’re dealing with issues of academic freedom and campus politics that are inside academics’ domain of special concern. Even then, though, the facts in particular cases are quite controverted: I hear radically different things from different sources and don’t have any specific ability to work out where the truth lies. A blog like this, which doesn’t have any reporting resources and only quite limited access to inside information (notwithstanding “A Columbia Student”‘s helpful comments) is more likely to contribute as a place to discuss broader principles than as a place to fact-find as to whether particular circumstances match those principles.

Gerard
Gerard
Reply to  David Wallace
1 month ago

Philosophers may be specially *concerned* with normative issues regarding student protest and academic freedom (just as some of them may be specially concerned with Gaza), but I don’t see why they would have the relevant special *expertise* that you seem to be demanding as a qualification to say anything here. Certainly not philosophers of physics, at any rate.

In addition, you seem to be trying to thread a bizarrely fine needle. You’re inclined to graciously permit a discussion of the campus politics of the Gaza war (as long as it sticks to ‘broader principles’), but it has to abstract from any details of the war itself (or even details of the protests themselves?!). I mean, at that point we’re not actually talking about the campus politics of the Gaza war.

David Wallace
Reply to  Gerard
29 days ago

I didn’t say anything about what discussions are and are not *permitted*, nor did I *demand* anything. It’s Justin’s blog; people are permitted to discuss whatever he wants to permit. I gave a descriptive answer to the descriptive question of why people are and are not discussing certain issues.

Erich
Reply to  Confused Junior
1 month ago

I definitely empathize with the frustration of seeing others not do much about a cause one finds important. But I worry that you’re endorsing a standard that no one could hope to meet.

The reason is that (1) it seems like there are many moral emergencies happening at any time, (2) if you were to work on all of them, that would quickly consume your entire life, (3) so each person will inevitably not be working on some important cause, and therefore (4) everyone is open to this critique.

To make things a little bit more concrete, take the example of factory farming. I think you can make the case that factory farming — which has gone on for decades — is a moral atrocity on a scale far worse than the war in Gaza. In the US alone, about 8 billion chicken are killed each year, and 130 million pigs, and 36 million cattle, and the majority of these animals (especially the chicken and the pigs) spend their lives in miserable conditions. Granted, those animals are not humans. But there is good reason to believe they can suffer. And about 50% of philosophers do say it is impermissible to eat meat. Even so, it is extremely rare (though not unheard-of) to see philosophers protesting or otherwise working to end this situation.

It is also extremely rare to see non-philosophers protesting or otherwise working to end factory farming, by the way. This does not necessarily mean they are apathetic or think it unimportant. It just means this: it seems bad to condemn a particular group for failing a moral standard that just about everyone fails on some axis.

I think a more reasonable moral standard is not to ask everyone to make an effort to help solve a specific issue, but to ask everyone to make an effort to solve at least some issue. But in order to know whether someone is meeting that standard, you would need to know that person quite well — it’s not enough to go by their silence on a particular issue.

(Caveat: I’m not a philosopher.)

Last edited 1 month ago by Erich
Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Confused Junior
29 days ago

I think that your anger stems from the implicit assumption that we, as academic philosophers, grad students, and undergraduates, *can* make a material difference.

Unfortunately, I have come to the belief that, in many cases, activism or attempting to “use my voice” in support of important causes cannot help. In fact, I’d wager that most activist movements that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in have only harmed the causes they support. This stems, in large part, from a misguided cultural notion of what protests are, what they can do, and how they should be conducted.

If one holds, as I do, that “using my voice” can only harm my political ends, then I am justified in standing down and merely arguing in chat rooms.

I do my best in the voting booth, I do my best in my daily interactions where I can make a difference with people on the interpersonal level, but I can’t join or support a movement that is actively harming my political ends.

The student movements are losing the media war. The media is substituting coverage of Israel’s atrocities in place of misguided, at best, student protests. The best I can do is avoid bringing more attention to a failing protest movement.

