Video: Israel studies director assaults Texas students

Students at the University of Texas at Austin are calling for a professor to be investigated after he assaulted a group of students staging a Palestine solidarity protest.

The incident occurred just before a lecture on Friday promoting the Israeli military as an “offensive, daring, highly effective and initiative-driven army.”

The video above shows the students, members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, attempting to make a protest statement.

One man assaults them, while another, Professor Ami Pedahzur, director of the Institute for Israel Studies, aggressively confronts them, at one point pushing his face up to one of the students, before being restrained.

Since the incident, Pedahzur has tried to link the students to Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people.

A video still shows University of Texas at Austin’s Israel studies director Ami Pedahzur intimidating a student.

The video released by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) states that the group has made similar short disruptions at other campus events, though without ever receiving this kind of reaction.

Mohammed Nabulsi, a second-year law student and PSC organizer, told The Electronic Intifada that a dozen members of his group planned to read a brief statement explaining their view that the event would whitewash the Israeli army’s history of ethnic cleansing in Palestine. They then planned to walk out immediately in protest.

When the speaker, Stanford University historian Gil-li Vardi, was introduced, activists stood up, Nabulsi said.

“I said that I would like to also introduce the event where I would make reference to my family’s experience of ethnic cleansing at the hands of Zionist militias,” Nabulsi told The Electronic Intifada.

“I was prevented from making my statement by a gentleman who increasingly encroached upon me, yelling in my face, attempting to grab my phone, and making physical contact,” he added.

Nabulsi said other members of his group who were standing behind him holding a Palestinian flag, told the man not to touch Nabulsi.

The man then “approached my younger sister and asked her in an aggressive tone what she was planning to do about it,” Nabulsi said. “He then proceeded to rip the flag from the hands of our members.”

The man who grabbed the flag has since been identified as James Hasik, a weapons industry contractor, graduate student at the University of Texas and fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“The professor who put on the event, Ami Pedahzur, then proceeded to walk across the room, mocking and belittling us,” Nabulsi added.

In the video Pedahzur can be heard saying, “You are students. You know nothing.”

As the confrontation escalated, the video shows some of the students calling out, “Free, free Palestine” and “Long live the intifada.”

Pedahzur pushed his face into Nabulsi’s, nose to nose. “He had to be pulled off of me by multiple non-PSC attendees of the event,” Nabulsi said.

Having made their point, and not seeking further escalation, the group left the seminar room, Nabulsi said.

He added that university police detained members of the group for approximately 40 minutes, taking their IDs and statements.

Nabulsi said that one member of the organization, a recent graduate of the university, received a warning for criminal trespass even though the event was public.

“Radicalization”

Pedahzur has tried to directly link Friday’s protest to the massacres in Paris and has accused students who took part of identifying with “terrorists.”

“I never imagined that my academic research on terrorism and my administrative role as the Director of the Institute for Israel Studies would coincide in such a chilling way,” Pedahzur wrote on his personal website and at his institute’s official website.

“Less than 48 hours after the horrific attacks in Paris, I feel that it is my responsibility to ask you to join me in an attempt to confront the radicalization process on campuses and to protect students staff and faculty members from intimidation and violence,” he added.

Pedahzur accused Nabulsi of attempting to “hijack” the event and claimed that he was assaulted by the students.

But video shows that it was Hasik who grabbed the flag and initiated physical confrontations with the students.

The prominent anti-Palestinian blogger, Cornell University law professor William Jacobson, published a post about the incident, accusing the students of “intimidation tactics” as part of an alleged broader campaign against pro-Israel speakers.

Call for investigation

Pedahzur’s statement – updated multiple times since Friday – contains “several falsehoods that we feel are apparent in the video we released,” Nabulsi said.

He added that students feel unsafe on a campus where a professor can “intimidate and assault students without repercussions” and then defame them on an institutional website.

“The University of Texas at Austin strives to be a campus where people with different viewpoints can debate issues – including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – openly and respectfully,” Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said in a statement sent to The Electronic Intifada.

“The university has existing protocols for protesters to voice their points of view and be heard effectively. We are trying to determine if they were followed in this case,” Diehl added.

He confirmed that university police “spoke with all the parties” on Friday and said his office would do the same.

“We are gathering more information and looking for ways to improve the constructive dialogue on campus,” Diehl said.

