Free Speech and Advocacy of Genocide

by James A. Bacon

Chanting “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” hundreds of pro-Palestinian students held a protest on the Lawn at the University of Virginia yesterday. As reported by the Washington Free-Beacon, they demanded the Biden administration defund aid to Israel. The event was part of a national “walkout” organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, and the second demonstration in Charlottesville since Hamas unleashed a wave of terrorist attacks on Israel earlier this month.

“We, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), are sickened by the on-going, escalating genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist forces,” said the organizing group in a formal statement signed by two dozen other leftist student groups in the aftermath of the Hamas assault. “We stand in solidarity with Palestinians in the fight for liberation and in their struggle against settler colonialism.” 

While the protesters were not explicit about their ultimate aim, the slogan “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” can mean only one thing: the eradication of the Israeli state and the dispossession — or worse — of the Jews within it. Hamas’ slaughter of innocents in its wave of terrorist attacks earlier this month foreshadows the likely fate of the Jewish population should Hamas carry the day.

Even Adolph Hitler did not call for the extermination of the Jews in his anti-Semitic tract, “Mein Kampf.” Even the senior Nazis attending the Wansee Conference to organize the “final solution” for the Jews spoke in euphemisms and knew that their program was too gruesome to reveal to the German people. Hamas is far more open about its aims. The genocidal impulse is all too clear.

The Jefferson Council is grappling with how to respond to the protesters’ apologetics for Hamas’ genocidal aims. Our organization thoroughly condemns the protesters and their rhetoric. At the same time, we have made a commitment to free speech one of our signature causes, and we have criticized those on the left who would suppress “hate” speech. But then again, the pro-Palestinian protesters aren’t engaging in “hate” speech as we typically understand it. They don’t use slurs like “kikes” or “dirty Jews.” Instead, they chant antiseptic euphemisms for genocide.

The University of Virginia community was traumatized five years ago by the rhetoric of mostly out-of-state white supremacists attending the Unite the Right march, whose rallying cry was “Jews will not replace us.” The white supremacists were not calling for a second Holocaust, yet their language was rightfully and roundly condemned by everyone across the political spectrum.

How can the University of Virginia community respect the right to free speech of protesters within our midst while condemning their apologies for the genocidal aims of Hamas? What responsibility does President Jim Ryan have to speak even more forthrightly than he has so far? Should the Board of Visitors issue a statement? Should the advocates of genocide be punished for their views, as, say, student Morgan Bettinger was punished for her throw-away remark about protesters and speed bumps, as professor Jeffrey Leopold was chastised for his joke about Africans and food, and as med student Kieran Bhattacharya was subjected to an official inquiry for questioning the logic of micro-aggressions?

There are no easy answers. Competing principles are in conflict and must be reconciled. Through this blog and email communications, we shall keep UVa alumni informed of the ongoing discussion.

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7 months ago

The group “Students for Justice in Palestine” are entitled under the First Amendment to espouse their views, no matter how racist or wrongheaded. I do not argue with that.

The UVA Administration rightfully condemned white supremacists who paraded down the Lawn in August 2017 calling for the eradication of Jews. However, that was hate speech. Hamas committed genocide perhaps never seen in the past 100 years. Even Nazis did not behead babies.

How the Administration can remain stone silent on this is simply beyond belief. Is allowing such egregious student group statements part of President Ryan’s “great and good” policy for UVA?

Below is a direct excerpted quote from President Ryan’s June 2021 Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry:
Free expression also does not protect speech that violates the law, including legally defined categories of incitement, defamation, threats…”

Does a student group openly condoning mass genocide and butchery get absolution from international law? Does supporting Hamas whose stated purpose is the eradication of Israel and Jews not qualify as “incitement, defamation, threats” by any logical interpretation? Small wonder Jewish students nationwide are stating they live in fear of retribution on US campuses.

The following is directly extracted from the Covenant of Hamas:

On the Destruction of Israel: Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

That statement leaves no room for equivocation. This is what these pro-Palestinian student groups are blatantly condoning. It is time for President Ryan and the BOV to speak up and condemn their statement. Immediately.

If not, what in God’s name does UVA stand for?

7 months ago

From Andrea Widburg: “Countering the lie that Israelis are Western colonizers” October 9, 2023“The original indigenous people of the land we now call Israel were the Canaanites. When the Jews migrated to that land roughly 4,000 years ago, tribal warfare ensued, and the Canaanites lost. Since then – for around 4,000 years – the Jews have had a continuous presence in Israel. They are the indigenous people with a claim to the land older than any other living people. In ancient times, they held that land despite wars with and occupations by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks.
One final point: In the last forty years, Israel has also repeatedly been willing to cede land for peace, including handing Gaza over to the Arabs in 2005. That has made no difference. As the Hamas Charter makes explicit, the goal is now and has always been the eradication of the indigenous Jewish population.”

7 months ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Which then leads to the following at Stanford. Ryan and the BOV had better get out in front of this situation or “Great and Good” UVA will once again be in the national headlines as not so great and good. Ryan by promoting a culture of victimhood through the implementation of Implicit Bias Training which then morphed into a present day bloated DEI “faculty” stands to create a sick and pathetic legacy at our University. This falls fully on his watch and his head and he should be held fully accountable.

Peter LeQuire, College ‘65
Peter LeQuire, College ‘65
7 months ago

I read what these pro-Palestine groups write and distribute, and see their behaviour broadcast from several outlets. (Not to mention it’s DIE commitments of resources, of money and personnel.) In context of these, I can’t avoid thinking of C. S. Lewis’ description of “men without chests”.

…”We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”…

Grievous. The University I so highly valued has deserted its academic legacy and the respect for truth it encouraged.