Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has become a focus for debate over Israel.
Last April, you may recall, several students at the school interrupted a speech by an Israeli colonel, then walked out on the speech and called the officer a war criminal. The students were disciplined for allegedly violating the speaker’s rights; and three of them said that in order to stay in school they had to take a “Campus of Difference” training program created by the Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel organization.
Now the issue is busting out again, and the school’s interim president, Dennis Crudele, has issued a surprisingly-lengthy statement cheerleading Israel and distancing the school from students who are critical of the Jewish state (though Crudele also states that the students are not anti-Semitic). Excerpts:
Over the next few days, a small student group will stage a series of events on FAU’s Free Speech Lawn. The student group intends to raise political awareness of certain policies of the State of Israel with which they disagree….
Let there be no mistake about it: FAU deeply values its relationships with the State of Israel and with our many Jewish students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and friends around the world. Our Hillel Center and Chabad Student Center are large and thriving. We have student exchange programs with universities in Israel, and FAU students, scholars, and officials regularly travel to Israel for academic or other purposes. We have proudly hosted many Israeli officials and visitors on our campuses over the years. Our Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education trains educators from around Florida to teach Holocaust and genocide studies, and our library houses three major resources dedicated to the study of Jewish culture and history: (i) the Judaica Sound Archives, a center that collects, preserves, and digitizes Judaica audio recordings and musical scores dating back centuries; (ii) a Yiskor Memorial Books special collection of books written by Holocaust survivors that document the shtetls destroyed by the Nazis; and (iii) a Visual History Archive, which offers online access to more than 1,000 English-language testimony videos by Holocaust survivors and witnesses, and cataloguing and indexing data of nearly 52,000 videotaped interviews conducted with survivors and witnesses in 56 countries and 32 languages…
The group’s criticisms of Israel often fail to appreciate that Israel is a robust democracy – unique in its part of the world – that nourishes an astonishingly broad array of public opinion and expression, even to the extent that this group’s own protest activities would be permitted to take place in Israel…
The last word belongs to one of the students disciplined in the earlier protest. Nadine Aly has responded to Crudele on twitter:
@FAUpresident Israel is as much a democracy as we were under the confederacy. U have ur full rights if youre a white male that owns property
— Nadine Aly (@NadineAly1) October 3, 2013