It is not surprising to see how both SAFE and the Alt-Right both justify their actions as freedom of expression when both groups embellish in rhetoric that offends minorities.
For the Michigan Review article describing the event in detail, see Sara Otto’s article here.
During the first week of October, the Pro-Palestine student group SAFE, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, received backlash for its creation of an Apartheid Wall on the Diag of the University of Michigan.
As a result of their controversial political demonstration, Jewish and pro-Israel students signed an online petition to President Schlissel condemning SAFE’s actions as being reprehensible for specifically targeting Jewish Students on campus.
As cited in the mass email from the representatives of SAFE, the petition condemning SAFE’s actions on a Jewish High Holiday directly juxtaposes their actions with the hateful acts that Alt-Right sympathizers had committed within the past few weeks at Michigan.
SAFE has deemed it necessary to create its own google form to justify its anti-Israel demonstration by claiming free speech and by stating that there is a conspiracy created by pro-Israel advocates to suppress criticism of Israel and that allegations of antisemitism towards SAFE’s actions fulfills the racist stereotype of pro-Palestinian students being inherently anti-Semitic.
Here is what SAFE get wrong.
The organization blatantly refuses to own up to its actions and refuses to apologize to the hundreds of Jewish students offended by the demonstration. Instead they seek to vindicate themselves from their actions.
When Alt-Right sympathizers offend minorities by setting up posters, SAFE and other social justice groups call on President Schlissel to address the issue pertaining to campus environment. However, when SAFE puts up a demonstration that offends a small minority of people, the Jews and Israelis on campus, where are the social justice groups now?
Despite the fact that SAFE has repeatedly stated its noble intentions in addressing its members’ complaints and sentiments towards Israel, their actions speak volumes about the subtle and sinister anti-Semitic nature of their demonstration and organization. Below are several ‘red flags’ on the nature of the organization.
- Putting the face of Leila Khaled on the ‘apartheid’ wall. Leila Khaled is a symbol of Palestinian liberation for Marxists and pro-Palestinians. The woman behind the symbol was a member of a terrorist organization, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who hijacked two Israeli airplanes carrying civilians in an attempt to assassinate an Israeli ambassador. Ironically she justifies her actions by claiming that “We are not against Jews, but only against Zionists.”
- Presenting a one-sided story of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. SAFE failed to present both sides of the story by dressing themselves up as Israeli soldiers and presenting the narrative of the Israeli soldier as being the vicious oppressor of the weak and helpless Palestinian. This narrative is deliberately construed by anti-Semites in the Arab world to justify the annihilation of Israel.
SAFE states that they’re against all forms of bigotry be it towards race or gender and that they “stand in solidarity with all marginalized people and oppose all systems and forms of oppression.” If they are true to their word, where are they in condemning the terrorist organization, Hamas? Hamas, as the governing authority of the Gaza strip, publicly states that their mission is to kill and encourage Muslims to kill Jews, as listed in Article 7 of their Covenant. Furthermore, LGBT Palestinians face torture, persecution, imprisonment, and death in Palestinian-controlled territories which is why they flee to Israel for asylum from a repressive government and oppressive culture. Obviously SAFE isn’t fulfilling its mission of advocating for the oppressed since its primary and only objective is to demonize Israel on the University of Michigan campus. As seen on their website, blog, twitter, and Facebook page most, if not all, of its posts are pointed towards anti-Israel sentiments.
During the past year, Israel has been subjected to numerous stabbing attacks which have left several American Jews wounded if not dead.
Team SAFE’s impartiality on the 84 stabbings, 57 attempted stabbings, 31 car attacks, 20 shootings and 4 bombings since last October that Palestinians have committed towards Jews and Israelis speaks volumes about the organization’s hypocrisy, their failure to criticize Palestinian terrorism, discriminate killings towards Jews, and the organization’s blatant disregard for the lives of Jews.
- Placing the wall on a Jewish High Holiday. Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of a Jewish New Year. It’s a time for prayer, self-reflection, and a sweet embrace of spirituality. By strategically placing their demonstration of an apartheid wall during a Jewish High Holiday, SAFE effectively secured a time on the Diag when very few Jewish people are present to contest their opinions. This means that SAFE is able to present their haphazard opinion without any criticism from the Jewish crowd while insulting the Jewish crowd during a time of prayer and self-reflection. SAFE could have redeemed themselves by stating an official apology for placing the event on Rosh Hashanah but they deflected such claims by stating that their demonstration was also during a Muslim New Year, thus nullifying the marginalization that many Jewish students felt by this demonstration on the Diag. Gabrielle Roth writes it so eloquently in her op-ed for the Michigan Daily.
- Pointing fingers and blaming the ‘Zionists.’ The screenshot with the name and photo blacked out, provided by an anonymous source, is of a University of Michigan student who was outraged at the blowback that the apartheid wall created for SAFE.
Her post illustrates her misunderstanding of the offense that the apartheid wall had towards the Jewish community. Rather than apologizing for the hurt feelings that the wall caused for the Jewish community, she felt it was appropriate to deflect the blame towards the ‘Zionists’ and uses pointed and hyperbolic language to describe Israel.
There are no shades of gray in describing the reprehensible actions of SAFE in offending the hundreds of Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus. What SAFE did was wrong and the organization should be held accountable for its actions. Despite SAFE’s constant claim that such allegations are merely a tactic of free-speech suppression by pro-Israel advocates, insulting hundreds of students of a particular religion and ethnic group is not only free speech but hate speech. It is not surprising to see how both SAFE and the Alt-Right both justify their actions as freedom of expression when both groups embellish in rhetoric that offends minorities.
So tell me, dear reader, what are your thoughts?
Should free speech from the Alt-Right be suppressed while rhetoric against Jews and Israel be labeled as “solidarity” with Palestine? Or should both types of speech be held to the same standard?
Leave your opinion in the comments section down below.