A new documentary, “Hate Spaces,” exposes the epidemic of campus intolerance favouring Muslims and anti-Israel activists over Jews and Israel supporters when it comes to free speech, academic freedom and protection from abuse. The film is being released theatrically by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to raising public awareness about the increasingly hostile campus environment. “Hate Spaces” premiered on November 30 in New York and will be screened at select locations around the country. The film’s title refers to the concept of “safe spaces” that has been used to silence unpopular speech on universities around the United States.
Executive Producer Avi Goldwasser, who also wrote and directed “Hate Spaces,” first noticed the extent of the campus problem in 2004, when he produced a film which documented the intimidation by Columbia University professors of Jewish students who supported Israel. “Jewish students were abused by faculty members, and the administration ignored it,” Goldwasser said. Indeed, anti-Israel lies, incitement and hate speech are often tolerated under the banners of academic freedom and free speech. Last September the University of California, Berkeley reinstated a student-led course that presented a demonizing, one-sided history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after public outcry claimed that free speech and academic freedom were jeopardized by the course’s suspension.
In contrast, pro-Israel speech is attacked by critics who demand the right to have “safe spaces” free from “hate speech.” “Any support of Israel is hate speech!” one protestor in the film proclaims. Various campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) use their politically favoured status to exercise rights and protections which they deny their political opponents. At Northeastern University, SJP violated school policies over a two-year period, including “vandalism of university property, disrupting the events of other student organizations, not getting the appropriate permits when required, and distributing unauthorized materials inside residence halls” according to Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul.
“We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, racism, or any kind of hatred,” Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun said in the film, defending his school’s decision to suspend SJP. But SJP successfully reframed the school’s response as suppression of free speech and rallied media pressure until their suspension was lifted. Thus speech that violates school policies and harasses Jews and Israel supporters is protected as “free speech” rather than punished as “hate speech.” By contrast, critics of Islam are silenced with accusations of “hate speech” and “Islamophobia.” In 2014, Brandeis University cancelled a speaking invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, after she was branded an “Islamophobe” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Around the same time, CAIR used similar accusations to stop the screening of a documentary on honour killings. Meanwhile, Jewish students and organizations are targeted with impunity, as feckless college administrators hesitate to take remedial action. One of the reasons for their reluctance, the film suggests, is fear of jeopardizing funding, collectively, over $1 billion over the last six years, from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Through brazen lies, like claiming that Israel “commits genocide” and “apartheid”, SJP and MSA have created campus environments hostile to Jews and pro-Israel students while suppressing support for Israel as “hate speech.”
“Hate Spaces” was a story that had to be told, Goldwasser said, because “most people do not realize how the hostility is being institutionalized, made fashionable by a combination of forces including radical faculty, radical student organizations and an enabling university administration. While many anti-Jewish incidents and the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel] campaign are reported by the media, few are willing to connect the dots and report on the underlying ideology and extremist organizations that are inciting the hostility.” The film shows how such campus hostility can reach as far as student council meetings, events that should be focused on campus affairs and otherwise far-removed from Middle East politics.
It features UCLA sophomore Rachel Beyda, who applied for a leadership position on the Undergraduate Students Association Council. She was challenged by an SJP-backed campaign that claimed her Jewish background would make her biased when deciding sensitive campus issues. For about 40 minutes, students questioned whether her Jewish identity would make her a less fair-minded leader, even though three other students deciding her fate had been similarly active in their respective communities (Iranian students’ group, the MSA and the Sikh students’ group). The film also highlights the extent of SJP’s infiltration into academia. The organization, which has ties to Muslim-Brotherhood-linked groups, has chapters on more than 600 campuses.
“Hate Spaces” underscores how there is “sensitivity training” on many campuses for just about every group, but not when it comes to groups relating to Jews or Israel. The film includes footage of SJP founder Hatem Bazian calling for an intifada in America during a 2004 San Francisco rally. In addition to heading the University of California, Berkeley’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Bazian is AMP’s founder and national chair. AMP provides funding, printed materials and staff to SJP chapters. “Hate Spaces” contains several disturbing quotes. “When I look at the people who fight with the Israeli Occupation Forces,” says AMP’s Munjed Ahmad, “I don’t think we understand how many American Jews were involved in the assault of Gaza the past summer.”