Nabulsi said that his group wants the university to fully investigate the incident, and that “We believe it should result in the dismissal of Ami Pedahzur as a professor at our university.”

“How would the University of Texas respond if the roles were reversed,” Nabulsi asked, “If it were a Palestinian professor and an Israeli student?”

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I watched this video and I find it a curious practice to disrupt an even that one doesn't agree with. It's quite rude. If the pro-palestinian group wants to make a dissenting comment on the Israeli studies event, they should either organize their own event, or attend this event and wait till they are given the opportunity to ask question and discuss (usually at the end). To me this comes across as disrespectful of common academic practices, and I can only consider this as a fabricated escalation. If the pro-palestine students wish to voice their opinion, they should do so at the appropriate time and location. In the same way, I would expect pro-Israeli students to show the same sort of respect.

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In real life anyone defending the Palestinians or their point of view is never given the opurtunity or space. Not in US media or most of the world media for that matter. The professor is asking the student where was he born, as if that matters. 80 % of Israelis are settlers and colonialists born outside of Palestine. You lady do not know the Israelis.

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In real life the Palestinian issue is given way more cover by all the world media compared to any other conflict in the world. In real life there are much more demonstrations defending the Palestinians compared to any other group anywhere else. In real life the UN discussed the Palestinian problem more than any other conflict. In real life anyone disturbing an event in any university of the world will be taken out by security, no matter what is the topic.

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In real life, Palestinian protesters face extrajudicial execution by IDF and civilians. No other country's army gets to send representatives to US Universities to promote themselves. In real life Pro-Palestinian groups are threatened with being expelled for advocating a perfectly legal boycott. In real life, professors are fired for criticizing Israel or Zionists in any way. In real life, Netanyahu is complaining that Israel doesn't get as much sympathy as France, when factually, 99% of articles about Israel in MSM are positive and supportive. Some EU countries have even made anti-Semitism (anything negative about Israel) illegal. but the most offensive remarks about Muslims, any other country and Black or Brown people aren't even noticed. Israel gets more media attention because they demand it. I've never seen a bunch of government officials less able to keep their mouth's shut to the media.

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I think we are looking to different channels. I've seen so many MSM articles in favor of the Palestinians that I fail to see how 99% of them are in favor of Israel. But more important, there are so many Israel-Palestine news compared to ANY other conflict in the world, that I really would prefer the media (and the UN) to stop caring for Palestine or Israel, and start looking at the rest of the world.

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In real life the only UN resolution Israel accepted and implemented is the partition plan of 1947, in real life Israel has rejected tens of UN resolutions in favour of Palestinian rights, in real life Israel bas been committing all sorts of war crimes and crimes against humanity tagetting Lebanese and Palestinian people, in real life Israel is the only criminal and terrorist State to enjoy full impunity!!!

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I don't think you quite understand the idea of civil protest. You don't make an appointment and get permission of the opposition. As long as proper protocols about physical contact and obstructing access, it was perfectly legitimate.

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A sense of proportion is surely called for in this instance.

Direct, non-violent public confrontation with IDF propagandists- including, yes, disruption of the opening ceremonies of their events- is a mild form of intervention when contrasted with the colossal crimes against humanity committed by Israel and its defence establishment. I'm struck by the calls for civility and tolerance of expression on behalf of a state which imprisons and even assassinates people under its control for the offence of speaking out against apartheid. Where is the freedom of speech for Israel's captives, its targeted populations, the academics forbidden to travel, the students blocked from attending school, the authors silenced or driven into exile, the civil society organisers jailed under harsh military rule? Accusing protestors of rudeness in the face of these conditions makes a mockery of the charges of selective outrage levied against the BDS movement by its detractors. Where is the indignation on behalf of the humiliated, the plundered, the dispossessed and the murdered? The problem is not whether a few students delayed the onset of this propaganda exercise by five minutes. The issue is rather the deadly truth of racism, conquest and slaughter behind the cheerful corporate palaver on offer.

Let's keep in mind, the aim of this small protest was to make a statement objecting to the event and then leave. Unlike the IDF, whose declarations are written in blood, shouted over loudspeakers, and inscribed on Palestinian tombstones. And when they drop by to deliver such statements, they don't walk out after five minutes.

