What should a university do when a rabid anti-Semitic student calls for the killing of Jews?

December 8, 2021 • 1:15 pm

This article about anti-Semitism on a U.S. campus is taken from the Jerusalem Post. Sent to me by a Jewish colleague, it raises a conundrum for hard-line free speech advocates like me. It’s not because I’m Jewish, but because the proper action of a University in a case like this is not completely clear. This is a fuzzy area. I’ll offer tentative opinions, but want to hear readers’ thoughts.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Yasmeen Mashayekh, the USC student under consideration, is a pro-Palestinian activist who made repeated anti-Semitic tweets, and when called out, she doubled down. Those tweets including calls to murder Jews, and her own desire to murder Jews.

Over the course of the last few weeks, a Palestinian student at the University of Southern California, Yasmeen Mashayekh, has come under intense scrutiny for her antisemitic and violent tweets, which include sentiments such as “Curse the Jews” (in Arabic), “Death to Israel and its b**ch the US,” and repeatedly expressing her “love” for US-designated terrorist organization Hamas and its members, even instructing others on how to assist the terror group online in the fight against Israel. She also celebrated violent attacks on Jews by Arabs, joking about how Jews were set on fire, and in May, Mashayekh tweeted, “I want to kill every mother****ing Zionist.”
When multiple groups drew attention to Mashayekh’s violent tweets, she doubled down, replying to the criticism with “Oh no how horrifying that I want to kill my colonizer.” She also attempted to argue that the phrase she used in Arabic meaning “curse the Jews” was simply a “Zionist” mistranslation, and in fact, she just meant “occupiers” – an explanation that left Arabic speakers of all backgrounds laughing.

Yasmeen also had a position of authority among students involving DEI:

Ironically, Mashayekh was a student senator for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, was allegedly employed by the university, and held multiple positions of leadership. Naturally, USC is now facing tremendous pressure to act, including from dozens of faculty who signed an open letter condemning Mashayekh’s comments. But instead of taking action, they issued a statement claiming they won’t share what they are doing because of “privacy concerns,” and that while they don’t support her comments, her statements are “protected speech.”

My colleague and the Jerusalem Post (the piece was an op-ed) thinks that the University may have violated the First Amendment by allowing a student to issue unprotected speech, didn’t punish her by firing her (she was removed as a DEI student senator and given a different job at the same salary), and at the very least assert that USC should have issued a statement condemning Mashayekh’s statements and affirming their support of Jews as well as denouncing anti-Semitism.

Several questions arise.

Did Mashayekh violate the First Amendment?  My answer is “no.” The First Amendment allows one to call for extirpation of groups, including statements like “Gas the Jews,” and “Kill the Jews.” The only circumstances in which such calls for violence are prohibited (as construed by the courts) are when those statements are liable to cause predictable, imminent, and foreseeable harm to others. That was not the case here. Mashayekh made her statements on social media.

As a private university, USC isn’t required to abide by the First Amendment. But because it espouses free speech in its own principles, see below, it should adhere to the First Amendment and not punish Mashayekh. In fact, USC says that it does adhere to the First Amendment:

From the USC speech policy: (my emphasis):

USC has long had established policies protecting the free speech rights and academic freedom of faculty and students.

In both policy and practice, when USC faculty speak or write as citizens, they are free of institutional censorship or discipline.  And academic freedom at USC protects all faculty. We vigorously defend these principles for faculty of every status and type of appointment.

. . . Our longstanding policies also declare that the University of Southern California is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged and celebrated and for which all its members share responsibility. Dissent — disagreement, a difference of opinion, or thinking differently from others — is an integral aspect of expression in higher education, whether it manifests itself in a new and differing theory in quantum mechanics, a personal disagreement with a current foreign policy, opposition to a position taken by the university itself, or by some other means.  The university is a diverse community based on free exchange of ideas and devoted to the use of reason and thought in the resolution of differences.  The university recognizes the crucial importance of preserving First Amendment rights and maintaining open communication and dialogue in the process of identifying and resolving problems which arise in the dynamics of life in a university community.