Taher Herzallah asks: “What if as Muslims, we wanted to establish an Islamic State? Is that wrong? What if, as Muslims, we wanted to use violent means to resist occupation? Is that wrong?” “Hate Spaces” attempts to explain how campuses became so hostile to Israel. By manipulating identity politics, SJP created an anti-Israel alliance of hard-left groups. They exploit the academically trendy concept of “intersectionality”, the idea that all injustices are interconnected, to demonize Israel and make common cause with activists from totally unrelated movements, like the campaign to address police violence. SJP also attracts well-meaning students concerned about equality and social justice by portraying Palestinians as blameless victims of wholly unjustified Israeli attacks.
“What drew me to SJP was my support of equal human rights,” one student says in the film. “I joined them because I felt that the Palestinian people were being oppressed.” Another student explains how “SJP deliberately works with anti-Zionist organizations because working with those organizations helps to immunize them against charges of bigotry and anti-Semitism. It gives SJP cover.” “Hate Spaces” points out that student demographics have also helped SJP, because tens of thousands of students from Muslim countries that are traditionally hostile to Israel have arrived on U.S. college campuses in recent years. As noted by a former-SJP activist interviewed in the documentary, “There’s definitely a lot of ethnic solidarity between Muslims and Palestinians because a majority of the Palestinians are Muslims.”
Goldwasser describes the intended audience for “Hate Spaces” as “decent Americans, especially, those in leadership positions.” He believes that “once they are educated about this outrage on campus, there is a chance that changes will be made. All we ask is that Jewish students be treated equally, and receive the same protection as any other minority on campus.” The film notes that professors and administrators have exacerbated the campus movement, through their indifference or open complicity with the movement’s campus leaders and tactics: “Many university officials are uncomfortable dealing with hatred that comes from a non-Western minority, preferring to selectively invoke the concepts of academic freedom and free speech instead of fulfilling their responsibility to Jewish students.”
MALCOLM TURNBULL BLASTS UNITED NATIONS OVER VOTE ON ISRAEL
Malcolm Turnbull has strongly condemned the UN, accusing it of a prejudiced attack against Israel over a Security Council resolution that accused the Israeli government of violating international law with its settlement activity. On the eve of the recent visit to Australia by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister also charged those who promoted or supported a boycott campaign with a deplorable attempt to de-legitimise the Jewish state. In an exclusive commentary article published in The Australian, Mr Turnbull denounced the UN for what he claims is bias, citing 20 resolutions between 2014 and 2015 that are critical of Israel when only a single resolution had been issued on the Syrian war.
Mr Turnbull said “My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticising Israel of the kind adopted by the Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” Mr Turnbull wrote. “At the same time, we recognise that Israel and the Palestinians need to come to a settlement and we support a directly negotiated two-state solution so that Palestinians will have their own state and the people of Israel can be secure within agreed borders. “We believe that with larger, more destructive and intractable disputes in the Middle East, it is time when Israeli and Palestinian leaders, supported by the global community, should return to the negotiating table and work towards a solution that upholds the rights of both peoples to live side-by-side in peace.”
The Israeli Prime Minister’s visit followed a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and has reignited a feud within the Labor Party, which is becoming increasingly divided between those who adhere to its long-held position of explicit support for Israel and a new guard actively promoting the Palestinian cause.Bill Shorten said yesterday he would be raising the controversial issue of settlements directly with Mr Netanyahu in a scheduled meeting. “Labor has long supported a two-state solution,” the Opposition Leader said. “We support the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to live within secure borders. I will make it clear to Mr Netanyahu that where settlement-building is an obstacle to two-state solution, it should be stopped.”
Labor senator Sam Dastyari has chided ALP figures for a deliberate provocation in calling for recognition of a Palestinian state ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s visit. Taking a similar position to Mr Turnbull, Senator Dastyari suggested there were more pressing human rights issues in the Middle East that needed to be addressed. “In recent years, there have been atrocities in Syria, Libya, Iraq and throughout the Middle East,” Senator Dastyari said earlier in the week. “Palestine remains an important foreign policy issue. I have always been a strong supporter of a two-state solution and of Australia playing a role to help facilitate that but the Labor Party can’t afford to focus on the Palestinian question at the expense of the other humanitarian challenges.”