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The Israeli Prof asked if they have been to Palestine. I always get that when I protest AS A JEW for Palestinian rights. I've been there, seen IDF soilders, de-humanize elderly people, detain children and saw homes, that were once Palestinian, riddled with bullets. When I asked, why it was riddle with bullets, the Kibbutz putz told me they use it for target practice. When I researched that area, it was part of the well documented Nakba.

Now, that being said. This wasn't like a little sorority or debate event, where everything is cool, and plan their cute little events differently - PEOPLE DIED AND ARE DYING EVERYDAY. If you are Jewish, then you know that this is a crime against humanity and forbidden. If you're not, and just feel like this is a minor clash between students, then stay in your corner of the Zionist Internet. It's disrespectful - The Palestinians have been through enough and it's mean.

Jane Zacher
Student

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I agree with you that their approach to the protest was not the most polite and quite rude in fact, but everything they did was legal and within their rights. The Professor is responsible to act within the bylaws of the University and within the code of conduct. His response to the situation was completely unacceptable and I agree that he should be released from the University. The Professor and James Hasik were the only ones that introduced a level of violence and intimidation to the situation. Grabbing a students flag from their hands, getting in their faces or pushing their bodies against them to evoke terror is not acceptable in an institution of learning.

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I agree with you up to a point. I think in these situations you have to ask if you would accept interference with your own events this way. If not then different tactics are needed such as just handing out flyers. Not too long ago zionists did disrupt some pro-Palestinian events in New York City and were criticized for this. We need to be consistent. This controversy over the protest tactic could also change the subject from Palestine to the tactic or it could be a good thing that keeps the subject in the news and forces people to think about it.

The tactic is not without precedent from other protest movements. The Black Lives Matter movement and Act Up have successfully used it.

What surprised me most in the video was that UT has an Israel Studies department. It seems to me the students could demand a Palestine Studies department if they aren't doing this already. In any case I admire the efforts these students are making.

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"Agitate, agitate, agitate."

No shame in that.

As to bully Jacobson, he has no problem getting a third grade teacher fired merely for having Bassem Tamini as a guest in her classroom.

What a hypocrite.

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I hadn't heard the teacher had been fired, just curious do you have a link to that or anything?

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it is disgusting to see an academic person insults a student. Shame on him. They were supposed to allow these students, not try to insult them. This is America. we have freedom to protest.

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No, you don't have carte blanche "freedom to protest"... you CANNOT simply walk into someone else's event and disrupt it... you would then be interfering with THEIR freedoms. The Constitution guarantees "freedom of assembly," so you can park yourselves OUTSIDE the event and inform all the passers-by with your brilliant insights.

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It was a public event. Get that straight. Open, no admission, public event at a public university.

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Freedom of Assembly, as guaranteed by the Constitution, has nothing to do with a group that disagrees with you interrupting your event. It means the government does not have the right to prevent you from coming together in protest. It drives me insane when people latch onto one small phrase in the Constitution or Bill of Rights and then try to interpret it to mean they can do whatever they want so long as it is "speech" or "religion" or "assembly." You can't commit libel or slander, you can't force religious practice within your organization (unless that's the purpose of the organization), and you can't claim that only one group has the right to be in a place and no one is permitted to protest it.

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I wonder how I would react to this if it were a video made by anti-feminist Christian fundamentalists who wanted to make a statement and disrupt a lecture on women's history.

I mean, I am with the students in principle, but surely there is some complexity here as to who is denying who the right of freedom of expression.

The assault is clear and those men need to be charged.

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.... are not exactly radical feminists speaking on women's history. Nor are anti-racist / anti-Zionist activists, who are championing equality and inclusion are fundi wacko Hagee-ites.

Those who would silence equality and justice are now saying they are not being heard?

Give it a break! They are being heard. More so than the forces of equality and justice.

Your dishonesty and arrogance go hand in hand.

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Those two pro Zionists confronting the protesters appear absolutely enraged that their myth narrative is no longer acceptable. I find it difficult to believe that they were given an opportunity in a supposed place of "higher education" to peddle such extremist hate.

Good on the protesters for standing against hate speech. Bad on the administration for allowing genocidal propaganda on campus. I can't believe the level of discourse or so-called scholarship inhabiting U.S. Universities.

Sad.

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Its a University, a forum meant for universal thought. You're not going to like all of it; don't listen or protest in silence. There are few places where this can be allowed, but a public space must be made and there is nowhere better than a University. Silencing extreme thought can is scarier that expressing it.

