The January 22, 2021 article (24th in the print edition) in The New York Times “What Zoom Does to Campus Conflicts Over Israel and Free Speech” could have been an interesting discussion about the ongoing role of big media companies and censorship. Remarkably, the Times opted to tackle an easy and extreme case – the dissemination of terrorist propaganda and calls for violence – and decided the answer was sure, if the target is Israel.
The opening sentences of the article made it clear that the author understood the subject to be used as a foil in the discussion:
“Leila Khaled is a two-time hijacker, a member of a Palestinian group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. So it came as a shock to Javier Cohen, a senior at New York University, to find her speaking on an N.Y.U. webinar last semester.“
From such factual clarity, it is frightening that the Times would follow:
“In a conflict that has divided campuses in recent years, here was a new dimension: A commercial technology company [Zoom], under pressure from pro-Israel groups, was controlling content at a major American university.
“We’re usually not in the position of having campus speech being adjudicated by outside agents,” said [NYU Professor] Mr. Ross, arguing that criticism of Israel was being labeled anti-Semitism. “But Zoom is in the position of doing that right now. ”
This is preposterous and incendiary. Saying that pro-Israel groups are shutting down “content” through the guise of charges of “anti-Semitism” completely misses the mark that the university invited a terrorist who calls for violence onto the college square on the basis of free speech. In no civilized society does free speech cover such activity. To blame the target of the vitriol for shutting down discussion adds to the delusion and reeks of fanning more anti-Semitism.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had written about Leila Khaled a few months ago when she was due to speak at San Francisco State University (SFSU):
“In some anti-Israel circles, PFLP terrorists Leila Khaled and Rasmea Odeh have drawn particular admiration. Leila Khaled took part in the hijacking of two civilian aircraft in 1969 and 1970. In recent interviews, she has remained unrepentant for her role in the hijackings and continues to hold the view that the Palestinian national movement is justified in using all means of resistance, including armed struggle.”
At the same time in September 2020, Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr outlining the criminal charges that should be brought against SFSU which had invited Khaled and possibly the technology companies like Zoom for hosting such discussions which “appeared to be [for the purpose of] the promotion of the PFLP’s [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terrorist agenda to a wider audience.“
While the Times did not quote the ADL or Lamborn’s letter, it seemed to acknowledge the issue of promoting terrorism but then it quickly shifted gears back to anti-Israel free speech:
“A spokeswoman for Zoom, Colleen Rodriguez, said Ms. Khaled’s association with a terrorist group violated the company’s terms of service. The company also banned three other colleges’ webinars featuring Ms. Khaled.
“As schools around the country have shifted to virtual learning, the battles over Israel and the Palestinian territories — with opponents accusing one another of anti-Semitism or suppressing free speech — have migrated with the technology, evolving from campus demonstrations and fliers to social media and Zoom.”
It is as though the article was written by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in acknowledging the problem of promoting terrorism but then excusing it as a matter of “suppressing free speech.” The article would go on for another 37 paragraphs – three pages including large color pictures – about whether criticism of Israel is a matter of free speech.
The 2,000-word article ended with an exchange that suggested the public square deserved to hear from Leila Khaled:
“The history is “messy,” he said, with “justice on both sides, and injustice on both sides.”
“Even without remote learning, students have little incentive to see the other view and strong support for hardening their own side’s.
“Mr. Stern said, mildly, “That makes conversations very difficult.””
One cannot imagine that the Times would go to such lengths to defend a university inviting a member of al-Qaeda onto campus to discuss the evils of the United States and its desire to continue an armed struggle against the western world. Maybe an alt-left university in California or New York would entertain a member of ISIS delivering a lecture under the banner of the university but hopefully law enforcement would shut it down.
The New York Times spent considerable ink over this past week saying that the new Biden Administration will help unify the country. That will only happen if he sends the attorney general and law enforcement after the alt-left universities and media companies like The New York Times which continue to promote terrorism and terrorists.
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