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War on American Campuses Against Free Speech

Comment

There is a war on American college and university campuses. It's been going on for years.

Pro-Israel students, professors and administrators have been using their influence and power to deny equal rights to students who criticize Israel and support Palestine.

The assaults have been outrageous because college campuses are supposed to be places where students learn how to exercise American Constitutional Rights of free speech and expression, including through protests. But the oppression against critics of Israel, a foreign country, have been increasing in recent months.

Last March in Chicago, Columbia College in Chicago tried to silence a Palestinian professor who wanted to show an Oscar-nominated film that portrayed tensions between Israelis and Palestinians by cutting his classes. Iymen Chehade fought back and the classes were restored.

That same month in Boston, Northeastern University suspended the chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine for criticizing Israel, a foreign country. The SJP chapter consisted of American students who wore small signs criticizing Israel during a speech by Israeli soldiers there.

Last month, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rescinded a job offer to Steven Salaita because he criticized Israel, a foreign country, in his Twitter posts. Only weeks before, Salaita gave up a tenured teaching job at Virginia Tech, sold his home, and moved to Illinois with his wife and child.

This week, Loyola University announced it would file bullying charges against students who cleverly sought to signup for an Israeli propaganda program called "Taglit-Birthright," which takes students on a fully funded tour of Israel, a foreign country. The students asked if the tour group would include Palestinians who lost their homes when Israel was created.

When the Birthright students refused to sign the pro-Palestinian students up for the fully funded trips to Israel, a foreign country, the student protestors gathered nearby to protest. Loyola Officials called that "bullying" by the protestors.

Things are a lot worse today than when I was in college in the early 1970s.

There were far fewer Pro-Palestinian students on campuses back then. So it was easy for the university and college administrations to harass us.

For example, at Northern Illinois University and at the University of Illinois at Circle Campus, schools I attended before and after my two years of active duty U.S.

Air Force service during the Vietnam War, the teachers and administrators refused to provide us funds for our programs.

Pro-Israel students received thousands of dollars in student funds to bring pro-Israel speakers, and underwrite elaborate pro-Israeli programs. But the funds the Organization of Arab Students, which I headed at Circle, were denied. Most of our speakers spoke for free.

The Israeli students also got support from the college newspaper to the point were I found myself compelled to enter journalism to fight for an equal voice in the newspaper. It's a fight I continue today.

Pro-Palestinian students were routinely harassed and arrested by police, while pro-Israel students were given police protection, university funding and even enjoyed the encouragement of the school's academics and professors.

It got so bad that the FBI opened an investigation into my activities, even though I enjoyed a security clearance from the U.S. government while serving at an F-111 Air Force base and Vietnam support unit in Idaho. The FBI investigation began after I re-enrolled in college on the GI Bill and joined the protests against Israel's occupation and brutality.

In contrast, many of the pro-Israel supporters never served in the U.S. Military to defend this country, as I did. My father and my Uncle also served in the U.S. Military during World War II to defend this country and to free the Jews from Nazi persecution, ironically. But many of the pro-Israel students did serve in the military of Israel, a foreign country.

Normally, this kind of racism would attract the attention of the U.S. Justice Department because it constitutes a pattern of racial discrimination.

But this is America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. And in an Israeli-induced coma that prohibits anyone from speaking out against racism, Apartheid, discrimination and violence when the perpetrators are from Israel, a foreign country.

Even members of the U.S. Congress, like Representatives Peter Roskam and Dan Lipinski have co-sponsored legislation to deny federal funding to any educational groups that support protests against Israel, a foreign country.

It is sad that a country founded on the principle of freedom of speech, religion and assembly can so easily attack all because a powerful foreign lobby wants to prevent Americans from criticizing Israel.

Did I mention that Israel is a foreign country? Sometimes I think Americans forget.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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