UC students justify their rage at Olmert for killing civilians

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The wheels really are coming off the cart. The era of apartheid-struggle for justification in the eyes of the world has begun. Here are several voices from University of Chicago on Olmert’s appearance there, explaining why they disrupted his speech. First, alum Ali Abunimah:

In  their October 20 e-mail to the University community, President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum condemned the “disruptions” during Olmert’s speech. “Any stifling of debate,” they wrote, “runs counter to the primary values of the University of Chicago and to our long-standing position as an exemplar of academic freedom.”

Was it in order to promote debate that the University insisted on pre-screening questions and imposed a recording ban for students and media? In the name of promoting debate, will the University now invite Hamas leader Khaled Meshal—perhaps by video link—to lecture on leadership to its students, and offer him a large honorarium? Can we soon expect Sudan’s President Omar Bashir to make an appearance at Mandel Hall?

Here’s Zimmer and Rosenbaum’s statement. (Yes; it would seem that both men are Jewish; Zimmer went to Brandeis. Rosenbaum, give me a minute…) Here is the student paper’s editorial opposition to the protest. Here is sophomore M. Ali Al-Arian in the student paper:

We have a duty as intellectuals and members of this university to respect free speech, but not war crimes. As members of the international community, we should be ashamed that this man was allowed to kill so many innocent people and not be held accountable to the same laws to which we hold others accountable, be it Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, or anyone else. Moreover, as students of the University of Chicago, we should all be outraged that our university would dare invite such an individual to speak here, if only to lecture us on “leadership,” when he should be giving his speech at the international courts in The Hague.

Here is student Frank Pucci:

I was among the audience at Ehud Olmert’s speech and, as many reports detail, Olmert was constantly interrupted. However, contrary to what has been stated in some media reports, I did not see a disorganized rabble, or a mock town hall mob. Yes, I heard some of the more provocative things quoted in the Maroon (“Jeers Stifle Olmert’s Speech,” 10/16/09). However, you wouldn’t have simply heard “war criminal,” “murderer,” “you have an ugly face,” and so forth. I heard things such as, “I’m here to give voice to Mohammed Samouni, who never had one because he was six months old when you killed him.” I saw one woman stand up and wave a list of more than 1,400 people killed in Gaza. A large number of students read lists of names of those killed in Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank. I heard pro-Israel students laugh as one person threw a book at a pro-Palestinian student.

Here’s a smart sophomore, Chase Mechanick:

For a former prime minister confronting such grave human rights accusations to be invited by the University under the aegis of a “Leadership Lecture”: Now that’s “extreme” and “absurd.”

While one can disagree with the actual method of protest—I certainly do—the Maroon is misleading its readers by appearing to characterize the viewpoints underlying it as “extreme” or “absurd.” It is not as if the protestors are a jeering mob of angry, delusional hysterics; that is, however, the conclusion one might surmise from reading the article.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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