Saturday, December 14, 2002

Updates on anti-Semitic pro-Israeli debate

The St. Cloud Times has picked up the story of a Jewish faculty member involved in a scuffle with a pro-Israeli demonstration as expected, (click here to see my initial report) but not yet the Twin Cities newspapers. The faculty member involved in the scuffle comes off as relatively contrite.

"Yes, I immaturely went for the camera, but I didn't harm him. I didn't grab his neck," she said. "It looked a lot worse than it was. I did not try to hurt the man. Am I sorry? Yes. Do I regret it? Yes. Did I assault him? No."
Usually, when I lunge at somebody (and the report I received was that there were two lunges) I have some capacity for understanding that it might hurt. I do find this humorous that the article goes on at length about the relative sizes of the two individuals (she is listed at 5"4", the student at 6'3" as if it were a boxing match, no word on their reach or weight), as if to imply that there was no way she could hurt him. Two words: Squeaky Fromme. The paper also says that the professors were "taunted" by the photographer. That must be the new word for "debate".

But hell, we all snap once in a while, and it does sound as if she wishes to apologize. She gave the full story, including her indiscretion, to VP for Student Life Nathan Church within minutes of the incident. So a momentary lapse of reason, perhaps. But what on earth could cause a Jewish professor to snap on someone putting up a pro-Israeli display? Because they weren't Jewish (which turns out not to be entirely true, btw)? Or because they were Republicans?

This won't explain Church's behavior, however.
"There were some images that I could understand why some people could be offended, but they were clearly covered under free speech," Church said.

After some discussion, Church said he asked the group's members if they could remove the Israeli flag from the display.

"I said this is kind of a different issue. There's protocol around flags, people take their flags very seriously," he said. "One thing about the flag is it has the Star of David on it. Jews all over the world identify with it."

Church said the flag's presence over the booth implied the group had the support of the Israeli government and the Israeli people.

Byma said Church used his position as vice president to coerce the College Republicans into removing the flag.

"In my opinion, a university is all about diversity of ideas," he said. "You should feel completely protected to speak your opinion. We feel the student life and development office hindered our freedom of speech."

Church said he merely suggested the group remove the flag. It could have remained on display, he said.
He is quoted in the last graph saying "The issue around the altercation has nothing to do with the free-speech issue. My hope is still that it can be resolved informally." Which sounds to me like the gurgling sound of someone choking on his own actions and praying for his career. Denial is a river running through the Student Life and Development Office.

In a related development, President Saigo's letter on the anti-Semitism settlement (which I first discussed here) was printed in the StarTribune today. It's title is SCSU Has Taken a Stand Against Bias. Let's hope SCSU also takes a stand for free speech.