Defying democratic principles and ethical standards for academic integrity, the University of Michigan allowed Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) to browbeat their way into passing a boycott-of-Israel initiative. Frustrated by 10 prior attempts to pass a largely unpopular BDS initiative, SAFE resorted to unethical tactics to achieve their ultimate goal. Last year’s vote was dramatically different from this year. How did SAFE successfully achieve a hostile takeover at the University of Michigan?
Clearly, the same rules for conduct, civility and academic integrity don’t apply to Palestinian solidarity groups like SAFE, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. However, according to SAFE’s own code of conduct, “SAFE rejects any form of hatred or discrimination against any religions, racial or ethnic group.”
At its core, the BDS agenda is anti-Semitic because its founder, Omar Barghouti, advocates for a one-state “from the river to the sea” ideology.
SAFE’s campaign symbolizes the abject failure of universities to rein in groups promoting hate and intolerance. Ted Poe, chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, described the BDS movement as “a threat which seeks [Israel’s] ultimate destruction.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, a federal lawsuit uncovered emails from Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers, who “actively tried to stack the National Council of the Association of American Universities with boycott backers.” Various members of the association deliberately concealed their BDS agenda.
Puar’s emails reveal she consulted with Barghouti on a national strategy to infiltrate American universities before distributing documents to boycott members. Puar, much like the movement she embraces, is shrouded in secrecy. She doesn’t allow her lectures to be filmed.
Universities enable Palestinian student groups by allowing unbridled arrogance to seep into campus culture. “Truth can emerge only through unfettered inquiry,” according to University of Michigan’s Victor Lieberman, a professor who teaches a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but was denied permission to speak in defense of Israel.
SAFE refuses to adopt a platform of a peaceful, two-state solution. SAFE, SJP and JVP all refuse to engage in debate. Intellectual laziness and uncontrollable self-righteousness reflect a deeper problem within academia. Universities forgot their fundamental role in developing critical thinking. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal that examined test scores at more than 100 American colleges, it was discovered that “at least one-third of seniors were incapable of making an argument weighing evidence, among other tasks of critical thinking.”
Threatened by throngs of uncivil millennials, universities have relented by becoming repositories of radical thought and violent resistance. Aren’t universities expected to expand one’s mind, not to shrink it to a dangerous ideology? Why do universities permit millennials with undeveloped morals to create a toxic learning environment?
University of Michigan needs to level the playing field by creating some real-life rules for these student groups. If UM/Divest and SAFE believe in the principles of BDS, then their identities should be as public as their pronouncements. Strength of conviction demand the courage to publicly stand behind your political choices despite the consequences.
The most troubling sign in the SAFE debacle lies within its Facebook page. A post that reads, “All of the wonderful groups who are standing in solidarity with us tonight at U-M Divest” shows a poster of various groups like JVP, SDS and Yemeni Students Association next to the official logo of the NAACP. A call to the NAACP, which passed a resolution in 1948 recognizing the state of Israel, confirmed their shock at the false endorsement.
SAFE’s activities prompt new questions about the legal, moral and ethical implications of allowing student groups to promote their hateful ideology by deceptive practices.
Deborah Friedman is a marketing specialist from Hillsborough, N.C.