Law students in huge show of support for UT-Austin Israel Studies Prof. attacked by BDS
William A. Jacobson legalinsurrection.com
November 25, 2015
The disruption of an event hosted by UT-Austin Israel Studies Professor Ami Pedahzur by anti-Israel students from the UT-Austin Palestine Solidarity Committee continues to reverberate.
The disruption was followed up by a slick media campaign targeting Prof. Pedahzur, including a video edited to make the perpetrators (the anti-Israel protesters) look like the victims. Part of that smear campaign was a “civil rights” complaint filed by the students with the University.
Fortunately, there has been increasing public support for Prof. Pedahzur, including a statement from the Dean of the UT-Austin College of Liberal Arts both supporting Prof. Pehahzur professionally and recognizing the disruption of the event as a violation of academic freedom:
….. Although reviews are still ongoing, I wish to emphasize that there are places on campus for responsibly discussing disagreements. Disruption of a visiting scholar’s invited academic lecture violates principles of academic freedom and free speech that are crucial to our mission as a great university.
Unrelated to that, a Petition was launched by a UT-Austin group has over 3000 signatures as of this writing. (You can sign the Petition here.)
In the latest development, today The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has issued a Press Release offering support for Prof. Pedahzur from 18 law school chapters representing several hundred law students:
This morning, students from eighteen Brandeis Center law student chapters issued a statement in support of Dr. Ami Pedahzur, an Israel Studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Pedahzur had been assailed by anti-Israel activists for his effort to host an academic presentation on the Israeli Defense Forces.
The full statement can be found below:
November 25, 2015
On behalf of 18 chapters representing several hundred law students of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), we support Professor Ami Pedahzur, Director of the Institute for Israeli Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and urge the University to address the upsetting disruption of free speech and expression that occurred on its campus on Friday, November 13.. Specifically, an anti-Israel group, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, disrupted an event hosted by Dr. Pedahzur, titled “The Origin of a Species: The Birth of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Military Culture,” featuring Stanford professor Dr. Gil-Li Vardi.
At the event, the student disruptors showed no interest in engaging in dialogue or listening to the speaker. Rather, they argued that they refuse to talk to Israelis because they are all war criminals. They chanted things like, “Long live the Intifada!” and “We want ‘48, we don’t want two states!”
It is incredibly disappointing and frightening that the protestors sought to intimidate and silence this speaker rather than engage with or challenge her ideas. Recently, there has been a trend of anti-Israel groups across the country attacking the free speech rights of pro-Israel speakers.
Last week, LDB wrote to UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves, urging him to remedy the situation. In his response letter, President Fenves wrote, “I encourage you to work productively with me to help promote a free and respectful exchange of ideas on campus.”
The actions of PSC go against the core aims of universities to foster open learning and a diverse spectrum of ideas. This is an opportunity for the University of Texas to be a nationwide leader in condemning attacks on free speech and standing up for what is right.
As both law students and members of LDB chapters, we support Professor Pedahzur, and urge the University of Texas to publicly show support for Professor Pedahzur, to help promote a free and respectful exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that this disruption of free speech and expression does not recur in the future.
Cornell University School of Law, LDB Chapter
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, LDB Chapter
Brooklyn Law School, LDB ChapterChicago Kent College of Law, LDB Chapter
Chicago Kent College of Law, LDB Chapter
City University of New York (CUNY) Law School, LDB Chapter
DePaul University College of Law, Law LDB Chapter
Emory University School of Law, LDB Chapter
Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, LDB Chapter
Northeastern University School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of California – Berkeley School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of Chicago Law School, LDB Chapter
University of Minnesota Law School, LDB Chapter
University of Pennsylvania School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of St. Thomas School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law, LDB Chapter
University of Washington School of Law, LDB Chapter
William Mitchell College of Law, LDB Chapter
Prof. Pedahzur is not out of the legal woods yet. He still needs to respond to and defeat the “civil rights” complaint filed against him with the University.
The anti-Israel students tried to use Alinksy’s Rule No. 13 against Prof. Pedahzur:
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
These public expressions of support show that the tactic is failing.
If you are concerned about anti-Semitism on your campus, or if you seek advice about best practices, contact us.
Todd F. Braunstein, Esq. Todd F. Braunstein is a counsel in the Investigations & Criminal Litigation practice group at the law firm WilmerHale, LLP. As a former federal prosecutor, he has years of experience in all phases of the investigative process, on both the government and the defense side.