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Time, Place, and Manner. No one is saying they can't publish, march, shout, display, thier views, but if they interfere with someone else's rights to do the same then they should expect a conflict, and incidentally not be so whiny about it...

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Sorry, but I question the effectivity of Mohammed Nabulsi and the group's approach. Ok, they say they wanted to make a short statement and then leave. Their decision to speak out at the start was clearly explosive as the event was scheduled as a lecture promoting the Israeli military as an “offensive, daring, highly effective and initiative-driven army”.
Those who wanted to hear this lecture, however much I criticize the Israeli military, had a right to do so, as do any group who wish to learn about BDS. The disruption, as I see it, had its rightful place when the lecture has been given, when opposition had real meaning.
The protest quickly disintegrated into an upsetting non-productive situation for everyone. The threatening behavior and words of Ami Pedahzur lost their truly negative significance, as well as the abuse of his position to “intimidate and assault students without repercussions” and defame them on an institutional website.
Surely, there is a more constructive way to counter Israeli propaganda on campus? No matter how frustrated, angry and emotionally blown apart by Israel's lies, bullying, lobbying, violence.....we are...

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promoting the Israeli military as an “offensive, daring, highly effective and initiative-driven army”.

What sort of university allows war propaganda on campus?

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I thought this Palestinian student represented himself and Palestinian people correctly. Israel continues to terrorize Palestinian people with US & UK sanction since 1948 using US taxpayer money for a military while closing public schools. This student represented me and all Americans who disagree with using tax revenue to open private prisons, close public schools, and fund Israel's hyperagressive military that is waging genocide against Palestinians. -RF.

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If you had something to say then say it in your own forum. Even if you had a good point to make you just came off looking stupid. They were much more patient than I would have been.

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This article is bias and deceptive. The video was edited, and frankly it still makes the protestors look like nut cases. Listen to the actually words not highlighted by the bias video, they make no factual points and escalate the situation in every attempt. I respect their freedom to civil protest. However I also respect the professors freedom of speech and the students right to learn which the protestors take away. The protestors didn't plan this event, they came and shut it down. If you disagree with this, consider the faculty in that room have PhDs and are widely accredited professors and authors. As far as civilized protest, they weren't very civil. They say they were going to stay two minutes? They literally shut down the educational forum with yelling until the UT police removed them. As far as a public forum people were required to RSVP to attend. The hospitable professor let them attend anyways to include them. The main man protesting also uses the online name
Georges Abdallah who the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions who murdered American Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Ray, and Israeli diplomat Yaakov Bar-Simantov in Paris, France. The list goes on but my point is that this article is ridiculous and hopefully most people don't fall for its deception

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I stand in solidarity with these brave students. As an American Jew I condemn the Israeli occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people. How can we support these students? Do we call or email the University? This is absolutely ludicrous and violates their right to freedom of speech.

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At a time when dozens and dozens of young people are being murdered in cold blood by netanyahu's "Shoot to kill" order about boys who throw stones..it is a MOCKERY that "professor" Pedazhur, director of the israel studies center at UT, my alma mater, had the audacity to not even consider employing the concepts he touts on his own website, namely: " I never developed loyalty to a particular theoretical perspective or research method. I constantly look for frameworks and tools that can assist me in solving interesting questions."
.........He has an authoritarian approach without a "hint" of being interested in solving any questions. Of course he would invite and be an apologist for an ex IDF'r, making a mockery of the concept of 'academic freedom' or academic engagement w/those pro-Pal students.
Bully and intimidate with or without a gun. Go back to Tel Aviv Mr Pedazhur and study terrorism up close....your mirror!!

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Zionists can't handle dissent, hence their bullying tactics as evidenced in the video. James Hasik and Ami Pedahzur are cowardly thugs who don't belong in academia.

“How would the University of Texas respond if the roles were reversed,” Nabulsi asked, “If it were a Palestinian professor and an Israeli student?”

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The occupier demanding respect, what a travesty.

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Better to study up, ask questions, and debate, than to practice civil disobedience in an academic setting. But was it an academic setting? Would free, unscreened questions have been allowed? If not, disrupt away.

And why does UT feel the need for an "Israel Studies" program? Why in the world does any campus in the US need an "Israel Studies program," in addition to, say, a perfectly legitimate Jewish Studies or Middle Eastern Studies program? It's clearly a donor-based quasi-academic program, designed to channel Zionist propaganda, as illegitimate as a "Saudi Arabian Studies" program would be.

