How the Campus Crusade against Israel Suppresses Freedom of Speech and Open Inquiry

July 3, 2020 | Elliot Kaufman
About the author: Elliot Kaufman is the letters editor for the Wall Street Journal.

In 2015, a group of students at Connecticut College drove the philosophy professor Andrew Pessin off campus, aided by faculty and administrators who were more than willing to throw him to the wolves. Pessin’s crime? First, he commented on the intolerance of fundamentalist Islam at a panel discussion about the Charlie Hebdo killings; then Khandaker dug up a Facebook post from the previous year in which Pessin compared Hamas to a “rabid dog.” Elliot Kaufman, reviewing a recent book on the affair, comments:

Did Pessin write anything wrong in his [Facebook] post? In one sense, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Wilfred Reilly’s research on hate-crime hoaxes has shown that where no racism is forthcoming, many activists will fabricate it. They know that lectures on structural racism aren’t enough; enemies are needed to spur radical action. On U.S. campuses, “the demand for bigots exceeds the supply,” Reilly has said. Still, the truth should guide our judgments. We owe it to Pessin to search for it.

A careful examination of text and context, the sort of thing that liberal arts colleges are supposed to teach, must conclude that Pessin meant to speak harshly only about Hamas. But . . . Katherine Bergeron, the college president, objected in a speech to the “vehemence” of the image in Pessin’s analogy. But, of course, she really only objected to a certain kind of vehemence. . . . It is indicative of the prevailing moral confusion that a university president would tut-tut a defender of a free society for his vehemence in opposing a genocidal terrorist group.

I decided to take a look at the Facebook profile of Lamiya Khandaker, [the student who led the crusade against Pessin], as she and fellow activists did to Pessin. . . . On May 7, 2019, Khandaker shared a graphic of the casualties from “Israel’s war on Gaza” and wrote the following comment: “Blame Hamas all you want, but numbers don’t lie. Our politicians are despicable dogs” (emphasis is mine). This from the woman who attempted to destroy a professor’s life for using almost the same “dehumanizing” language.

Turns out, it’s just standard heated political rhetoric, which she favors herself. The whole thing was a ploy, a cheap appeal to liberal compassion that works if you belong to a favored group and your opponent, a Jew, does not.

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