Now the Jerusalem Post quotes Alan Dershowitz saying there was a violation here:

Even under the US Constitution, Mashayekh’s comments are not protected speech. Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz stated unequivocally that the comment about killing Zionists “is not protected speech for a university student,” and argued that should USC do nothing, they could be subject to losing federal funding.

I think he’s wrong, even though he’s a real lawyer and I just play one on television.

Should Mashayekh be banned from social media? According to their own principles, they can indeed ban her.  Whether they should do so is a complex question, for I also think that social media should adhere to the First Amendment as far as possible. But since they have the right to ban her, they can and should because her words violate their policies. What the real policies should be is above my pay grade. But the Jerusalem Post goes further, saying that Mashayekh’s statements violate other aspects of USC policy:

First, according to social media hate speech standards, Mashayekh’s comments are absolutely a violation of Twitter’s hate speech policies. Second, at USC, codes of conduct for university students prohibit expressing an intent to “kill” a minority group. For example, Mashayekh’s comments clearly violate the policy on prohibited discrimination, harassment and retaliation, which states, “the University prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), creed… political belief or affiliation… and any other class of individuals protected from discrimination under federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance (Protected Characteristics).”

The link to the quote is wrong in the paragraph above; the words are correct but the USC policy is here.  However, spewing hatred on social media does not constitute “discrimination,” “harassment” (which is meant to apply to individuals, not to groups), or “retaliation” (hateful words are not a form of retaliation, as they are not directed towards individuals who harmed Mashayekh). The miscreant was giving her opinion not on campus or at work, but on social media.

Should Mashayekh be fired from her student job?  I think USC did the right thing in transferring her to a different job at the same pay. In that way there was no retaliation, but her hateful behavior was not upholding the tenets of her position and therefore she did not deserve to continue on as a DEI counselor.

Should USC have condemned Mashayekh by naming her? Once again my answer is “no.” She did not violate USC’s speech codes, which are the First Amendment, and therefore condemnation by name or implication is a form of retaliation.

Should USC have called for tolerance and amity towards Jews?  Here I had to stop and think.  But since a divided campus with warring factions of students is not conducive to the function of a University, then yes, I think USC should have reaffirmed its principles of civility, respect, and comity. Everybody would know what this is about. The only other question is whether they should have mentioned the Jews.  This is a two edged sword, for if you just issue a general call for peace, it will offend the group who is seeking redress—the Jewish students, who would ignored or given lower status. On the other hand, if you mention that there is anti-Jewish rancor that impedes the University’s well-being, then all other groups, including Palestinans, will say “Well, why don’t you mention us when there’s anti-Palestinian sentiment?” And they have a point.

However, given the degree of anti-Semitism at USC and how it was inflamed by Mashayekh’s statements, I do think that mentioning the Jewish students as a particular target in a  University statement is warranted, and the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean that everyone should always get such call-outs, as it really depends on the degree of division at the time. A stingle student who complains, for example, does not warrant a University statement calling for people to be nice to him/her.

Whether you agree or not, weigh in below.

65 thoughts on “What should a university do when a rabid anti-Semitic student calls for the killing of Jews?

  1. Although I haven’t studied his career in any detail, I regard Alan Dershowitz as somewhat like John Eastman of Trump 2020 insurrection fame. Both were once respected legal minds who have recently gone over to the dark, Trumpian side.

  2. I would assume that if there are subsequent incidents of harassment against Jewish students, or an increase in them, then her speech could be construed as incitement. If a Jewish student were killed, I wonder if she could be indicted in some way for that.

  3. I’m pretty free-speech absolutist but I think the university should expel her. Calling for the death of fellow students (some of whom will be Jewish and/or Israeli) is beyond what a university should tolerate. That is very different from critiquing ideas, which is what is central to free speech.

    Does anyone think that a white student who called for the death of blacks would last 3 minutes? (And quite right that they wouldn’t!)

    And she should quite clearly be kicked off social media, if they had even an iota of consistency.

    1. Two other points. First, the question: “Did Mashayekh violate the First Amendment?” is better phrased as: “does her speech fall outside First Amendment protections?”.

