Disruptions on Campus: There’s Always an Excuse for Israel

A passage from a blog post by Steve Horwitz at BHL:

Here are a few thoughts for college libertarians who are able to invite speakers to campus and how they might do so in the most productive ways.

Let me start by saying that the sort of interruptions we’ve seen this week with Yaron Brook and Christina Hoff Sommers are utterly unacceptable. Those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space and students expecting a talk should be forcibly removed from the room and subject to the relevant disciplinary consequences. There should be no negotiating with anti-intellectual terrorists. They should feel free to ask questions when the time comes or protest outside the building in ways that do not prevent those who wish to attend from attending. No excuses.

A question for Horwitz et al: what if “those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space” on campus call themselves “the Israel Defense Forces” (IDF) and are sent by something that calls itself the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria? Should they be “forcibly removed”? Forcibly removing them is what a policy of “no excuses” would really entail.

And anyone who’s serious about “forcibly removing” the IDF from the campus of a Palestinian university is going to have to engage in that favorite libertarian pastime: “self-help.” Campus Security can’t do it, and there’s no local police department to call. Nor does the IDF leave because you politely ask them to. If you want them off campus, you’re going to have to drive them out yourself, with the home-made weapons at your disposal–rocks, burning tires, Molotov cocktails, chanted slogans, chanted prayers, a bit of bravado, and the sheer physical provocation of your bodily presence, which they’ll be happy to pepper with the ammunition at their disposal. Of course, when you do throw rocks or hurl burning tires at the IDF, all the world (including its libertarians) will call you a “terrorist,” looking the other way when they come back to invade campus again–as they have, with impunity, for the last five decades.

To state the obvious: Israeli military disruption of academic life is par for the course at Al Quds University and other institutions of higher education in the West Bank and far exceeds anything Antifa has done, or ever hopes to do. Whatever else may be true of it,* Antifa doesn’t have an army, air force, navy, and border police; doesn’t have nuclear weapons; doesn’t have a multi-million dollar international lobbying operation; doesn’t get billions of dollars of foreign aid from the U.S. government; isn’t calling for de facto loyalty oaths on American campuses, backed by law; and hasn’t run a fifty-year long military occupation and settlement enterprise backed by brute, state-sponsored force. Israel has and does all these things and more, with systematically disruptive consequences for academic life in Palestine.

Here’s one instance of an IDF-sponsored campus disruption. Here’s another. Here’s another. Here’s another. And here’s one more. And those are just a few recent, media-reported incidents at Al Quds University, where I happen to have taught. If I included incidents at other West Bank institutions (or ones in Gaza), if I went back a few decades, if I included testimonial evidence not reported in the media (including some of my own)–I could spend the next week doing nothing but filling the pages of my blog with examples.

And here’s the latest incident to make its appearance on my Facebook feed, as reported by my friend and colleague Fahmi Abboushi, whose family lives in Jenin. Though it didn’t literally take place on a university campus, the target was a university student, and the episode itself has obvious implications for academic life. Students who are regularly treated this way don’t have an easy time making it to campus or back, and aren’t exactly being incentivized to complete their studies.

My wife’s niece got arrested last night in Jenin, Palestine. Her name is Fatima and she is 21 years old.

A contingent of Israeli military force with their vicious dogs entered her family house at 2am…Destroying furniture and strip searching every member of the family. When they left in the wee hours of the morning, they took her with them. Her father wanted to give her a jacket, the soldiers refused and asked him to turn back. The family is not allowed to see or talk to her till they finish interrogating her. A process that may take days, if not weeks.

We love you Fatima, our hearts are with you.

The headline says “Call for the release of a student from Jenin.” She is a college student enrolled in the Alquds Open University in Jenin.

That was on March 7. Naturally, the Israelis ransacked the family home in the process. And it’s very doubtful that they had a “warrant”: Israeli soldiers don’t need, and have never needed, warrants for forcibly entering and ransacking Palestinian homes, or for seizing persons or property once inside.

March 9: “Her court [date] was today but the judge postponed it till Sunday. Her father was there and tried to talk to her but was not allowed by the military guards. She’s still in jail with the same clothing she left home with.”

On March 11, yesterday, she was released from jail without charge, but was obliged to pay 2000 NIS (about $580). In other words, four days’ imprisonment on trumped-up charges–for a fee.

Here, by the way, is an interview with Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Philosophy at and past President of Al Quds University, after one of his countless detentions by the Israeli authorities. For all the talk about the evils of boycotts, it’s worth noting that Nusseibeh and AQU are among the few individuals and institutions actually under boycott in the exact sense of “boycott” urged by BDS–by Brandeis, an American institution.

What happened to Fatima and to Sari Nusseibeh are events of everyday brutality in occupied Palestine–not the kind of breathless, pseudo-drama generated by disrupted classrooms in the US or UK. When I taught at Al Quds, every class began with a couple of apologetic explanations from students for why Ahmad or Qusai or Yasin wasn’t in class today because he’d either been arrested by “the Israelis” or “the Authority” (the Palestinian Authority). Just about every male student I had in class at AQU had spent time in prison and/or been shot–some by rubber bullets, some by live rounds–many  without charge under indefinite administrative detention. Most of the young people I knew had had their homes smashed into and ransacked by the Israeli authorities, some multiple times. Plenty had been beaten. Israeli propaganda would have you believe that there is some civilized, justified reason for these everyday demonstrations of force. Allow yourself to consider the possibility that there is no justification beyond the need to demonstrate what force can do.