Enrico Matassa
Enrico Matassa
Reply to  Grad Student
29 days ago

I’m not so sure. I’m a philosopher not a historian, but it seems from what I know that even the protest movements that are now seen as paradigms of success were unpopular and, yes, lost the media war when they started out. Look at coverage of the civil rights movement when it started. Many moderates were unstintingly critical as were even some liberals (Faulkner, for instance didn’t cover himself in glory on this one). The anti-Vietnam war protests are an even clearer example. No less a liberal lion than Tip O’Neill is on record not only opposing them but he even went so far as to say the CPD was in the right in 1968. And yet O’Neill ultimately came round to their views. Though he tied himself in knots to deny they had anything to do with his ultimate opposition to the war.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
1 month ago

Thank you Palestine for exposing the freedom of speech in German and American academia (among others) as the myth it is.

I'm afraid of Americans
I'm afraid of Americans
1 month ago

Ah, yes, let us hope that whatever the protests are aimed to achieve, they will not anyhow disrupt the normal campus life – if we allow that, there’s a danger that someone will actually care.

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  I'm afraid of Americans
1 month ago

It is not surprising that university leadership regards “keep normal campus life from being disrupted” as a policy priority.

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  I'm afraid of Americans
29 days ago

Do you think that people simply do not care about what is going on in Gaza?

I personally doubt that.

Disillusioned Grad student
Disillusioned Grad student
Reply to  Grad Student
29 days ago

Yes, actually. It’s quite easy to go on with our lives while ignoring the fact that Gaza currently has no universities after every single one was bombed.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Disillusioned Grad student
29 days ago

I’m dumb, so maybe I’m just not following, but: what does this comment mean? It sounds sarcastic—like, “oh yeah, this horrific and un-ignorable thing is sooo easy to ignore.” But that means you *agree* with Grad Student, who thinks that people aren’t ignoring it (presumably because it’s hard to ignore). So then why the sarcasm, if you agree? On the other hand, if you’re not being sarcastic, then… what? How is it easy to ignore such a heinous thing?

(I’m not taking a stance on what you’re saying—I think I agree with you, actually, but I’m stumped at your meaning lol)

Disillusioned Grad student
Disillusioned Grad student
Reply to  Meme
29 days ago

Maybe the tone did not come across properly. My point was that people are actually very capable of ignoring this issue and have done so for months. Protests are meant to disrupt the normal life of campus to make it harder to ignore. And the point about no universities in Gaza anymore was to highlight just another reason we should care as academics and philosophers.

I was disagreeing with Grad Student’s reply to the original comment. Disruption is integral to the goal of the protestors, and the demands in the comments that they do what they want without disrupting people are…odd.

(This isn’t to say they’re making it impossible to attend classes. As multiple people have noted, admin escalated the issue at Columbia and other campuses rather than protestors stopping classes)

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Disillusioned Grad student
29 days ago

Ahh, I see now—thanks for clarifying!

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Disillusioned Grad student
29 days ago

“Disruption is integral to the goal of the protestors, and the demands in the comments that they do what they want without disrupting people are…odd.”

I took people’s point to be not that the protests shouldn’t be disruptive, it’s that they don’t have a free speech right to be disruptive, so it’s in principle legit for a university – provided its approach is content neutral – to decide that the level of disruption is unacceptable and require the protesters to disperse.

Disillusioned Grad student
Disillusioned Grad student
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

I understand that this is a philosophy blog but focusing on such abstract side issues really seems to be ignoring what’s going on. People are protesting a genocide, universities are calling in violent cops on their students, and your focus is if there’s an inherent right to be disruptive.

But sure, if you think that’s the point then as multiple people have noted, universities are patently *not* content neutral when it comes to deciding which disruptions to allow and which ones to call snipers on.

David Wallace
Reply to  Disillusioned Grad student
28 days ago

I don’t have a very specific focus. I’ve commented on a bunch of things I found interesting; one was your surprise that people were separating free speech from disruption.

As for content neutrality, I don’t think it’s *patent*: it depends on the facts. Closing down a student encampment because its members are advocating a given view obviously violates content neutrality. Closing it down because some of its members are harrassing of other students does not – though, depending on the scale of the issue, it might be disproportionate. Different sources, including different current students at the institutes in question, sharply disagree as to the relevant factual details here.

A Columbia Observer
A Columbia Observer
1 month ago

This is one incident from the Columbia protests.