Victorian Labor MP and member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby accused former prime minister Bob Hawke and former foreign minister Bob Carr of trying to damage Labor’s relationship with Israel with their public calls for a change in foreign policy to recognise a state of Palestine. “I might say to all of the heroes who are beating up on a country, a democratic country where there are gay pride parades, there aren’t any in the surrounding countries, or Christmas celebrations, there aren’t any in the surrounding countries, why don’t they beat up on China when the Chinese President comes to Australia?” the Jewish MP said. “Where is Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke when the terrible things that are happening in Tibet are discussed? They never raise their heads.”
Mr Netanyahu’s visit follows a meeting with Mr Trump who has sought to repair the damaged relationship following the Obama administration’s decision to break with its long-time position of not supporting such resolutions by abstaining from the UN vote. In the article Mr Turnbull refers to Australia’s historical ties with Israel and it being the first country to vote for the 1947 UN partition resolution leading to Israel’s establishment in 1948. “This week our friendship will take a historic step forward,” Mr Turnbull writes. “For the first time, a serving Israeli prime minister will visit Australia. The government is honoured to host Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu. Our peoples are bound together first and foremost by the values we share, a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
“And as a majority Christian nation, we share the rich cultural inheritance of the Bible, its stories and values a foundation and a context for our history, our literature, our imagination. And we could not imagine modern Australia, the most successful multicultural society in the world, without the brilliance and the enterprise of our almost 120,000 strong Jewish-Australian community.” The 2015 ALP conference resolved to join “like-minded nations who have already recognised Palestine” if Israel and the Palestinians fail to agree on a two-state solution. The UN Security Council voted 14-0 in December in favour of censuring Israel for its settlement activity, saying it violated international law. It demanded Israel stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
US AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMES OUT SWINGING
After sharing with reporters impressions from her first Security Council meeting on Middle East issues (“it was a bit strange”), Haley vowed that the US would no longer turn a blind eye to the UN’s outrageous bias against the Jewish state. “We will not repeat the mistake of Security Council Resolution 2334 [which castigated Israel for settlement building], instead we will push for action on the real threats in the Middle East.” Haley mentioned Hezbollah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon, the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists, strategies for defeating ISIS, and holding Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
None of these issues was raised at the meeting, Haley noted, yet the council did find the time to castigate Israel. Throughout her short comment, the former governor of South Carolina articulated her criticisms respectfully, never once deviating from polite Southern etiquette. Many of us in Israel gave up hope for change at the UN long ago. A lot of water has passed down the Jordan River since the UN voted in 1947 in favour of the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state. Under Soviet influence and with the help of dozens of autocratic regimes in Africa, South America and the Middle East that are eligible to vote, the UN passed the 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution.
It is the venue for the ludicrously named Human Rights Council, a body that gives special honours to moral luminaries such as Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Syria while issuing more condemnations against Israel than against all other countries in the world combined. The UNHRC’s agenda item 7 dictates that Israel’s purported human rights violations must be raised and discussed every single time the UNHRC convenes. In 2016 the General Assembly adopted 18 resolutions against Israel and the Security Council adopted 12 Israel specific resolutions, “more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran and South Sudan put together,” as Samantha Power, Haley’s predecessor, noted in her speech in defence of the US’s inexplicable abstention on resolution 2334.
With the rise of what The New York Sun referred to in an editorial as “Haley’s Comet,” there is new-found optimism that an institution thought to be irredeemably and incorrigibly slanted against Israel can be salvaged for the benefit of all mankind. It will not be easy. Haley related how the US sought unsuccessfully to get the Security Council to condemn a Palestinian terrorist attack in which a terrorist driver attempted to run over innocent Israelis and stab them. She said the council’s decision to block a statement of condemnation was “shameful.” But Haley has no intention of giving up, and her indefatigable optimism that change is possible could be contagious. Maybe the UN will abandon its obsession with Israel and begin living up to its true calling of mitigating conflicts and championing human rights.
Attitudes toward Israel are changing. The Jewish state has succeeded in fostering new diplomatic relations, including with Muslim countries in Africa and Asia. And Iran’s increasingly bellicose behaviour has brought Israeli interests in line with those of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. As Haley noted, Israel is recognized as a beacon of stability in a region overcome with turmoil. Its technological innovations and entrepreneurial spirit have made Israel a world leader in fields such as cyber security and water security. Haley’s courage and moral vision come to the UN at a time when Israel’s standing in the world is changing. We are confident her first press conference is the opening salvo in a winning battle to end the UN’s bias against Israel.