(Updates on this story below)
I’m easily shocked, but this is shocking. Last April, students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL, interrupted, corrected, then walked out on an Israeli colonel who came to speak about the Cast Lead onslaught as a good thing. They held up a sign saying War Criminal. They were investigated for months and to escape worse punishment accepted assignment to what they describe as “reeducation” under a curriculum crafted by the Anti-Defamation League, a rabid Zionist organization. The students say the university “buckled” to Zionist organizations’ pressure.
Nadine Aly, Noor Fawzy, and Renata Glebocki write about it in a student publication. Excerpts:
In April of this year, Israeli Col. Bentzi Gruber spoke at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). His speech was propaganda, touting the ethics of the Israeli military…
Out of a resolute commitment to human rights, we attended the event and peacefully walked out in protest. After the speaker’s opening remarks, one of us stood up and read a few facts concerning the war crimes committed in Operation Cast Lead. This very brief commentary was met by derogatory slurs from non-student members of the audience, who accused us of being “spies,” “terrorists,” and other offensive names. We raised a banner that read “War Criminal” as we walked out. The duration of the entire incident was no more than one or two minutes. The event continued afterward, for about an hour and a half. We peacefully protested outside for about half an hour.
The university administration started investigating five of us that walked out, initially trying to obtain the names of other human rights activists who participated in the protest. After a four-month university effort to discipline us, all five of us—two of whom wish to remain anonymous out of fear of further retaliation—decided to sign agreements that keep the incident off of our records and confirm that we have not been found responsible for the charges brought against us. But the agreements place harsh conditions on those of us who remain at FAU this year.
Based on the agreements, two of the three of us still at FAU are on indefinite probation for the remainder of our undergraduate careers, two of us are barred from holding any leadership positions in official student organizations, and three of us are required to take part in a mandatory University Campus of Difference training program based on a curriculum created by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the fall….
It is important to emphasize that the mandatory training program is nothing short of officially sanctioned re-education, and it implies that we are prejudiced for standing up against war crimes and human rights abuses carried out by the Israeli military against Palestinians. The injustice of it is magnified because the co-sponsoring organization, the ADL, has been vocal in attempts to malign us for our Palestinian rights activism and has pressured the University to take action against us, has a history of spying on advocates for Palestinian rights, and is a staunch opponent of the internationally recognized legal right of Palestinians to return to homes from which they were expelled 65 years ago during Israel’s creation…
But by signing these agreements we were able to avoid even greater scrutiny and harsher sanctions through a disciplinary proceeding and an extended legal battle with university administrators. Our goal is to instead focus on our education and activism….
We believe this is an opportunity to shed light on the miscarriage of justice at FAU and the clear violation of our First Amendment rights. The buckling of the administration to the demands of the ADL and several other external Zionist organizations – in this instance and multiple times in the past, is disturbing and at odds with free inquiry and the right of students to express their opposition to human rights abuses and war crimes.
Update: This undated letter to the community from an FAU executive/fundraiser boasts that the school has $2 million of its endowment invested in Israel Bonds, has set up a program with the University of Haifa, and conducts trainings on campus civility that the ADL helps to lead.
Update Number Two: A coalition of civil liberties groups–the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee–have sent a letter to FAU protesting the school’s sanctions on the student activists.
The three groups criticize the school for actions that will establish a “chilling precedent” for student speech on controversial issues, especially when it comes to Palestine. They also raise questions about whether school policy on protests is in line with the First Amendment and court precedent–and assert that the student protest leading to the sanctions was constitutionally protected.
Read the whole letter here.