My question is whether this is an example of the kind of speech that Columbia student protesters condone and believe should be protected?

Or would they accept that has it crossed a line into overt harassment? (Or maybe they think it’s a gray area?)

If they accept it’s clear harassment, why don’t they have more to say about it? If they claim such incidents are not reflective of their activities but won’t acknowledge them or distance themselves, it becomes harder to buy the claim that such incindents aren’t reflective of the campus atmosphere.

A Columbia Observer
A Columbia Observer
Reply to  A Columbia Observer
1 month ago

Apologies for the typos in my post above. I trust the content is clear enough. I do think these are questions that need to be answered.

Michel
Reply to  A Columbia Observer
29 days ago

Somebody he didn’t know called out his name and student ID number?

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound very plausible. It’s a scary thing to have happened, if it did, but it’s such an extraordinary claim that it requires more than mere say-so.

Nick
Nick
Reply to  A Columbia Observer
29 days ago

Aren’t the answers to this patently obvious? If the speaker is accurately reporting the events that occured, then a small number out of thousands of protesters engaged in unjustified harassment of a Jewish student. Isn’t it absolutely clear that almost none of them would condone it? Have you interacted with any left-wing university students lately? I know several NYC-area student organizers and the idea that they would approve of targeted harassment of Jewish students is actually laughable.

Moreover, have we really decided that in order to be reasonably free to assmble and protest, without interference from the police or security, a group of people has to somehow collectively and publicly disavow any problematic actions potentially or actually taken by bad members of their organization? So that free speech must somehow rest on compelled speech?

This is politically neutral, by the way: I don’t think that the Canadian Truckers’ right to assemble was contingent on their collectively disavowing the one guy who flew a nazi flag. Similarly, I don’t think the BLM protesters were required to condemn the looting in order to legitimately protest.

David Wallace
Reply to  Nick
29 days ago

I don’t think protesters setting up a long-term encampment on campus property without permission is an exercise of their free speech rights: a university, public or private, is entitled to prohibit it on time-place-manner grounds provided that prohibition is content-neutral, and indeed I think most universities do formally prohibit it. If a university doesn’t enforce its rules it’s because it’s choosing, for whatever reason, to *tolerate* the encampment. I don’t see anything wrong in principle with a university saying ‘we were prepared to tolerate this encampment but now its presence is facilitating harassment of students by a minority of protestors, and harassment is really bad, so sort yourselves out or we’ll shut you down’.

Obviously it would depend on the details whether that was a reasonable move or an overreaction.

(Levy’s post, and his twitter thread linked by ‘midwest VAP’, are good on tolerance vs rights, btw.)

Eric Steinhart
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

You wrote: “I don’t think protesters setting up a long-term encampment on campus property without permission is an exercise of their free speech rights”.  You’re right, it’s an exercise of freedom of assembly, which is a separate clause in the First Amendment.  Public colleges are required to adhere to freedom of assembly (with qualifications about what is “peaceable” or not).  Public Law 105-244 (the Higher Education Amendments of 1998) extends these requirements to private colleges which receive federal aid.  AFAIK, those requirements are still in force, despite various modifications to the Higher Education Act.

Last edited 29 days ago by Eric Steinhart
David Wallace
Reply to  Eric Steinhart
29 days ago

But a university or the state can put content-neutral time/place/manner restrictions on where and when groups can assemble, I believe.

Eric Steinhart
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

It would require an expert in Constitutional law to sort that out. I am not such an expert, and any beliefs I may or may not have about those issues are legally irrelevant.

David Wallace
Reply to  Eric Steinhart
29 days ago

Fair enough, although I think this is a fairly established principle of 1st amendment law, not something esoteric. (Exactly what restrictions are allowed might be another matter.)

Last edited 29 days ago by David Wallace
Sam
Sam
Reply to  David Wallace
29 days ago

in your view, in the possible worlds where the best and safest investment is not diversified but just put it all in slave holdings, the university ought to do that?

David Wallace
Reply to  Sam
29 days ago

No, that’s exactly the opposite of what I’ve said- see my very first post on this. Universities don’t get to dodge substantive ethical questions on grounds of institutional neutrality. It’s procedurally fine (though I think substantively pointless) for activists to say to a university, “don’t invest in X because it is morally wrong for you to do so”. If you’re motivated not by the desire to achieve an actually good consequence or to coerce the university into a speech act but by pure deontological concern. go for it.

