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08

Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 16, 2023 03:21 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Ivy League University Presidents and antisemitism, a second thread about antisemitism and elite universities, the best known songs of our generation, and what major to choose if planing to go to medical school.

Once again the Gaza war thread led as most active yesterday. That was followed by two threads that are directly related to the war. The first was titled, "Stefanik Ivy Presidentd" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The title, which suffered from both a typo and a lack of clarity, referred to a Congressional hearing during which Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked a panel of university presidents whether calls for genocide were prohibited on their campuses. To be clear, Stefanik was referring to calls for the genocide of Jews which is a somewhat ironic concern given that something very close to, if not actual, genocide is currently being perpetrated by Israel against the residents of Gaza. Moreover, unpacking what Stefanik means by "calls for genocide" is itself a challenge. The Congresswoman explicitly referred to calls for "intifada" which in Arabic means "to shake off" but generally refers to Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank during which Palestinian teenagers used stones to fight the Israeli military. In no way does "intifada" mean "genocide". Similarly, many in the pro-Israel crowd claim the slogan, "Free Palestine from the River to the Sea" as being a call for genocide. While I have criticized that slogan, it does not refer to genocide. The college presidents, knowing that Stefanik clearly considers calls for genocide to include expressions that are not normally thought to be calls for genocide, were put in a bit of a conundrum and, unfortunately, fumbled their responses. Had they been asked whether a call to "kill all the Jews" violated their speech codes, certainly they all would have answered in the affirmative. But, instead, they were asked whether Stefanik's unorthodox and inaccurate definition of calls for genocide is allowed. That is a more difficult question. Unfortunately, in today's politicalized world, few are interested in doing the intellectual work to understand why what sounded like a simple question was actually much more complex. As a result, the presidents have come under considerable pressure and targeted with severe criticism. At the basis of this controversy is an effort among many in the pro-Israel camp to not only control speech, but to control the very definition of words. They have understandably and commendably made antisemitism unacceptable. But, now there are efforts to go further. Being opposed to Israel is considered antisemitism. Opposing Zionism is defined as antisemitism. Supporting Palestinians is considered anti-Israel and, hence, antisemitic. Slogans such as calling for an "intifada" or "Free Palestine From the River to the Sea" are allowed to be defined, not by those who use them, but by those who oppose their use and labeled as antisemitic. In this manner, pressure is applied to prohibit anything that is against the interests of Israel from being said. It is an effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech entirely and has little to do with actual antisemitism.

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