Monday, February 15, 2010

Shutting Up Opposing Views

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon were heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters during recent appearances at respected universities. Oren was treated to a series of shout downs at the University of California, Irvine (see Youtube video below), while Ayalon was heckled during a speech at Oxford. The protesters chose not to ask difficult questions during the Q&A, but rather to try to shut the Israeli speakers up by shouting all kinds of slogans. It seemed to be pre-organized, but not in a very smart way. The UC-Irvine protesters (and maybe the ones in Oxford, too, but I haven't seen a video of them) had written their slogans on little notes beforehand, and shouted them out one person at a time, with no connection between what Amb. Oren was saying at that point and what they were shouting.

There is no difference between what these protesters did and what the right-wing organization "Im Tirtzu" is trying to do to the New Israel Fund and left wing organizations. Both groups are fighting to shut up their own opposition while claiming that what they themselves are doing is an exercise in free speech. How can an attempt to silence free speech be itself protected by free speech?

You might say that there is a difference between NGOs like the New Israel Fund and government officials like the deputy foreign minister and a diplomat. You might try to claim that the protesters were speaking truth to power. That isn't the case. People in the audience only heard slogans. They didn't really hear in depth arguments in favor of the Palestinian cause, which the Arab protesters could have made during the Q&A. Audience members didn't hear a debate that would make them understand the situation better. Instead, they got fragments of the Israeli view and even smaller fragments of the pro-Palestinian view, but no interaction between the two. The hecklers turned the event into a disgrace unworthy of an academic venue.

UC-Irvine video after the jump.


  1. In the case of Oren, I'd say you could make the argument you make but in the case of Ayalon? A man who writes pieces in US newspapers in which he defends the idea that the WB isn't Occupied, but merely 'disputed', while he's the deputy Foreign Minister (deputy to someone you called a 'fascist')? I see that more as a form of BDS than a form of heckling...

  2. A jackass with fascist views like Ayalon is actually done a service when he's shouted down. They should have let him voice his far-right opinions, which the audience would understand to be utterly crazy, and should have asked him challenging questions at the Q&A, to which he might not have good answers. Instead, the audience just heard people screaming, and they might not have actually been able to make out the words they were saying.