By Leora Eisenberg 


I’ve walked home wearing Israeli flags. I’ve gone undercover to BDS protests. I’ve lived in France during Operation Protective Edge.


At this point in my Israel activism, I’ve encountered most things. But I had never encountered hate speech. I had never encountered a limit to my freedom of expression under the pretense of protest, and consequently, free speech. I had never encountered a paralyzing fear that prevented me from showing my support for Israel.


Last week, I was hoping to hear noted Israeli philosopher and professor, Moshe Halbertal, at the University of Minnesota. Thoroughly lost and un-fashionably late, I followed the sound of chanting until I finally made my way to the lecture hall. I figured that there couldn’t have been many protesters. I had never faced the BDS head-on before, and expected no real problems. Then again, the University of Minnesota had never before hosted a “war crimes apologist,” in the eyes of the BDS movement.

Prof. Moshe Halbertal at the University of Minnesota, November 3, 2015
 
The space outside the auditorium had morphed into a crowd of screaming protesters. “Viva Viva Palestina!” they roared. “Netanyahu, you will see! Palestine will be free!” they proclaimed. “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go!” they announced.
I felt like a bad person for going to a lecture in the hopes of supporting Israel. That said, I felt even worse once I realized that I couldn’t even get into the room without facing the verbal abuse of the protesters. The crowd grew and grew, and every few minutes, voices from inside the lecture hall were raised, followed, each time, by exuberant BDS-ers abandoning the intellectualism in the lecture hall for the misinformed cheers and clamor of their fellow protesters.
“Way to tell him off!” they proclaimed. “You really showed him.”

Show him what? The hypocrisy of the BDS movement?  

BDS activists in action - illustration

The BDS claims to be a human rights-oriented, social justice-seeking organization, a claim I find astonishing. Their scare tactics denied me, and others like me, the chance to listen to an Israeli academic who is not, by the way, a war crimes apologist. Their self-righteous tirades denied Moshe Halbertal his freedom of speech. Their shameless ruckus denied lecture attendees a peaceful atmosphere. Their protest in the name of “free speech” went against the free marketplace of ideas that an educational institution should stand for and seek to enshrine.

By screaming and yelling for a solid forty minutes, they prevented any intellectual exchange, an exchange that they clearly weren’t prepared for. They memorized facts and chants, but knew little of reality. Their belief in “human rights” applied only a certain group of humans, because, clearly, the pro-Israel humans at the University of Minnesota had no right to free speech or security.

I congratulate the BDS on showing its true colors. Its true colors of hatred, hypocrisy and incitement. I congratulate the BDS on demonstrating to the world how much it cares about peace, social justice and human rights. I congratulate the BDS on making university students fear for the safety on campus. It was the first time I had ever felt scared to go to a lecture, which if you think about it, should never have to be an issue in university. I congratulate the BDS on its prevention of free speech, misplaced values and intimidation of seventeen-year-old part-time university students.

Still think that the BDS wants peace and social justice? Think again.

Leora Eisenberg is 
a high school student who takes classes at the University of Minnesota. She has her own blog at the Jerusalem Post called "Generation Why," is the Director of Youth Programming at Act for Israel, and is on the board of the nascent Israelis for Israel. 

 

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