Nameless
Nameless
Reply to  Nick
29 days ago

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/26/nyregion/columbia-student-protest-zionism.html

This does not appear to be an isolated incident. It seems pretty uncontroversial at this point that at least some Columbia students have said or done things that are or are reasonably understood to be advocating violence.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Nick
29 days ago

“So that free speech must somehow rest on compelled speech?”

Beautifully put.

Observer
Observer
Reply to  Meme
29 days ago

The protest leaders have posted videos that allow us to hear from them in their own words. Those videos make it much harder for the protest leaders to deny that violence and targeted harassment reflect on the protests they’re leading. So I’m not persuaded by the analogy with the truckers in Canada.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Observer
29 days ago

Perhaps you meant to reply to Nick. I didn’t make the trucker analogy.

DAW
DAW
29 days ago

This professor (not a philosopher) makes a relevant statement:

https://twitter.com/wtfis2bdone/status/1783571539406856326

“Hey,
@apaphilosophy, I hope you’re on this!

When cops in masks zip-tie the Chair of Philosophy
@EmoryUniversity
for supporting her students peacefully exercising their speech rights, a statement can’t come soon enough.”

DAW
DAW
29 days ago

Further reporting on the situation with Professor McAfee:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/philosophy-chair-noelle-mcafee-among-protesters-arrested-at-atlantas-emory-university

“McAfee, who’s also the president-elect of the Emory University Senate, can be heard calling out to a stranger—who recorded the whole ordeal—and telling him she was merely observing the protest and was not participating.”

“Jail records did not show McAfee as being arrested or charged, and she did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Statements from police and the university did not address the arrest of McAfee.”

Early career scholar
Early career scholar
29 days ago

Divestment is not merely symbolic, and the demand does not presuppose that the companies depend on the university’s investment. The point is not that the investment benefits the companies, but that the investment makes the university have a vested interest in the wellbeing of those companies. When universities are invested in war, or environmental degradation, this creates additional incentives for the university to side with these industries in the event that social pressure builds against them (for example, it contributes to the incentive for the university to crack down on peaceful protests, a move that is counterproductive and harmful to all stakeholders involved). Divestment is about making room for institutions to have the capacity to stand up against injustice. Military and fossil fuel interests have a large place in the finances of many universities, and divestment is a concrete step towards the university’s autonomy from the destructive social force of these industries. Divestment is not about ending the war (no one thinks universities have that kind of power, even collectively). It is about working to liberate universities from the financial influence of war profiteering, making it institutionally feasible for them to contribute to the social push back against this industry in the future. The more institutions across social domains engage in this practice, the less these companies can rely on universal institutional support in the future.

David Wallace
Reply to  Early career scholar
29 days ago

Sure, but (to come back to where we came in): if the protestors are saying ‘the university should divest from military spending so as to free it to contribute to a future social push back against the military-industrial complex’, the right response should be “it would be inappropriate in any case for the university to contribute like that, because it violates institutional neutrality”.

Early career scholar
Early career scholar
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

Why should we think that pushing back against the influence/demands of an industry counts as a violation of neutrality, rather than thinking that conceding to the demands of that industry is the violation of neutrality? Why is having a vested interest in the arms industry or oil neutral, but refusing to invest in them non-neutral? These companies have a one-sided interest on significant political issues; the burden seems to be on the defender of the status quo to show that a university can be neutral on those political issues while having a vested interest in those companies. The students believe universities are not neutral when it comes to the war in Gaza. Their uncharacteristically violent and one sided response to this protest movement suggests they are right.

David Wallace
Reply to  Early career scholar
28 days ago

Institutional neutrality is about speech, not conduct. (That was the point of my original post in this discussion.)

Umayr Hassan
Umayr Hassan
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

University investments count as conduct and not speech, right? Thirty posts down, your viewpoint seems be the opposite of where it started.