I know a family in inner city Hebron (H2) that is forced by the Israeli authorities to leave its doors–internal and external–open so that Israeli soldiers can march into the home at will, at any time of the day or night. By “external doors,” I mean the doors to the street. By “internal doors,” I mean the doors inside the dwelling itself, e.g., to the family’s bedrooms and bathroom: evidently, one can’t so much as take a shit without inviting the scrutiny or armed supervision of the IDF.  Alas, there are no Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendment rights for Palestinians in Palestine. As far as the IDF is concerned, “constitutional criminal procedure” consists in barging into anyplace you want to go, brandishing your weapons at anyone who appears threatening, carrying out your “orders,” whatever they may be, and leaving when you regard yourself as done. Obviously, Antifa has a long way to go before it measures up to standards like these.

Meanwhile, Horwitz and Co. over at BHL are exercised over what happened to poor little Yaron Brook at King’s College, London: in other words, they’re wringing their hands over the predicament of a man who, for years, served the occupation that made things like Fatima’s and Sari Nusseibeh’s (and so many other) detentions happen.**  So forgive me if I find Horwitz’s “no excuses” bravado hard to take seriously. On the one hand, Horwitz is committed to “forcibly removing” those who disrupt academic events; on the other hand, he’s opposed to boycotting those who do.*** In other words: “no excuses” for Antifa; nothing but excuses for Israel. By this time, I suppose I should know better: there’s always an excuse for Israel. There’s been one for the last fifty years, and at this rate, there’ll be one for the next fifty.

“There should be no negotiating with anti-intellectual terrorists,” Horwitz tells us. I see. I’m curious, then, to know how Steve Horwitz proposes that Palestinian students should deal with a visit to campus by terrorists from the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. Obviously, negotiations are out of the question. But surely some action-guiding advice is in order. And trust me, this isn’t it:

Think about topics where libertarians have demonstrated clear concern with an issue that the left cares about but have proposed different solutions. There’s plenty of topics like this one (incarceration for example, or how the state oppresses marginalized groups, or poverty/inequality issues among others). These are topics that are more likely lead to real engagement rather than shouting matches. No guarantees of course.

No matter the speaker or format, work early with the relevant offices on campus, including your security people, to discuss who is coming and what’s going to be talked about, if for no other reason than to have all of your bases covered and so that they know they probably won’t need to call out an army (if you’ve done this right). The worst thing you can do is surprise people in power.

Right. All I can say is, working with the relevant campus offices doesn’t always prevent “an army” from showing up. Sometimes they’ll show up anyway.  But if the proposed libertarian solution is forcibly to throw them off campus, I’m willing to give it a shot.  And I know what I’ll tell them in the interrogation room after I do. I’ll tell them that my name is “Ahmad,” that I’m a Palestinian at heart, and that I was radicalized by reading a blog on the Internet, called “BHL.” It’s easy enough to find, I’ll explain: just look for the tell-tale splash of blood in its logo.

*I have no hard-and-fast verdict to offer on Antifa as such. I’ve discussed the matter here with PoT blogger David Riesbeck. I do condemn the attacks on Hoff Sommers and Brook, which strike me as both childish and immoral.

** According to his bio for the Ayn Rand Institute (hyperlinked in the text above), Brook was a first sergeant for Israeli military intelligence. I also have my own personal reasons for regarding him as completely full of shit. That said, I don’t think his free speech rights should be abridged, whether by Antifa or anyone else. Pace Voltaire, however, I’d be disinclined to put my life on the line to defend them.

***By “boycotting those who do,” I mean: boycotting those institutions that knowingly help to effectuate the Israeli occupation and settlement enterprise. Horwitz loudly opposes boycotts of Israeli academic institutions, but ignores their active and eager complicity in the Israeli occupation and settlement enterprise. The position he takes against boycotts would be inconsistent even with the most narrowly-targeted boycott against the most right-wing, occupation-promoting institutions, e.g., Ariel University and Shalem College. His view on boycotts is also inconsistent with American police officers’ or police departments’ boycotting training sessions with the Israeli military.

In saying this, I should not be understood as giving blanket endorsement to BDS. My point is simply that it makes no sense to call for the “forcible removal” of those who disrupt campus presentations, and then insist that no one boycott institutions that facilitate an occupation that has been disrupting Palestinian campuses for fifty years.

Incidentally, if you want to see what a mass “forcible removal” looks like, I’d suggest spending some time in Hebron H2, where you can watch the IDF and the settlers working together to carry them out. It’s gratifying to think that AQU students and faculty can, in Steve Horwitz’s name, mete out the same treatment to the IDF the next time they show up on campus.

(PS, March 18: The original subtitle of this post was the somewhat uninformative “A Question for Steve Horwitz.”)

5 thoughts on “Disruptions on Campus: There’s Always an Excuse for Israel

  1. A postscript on Fatima’s case, care of her uncle, Fahmi Abboushi:

    So Fatima was sentenced for ten months in jail—suspended for five years. Meaning that if in the next five years she is arrested, she will automatically serve ten months in prison. She was fined 2000 Israeli Shekels to be released.
    No one knows what the charges are.


  2. Pingback: Nightcap | Notes On Liberty

  3. Pingback: Documenting a Police Detention (2): The Long and Short of It | Policy of Truth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s