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these students should have been expelled. good on the professor to encourage them to stay and listen. typical of them to reject that offer so as to cause a ruckus instead. pathetic actually.

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Hello, I'm a local TV news reporter and am interested in covering this story. Is there any way I can get in contact with the students involved in this solidarity demonstration?

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Forgot to include my email: carolaguerrerodeleon at utexas dot edu

My deadline is for today, so I would appreciate getting a response as soon as possible.

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The Zionist doctrine is more a political philosophy and a reinterpretation of Jewish history. It has nothing to do with Judaism according to Hasidic Jews and Jews that are on the side of justice and righteousness. Zionist expansion is systematic and devious whereas the Palestinians need to depend on organizations like PLO or Hamas to look after their interest since there is no recognized state to shield and protect their interests. Since the region has biblical origins and has yearly pilgrimages, it is an economic tourist gold mine with beautiful coastline on the Gaza Strip. Great potential to build luxurious hotels, condos and houses with view lots. By increasing the hardships and suffering of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, it is the hope of the Zionist that the Palestinians will leave so the Zionists can complete their dream, which unrealistic.

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I do believe that you approach presenting an opposing view in a very challenging and judgmental way. If you want a debate, as you stated you did, arrange an event and invite those who oppose your position. If you're not willing to do this, I doubt very much that you are really interested in a debate; only in causing a disturbance and then complaining that you were treated unfairly.

While, the others might have handled it differently, the recent events on other campuses and in France and Beirut have people on edge and you provoked them even though you were not on the program. I doubt very much that you would allow a pro Israel person to interrupt a meeting of yours.

I believe you have something important to say, and much to learn about the Palestinian issue. An honest debate would allow both positions to be heard. Do you have the courage and intellectual honesty to approach this issue fairly?

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Dear Mr Nabulsi,

I would like to thank you for your commitment to the Palestinian Cause and for your courage in exposing palestinians sufferings.

My elders were, like so many Palestinians, sentenced to death by israeli forces just because they did not want to leave their homeland.

I am so grateful to people like you who act and struggle bravely for justice and for our collective memory.

With my highest consideration,
Joe Yagchi

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I have no sympathy for you. Your intent was not to have a dialogue, but to hijack the lecture, and put a stop to it. You wouldn't have allowed your own behavior had you been the lecturer. Hold your own meeting & stop trying to silence others by disruption - they have a right to speak - if you disagree do it on your own time.

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There was an abstract, scientific article about the mentality of an online troll. Their narcissistic, sadistic and like to cause trouble. I call it it "keyboard thuggin' ". This thread has been hijacked by a bunch of sociopaths, who would not have the stones to say a lot of the negative things about the people supporting the students, to their face.

Now, me - I'M A PROUD JEW AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, HUMAN WHO SUPPORTS PALESTINIANS. My name is Jane Zacher. I am a student, 45, live in Philadelphia, PA in the slavocracy, known as the United States. If you want to meet me, and say nasty things to my face, because my soul is light and cares for other Humans, then look me up.

Once I stopped being scared of the government and Zionist bullies in Philadelphia, I felt lighter, free, happy.

I'm on those stupid "watch lists". That just proves that the government is in bed with the Israelis and is doing exactly what they denied, and are afraid of us coming together. Good, be afraid. B.D.S. is working, our letters, emails, protests and financial support of these publications are starting to make an impact.

That student was a lot calmer than me. If a professor acted like a street thug, got in my face like that, it would be over. That's street behavior, and that pig, who pulled a flag and muscled up to a woman, ain't poo. The teacher got funky first, and if he felt like he was being threatened, he should have just called the cops first, not after he got in the kids face. He's ex IDF, which makes him a bully. They never detain or kill alone, always in a pack. The second he did that, it proved the mentality of The Oppressor.

I don't like bullies, but I LOVE PALESTINE :) Thanks again Ali for your truth and efforts !

Jane Zacher
Student and human with a conscious

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This guy is it's antithesis. A university is the last place that should tolerate physical or intellectual intimidation or censorship. Fire this clown!

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"We don't want to listen." something repeated time and again by the protesters.

That means, if they are not students, they have no right to disrupt. Thumbs down for the protesters and the spin you lend to make them look like heroes.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.