David Wallace
Reply to  Umayr Hassan
28 days ago

I think I’m being consistent (thought no doubt I would.) To repeat for the miniscule number of people reading this deep into a thread:

1) yes, a university’s investment policy is conduct. It doesn’t get to avoid ethical questions about that policy by pleading institutional neutrality.
2) if the aim of a divestment campaign is to get a university to divest on the deontological grounds that it is behaving wrongly, that’s fine.
3) if the aim of a divestment campaign is to achieve some concrete material consequence, I am extremely skeptical of the point of doing so, given how the stock market works.
4) A lot of the stated aims for divestment in this thread have been with a view to getting the university to violate institutional neutrality (e.g., once the university is no longer beholden to the military-industrial complex it will be easier to get them to speak out against war – universities should not be in the business of speaking out against war in the first place).
5) All this is intentionally procedural and applies whether you think (e.g.) that the US defense industry abets genocide and ought to be abolished, that the US defense industry is essential and needs building up in a time of heightened geopolitical tension, or anything in between.

Early career scholar
Early career scholar
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

I see where I was unclear – my point about the university being free from influence was not about their ability to speak or write letters against the war. It was about action: for example, if and when interests from these industries demand that the university fire an employee for their anti-Israel views, divestment makes it easier for the university to push back against this demand. Divestment also allows the university to have more autonomy when deciding what research to fund, who to give tenure to, what centers to open, etc. at the moment, their investment in the present war and oil industry make it harder for them to have autonomy wrt these decisions, which is why a general norm of neutrality speaks in favor of the protests rather than against them.

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Early career scholar
28 days ago

Ok, that’s a reasonable point. I certainly think it speaks against universities having large share blocks in specific firms (perhaps excepting their own tech spinoffs, but maybe even that is a problem). I’m less convinced if we’re just talking about generalized tracker funds.

ECD
ECD
Reply to  Early career scholar
26 days ago

I think that’s exactly backwards, owning blocks of stock in a company gives you influence over them, not them influence over you. Accepting grants/funding (with strings, but potentially even without) gives them influence over you.

I suppose you could argue that because they’re invested, they’ll be less likely to do things which would reduce the value of those investments, but given the nature of those endowments, that seems…unproven.

Cheyney Ryan
Cheyney Ryan
29 days ago

The idea that political gatherings, such as political encampments, are per se disruptive–hence universities have a “right” to arrest those involved–strikes me as utter nonsense. Anyone at a large state university has experienced the endless sports events that are inflicted on the campus to drum up interest. At the University of Oregon, where I used to teach, they constantly did “game day” gatherings In the midst of campus– that lasted up to a week– whose deafening noise from cheerleaders/bands/etc. made conversation in my office almost impossible. (I’m trying to attach a photo of such a “game day” bullshit, this is about 50 yards from where my office used to be.) Plus there were the drunken hordes of male students there were not just tolerated but encouraged, in the name of “school spirit”, who left their garbage strewn around the entire campus. Finally, there was the belief of some, such as me, that the entire enterprise was an insult to the educational mission of the University. Obviously, such disruptions were seen as consistent with the mission of the University. Shouldn’t political protest be regarded in the same way?

images
David Wallace
Reply to  Cheyney Ryan
28 days ago

But I take it no-one is saying that the guy in the duck costume has a *right* to make a disruptive noise on campus. University leadership has made a judgement (very possibly a wrong judgement, I’ve no idea) that on net, the benefit to the university community from game day gatherings exceeds the costs. That’s consistent with judging (again, possibly wrongly) that different forms of disruption don’t pass that cost/benefit judgement.

An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

cheyney’s example seems to me more valuable, because more philosophical, than most of what has been posted in these comments so far.

wallace is right that typically no one would be saying that the guy in the duck costume has a right to disrupt a tranquil campus. but he’d be doing it all the same, and receive the approval of a great many students and faculty and administrators!

but this is why the liberal-administrative framework that is seemingly ready to hand in the discussions in these comments is the wrong place to start thinking about the current protests. what the duck guy can do without it even becoming a question of rights, and what gets identified as being fit for administrative control (protection, but also discipline) under the concept of ‘rights’, are not obviously separable matters.

another. and arguably more realistic, way to think here would be to perform some analysis of the social situation in which certain forms of conduct take place, some receiving one sanction, others another, still others enjoying the sanction of being normal or ordinary or going unremarked or unquestioned.

it seems to be pretty well attested by the history of serious protest that its most significant, effective instances have targeted persistent social formations whose ordinariness sustained indifference to grave injustices and inequities. in these instances the concept of rights and their protection (say, by institutions committed to their neutral administration) becomes salient at the same time that the static social situation threatens to become dynamic.

it is to the credit of students that their sense of social possibility is not yet dead. they are evidently acting on the basis of a perception not just of the disproportionately many dead in the present conflict, but of the actual, social reality that one is expected to just go along with what ordinarily happens on a college campus, as in our society.

Billy
Reply to  An adjunct
28 days ago

For the record, it’s Lee Corso in the duck costume.

David Wallace
Reply to  Billy
28 days ago

My apologies to Mr. Corso for the disrespectful form of address.

Billy
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

David, he’ll be okay! Going back to the early 1990s, my younger brother and I have always found Lee Corso’s antics on College Gameday funny, so I felt the need to put his name here. Honestly, I never thought the day would come when Lee Corso came up in a philosophical debate. But I’m glad it has. I’ll let my brother know. He’ll be pleased.

Craig Duncan
Craig Duncan
Reply to  David Wallace
28 days ago

Let’s agree arguendo both that neither the Game Day folks nor the protesters have a right to set up shop on the campus green, and neither is more disruptive than the other. Both are there by the good graces of the university administration.

Still, as “An adjunct” below asks, why have so many universities reacted so differently to the two cases?

I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. The Game Day folks asked permission, the protesters didn’t.
  2. The duration of the Game Day folks’ stay is known and limited. Not so for the protestors’ stay.
  3. Some students find the protestors’ messaging upsetting. Some claim this messaging is anti-Semitic and makes them feel unsafe.
  4. Some university donors find the protesters’ messaging upsetting.
  5. The university judges the attention from the press and politicians to be unwelcome and not in the university’s interests.

Some thoughts on these:

  1. Relevant but insufficient reason to call the police on the students.
  2. Relevant. Maybe *eventually* reason to call the police.
  3. Taking offense by itself is insufficient reason to call the police. It all depends on whether there have been true threats. Whether there has been genuine anti-Semitism is relevant, albeit this is a complex question.
  4. Hmmmmmm.
  5. calling the police is unwelcome attention too.
David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Craig Duncan
28 days ago

I think it’s mostly 1-2, but I think “asks permission” probably understates it – the university leadership probably actively solicits the Game Day folks because they think various university goals (community building, alumni relations) are advanced by their presence.

Christa Peterson
Christa Peterson
Reply to  David Wallace
25 days ago

1-2 are features of every student occupation, and universities are usually extremely reluctant to send in cops. Normally this close to the end of the term admin would just wait them out. The amount of force being deployed against these students (and faculty) is shocking. Do you think it is normal for professors to be arrested across campuses in the US? Multiple slammed to the ground?

Laura
Reply to  Christa Peterson
20 days ago

It is abnormal and unacceptable, no matter what one’s views on the larger issue might be. Riot police are for riots; pup tents on the quad and chanting might greatly annoy some people but they are not riots. The level of disruption and noise is similar to an outdoor concert in the park. The ease with which people have accepted this much violent policing of campus protests is disturbing, particularly at a time when US democracy faces real threats. Much seems to have changed even in the brief span between 2020 and 2024.

Cheyney Ryan
Cheyney Ryan
Reply to  Craig Duncan
27 days ago

Craig’s reference to “unwelcome attention” points to the larger issue of how administrations want their universities to be perceived, and specifically whether they want to be perceived as places of political protest over issues like Gaza. Another way to put this might be how universities are “packaged”, especially to “donors”– and what this portends for maintaining a healthy culture of dissent. The University of Oregon’s tale is a sad, if not tragic one. At the insistence of Phil Knight/Nike, the U of O consciously decided to shed its image as the Berkeley of the Northwest/political protest, and repackage itself as a sport school – – i.e. as the Texas A&M of the Northwest. There is an entire book about this sordid decision by Josh Hunt titled “The University of Nike”. It bears on the points that Craig raises. True, political protests involve messages that some students and donors find upsetting. “Game Day” events, which are just one example of endless intrusive sports-related events, involve massive amounts of alcohol leading to dramatic increases in sexual assaults. Political protests can disrupt graduations. At Oregon, the graduation schedule is determined by ESPN so as not to conflict with sports events. Political protests can disrupt academic life for some. At Oregon, ESPN decided to schedule the U of O’s major football game, with Oregon State, in the middle of exam week. To me, student protests around Gaza are just one indication of how vibrant a university’s culture of political dialogue/dissent is. By contrast, shutting a campus down for “Game Day” indicates that administrations have quite different priorities.

DAW
DAW
28 days ago

How much responsibility do university heads have when they call in cops who end up arresting both protesting students and bystanders (including faculty members), with excessive force?

I’d think that this is a very important question to answer.

I’ve seen several philosophy department statements that point in the direction of university culpability for the excessive force accompanying these arrests.

A Columbia Observer
A Columbia Observer
Reply to  DAW
27 days ago

It’s important to remember that the main responsibility lies with the protesters themselves.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  A Columbia Observer
27 days ago

For having the cops called on them? For being arrested by said cops? For their use of excessive force? Or for something other than what the OP mentions? I agree that the protestors have some responsibility for the consequences of their actions, but I’m not sure they are *mainly* responsible for anything OP mentions. What did you have in mind?

A Columbia Observer
A Columbia Observer
Reply to  Meme
23 days ago

Yes, the protesters are responsible for creating the situation that led to the police being brought in. The protesters are also responsible for the fact that some of them got arrested. I don’t mean to let the faculty who were involved off the hook. I’m just saying that the protesters who were arrested don’t have a legitimate grievance. They should be apologizing to the rest of the campus community, not whining about how mistreated they feel.

DAW
DAW
28 days ago

“Princeton, notably, has not disciplined students for occupations in the past: In 2015, the Black Justice League (BJL) sat in the office of President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 for 33 hours. And in 2019, Princeton Students for Title IX Reform (PIXR) organized a sit-in outside Nassau Hall that lasted nine days. Both protests occurred under the watchful eyes of President Eisgruber and Calhoun, yet protesters were not warned of, or punished with, arrest. In fact, administrators engaged with the protesters, leading to direct policy changes. Destiny Crockett ’15 recently clarified in a statement to The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board that students participating in the BJL sit-in were not threatened with “arrest, just suspension and expulsion,” and ultimately “did not face disciplinary action.” Just because Princeton can legally enforce punishment does not mean that it should, especially in a biased manner.”

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2024/04/princeton-opinion-editorial-board-encampment-free-speech

I wonder how many other “occupations” at other universities, at other times and about other issues, have been treated less punitively than the ones being discussed now in this forum.

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  DAW
28 days ago

For what it’s worth…

Brown’s provost announced that encampments are violations of university policy, but not “arrestable” offenses. President Paxson reiterated that message the next day.

(It was easy for me to find the email, because those are the only two I’ve ever received that contained the word “arrestable”.)

Martin Lenz
28 days ago

11-minute interview with Emory professor Noelle McAfee about protest arrest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwNW417h494

DAW
DAW
Reply to  Martin Lenz
28 days ago

Thanks for the link, Martin.

I’m glad she responded to that student’s beating the way she did.

Sometimes the most philosophically true thing to do is to act.

DAW
DAW
28 days ago

Symbolic value isn’t unworthy, but symbolic value is exactly where universities ought to resist pressure, on institutional-neutrality grounds.

If Columbia University had followed this, they probably wouldn’t have been “the first Ivy League university to divest from South Africa over apartheid” (according to this piece from CNN):

https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/27/business/columbia-history-divestment-student-protests/index.html

That might not have happened without sustained student protests.

Oh, the irony of Columbia’s present behavior given the history of their own institution.

David Wallace
Reply to  DAW
27 days ago

It’s perfectly coherent to reject the position that universities shouldn’t seek to be political actors. But for people who think they shouldn’t, of course there will be cases where universities do not state their support for something which in hindsight is widely recognized as right, just as there will be cases where universities do not state their support for something which in hindsight is widely recognized as wrong. This is just the usual Kalven principle: “The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.

DAW
DAW