      Secondly, all universities have to regulate speech to a greater degree than the law/state does. For example, they could not allow a student to repeatedly disrupt lectures without sanction. There also has to be an expectation of some degree of civility between students (again, going beyond the bare law), and calling for others to be killed violates that.

        1. Thank you for that. It fills a gap in knowledge I was labouring under while writing my post.
          So the university could apply their student disciplinary code to sanction her.

          1. So the university could apply their student disciplinary code to sanction her.

            Sure, if she spoke the words at issue during a class, but not if she made her statements in a traditional or designated public forum. As the article from The First Amendment Encyclopedia I linked to above explains, social media do not constitute “traditional” public forums — in that they are owned by private corporations, which can set their own terms of use — but for analytical purposes, they constitute
            designated public forums, on which speech is immune from censorship by government actors such as public university officials, so long as the speech at issue does not otherwise fall outside First Amendment protections. See, e.g., Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump, 2nd Cir. (2019).

      1. Well, did she make the remarks on campus or in her capacity as student senator for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Apparently not.

        Were her remarks directed against fellow students? We’d have to read them in detail.

        Now, I am more for her being fired as student senator altogether, not just being given another paid position.

        The treshold for her being kicked out of university must me much, much higher.

    2. “Calling for the death of fellow students (some of whom will be Jewish and/or Israeli) is beyond what a university should tolerate. That is very different from critiquing ideas, which is what is central to free speech.”

      +1 to this

    3. I agree. She is free to say what she wants, but then face the consequences that comes her way for saying it. The university should cut all ties.

    4. I agree as well: publicly posting calls for the death of fellow students, or really anyone based on their race or religion, is beyond what a university should be expected to tolerate in the name of “speech.”

      Words like this do result in actual deaths of actual people, and if not addressed will prevent the free exchange of ideas by making people afraid to speak themselves.

  4. I’m all for free speech. BUT….when does free speech become dangerous, and what to do about it when it does? I have struggled with this for years especially since the creation of the internet and social media where hatred spreads. I cringe over how many people don’t need facts backing up their statements…and how emotions, biases, and conspiracy theories have taken over logic and reason.

  5. The university should do the equivalent to whatever its actions would have been if Palestine students had complained about feelings of “harm” or “being unsafe” if the behaviour objected to had been reversed (“Kill the Palestinians!” etc.) and come from a Jewish student holding the exact same positions. I’m not in a position to judge whether or not that has indeed been the outcome here, although I have my (admittedly groundless) suspicions.

  6. Reading the full article, I think Dershowitz is “just” saying that universities must treat anti-Semitic speech in the same way as they treat racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech. Meaning, they need to apply the same sort of internal disciplinary procedures and sanctions. It’s not a controversial statement. I think the reporter didn’t do a good job of making that point clear.

  7. I’m all for Free Speech. There’s no ‘but’ following that statement.

    There may of course be consequences for Free Speech. If it passes the legal test for incitement (or defamation or whatever local laws are established) then it should be investigated and if necessary prosecuted.

    Similarly Free Speech may fall foul of your employers discipline code. In which case they could choose to discipline you including termination of your employment if the discipline violation was bad enough.

  8. If Mashayekh’s statement did not break any law, such as one criminalizing incitement to violence, or university regulations then her free speech rights should not be abridged. But, by any definition what she said is hate speech. It will inflame hatred and may very well incite others to take action beyond speech. We do not know. Her speech will reduce civility on campus and probably make attending or working at USC somewhat less desirable. For those who believe in unfettered free speech, Mashayekh’s speech is the price to be paid for the benefits of it. If her form of speech is replicated by millions of others sporting grievances that may ultimately destroy a decaying society, such is the risk. Whether one believes in unfettered free speech or believes in certain circumstances it should be restricted, it should be acknowledged that either choice has the potential to bring down a free society. This debate calls for humility. I do not see much of it.

    1. All I can say, Historian, is that free speech has brought down many dictatorships, but I’m unaware of it bringing down any free societies.

      This is not relevant to your comment, but I’m surprised to see so many people here who supposedly agree with the First Amendment in principle nevertheless favor abandoning that agreement the second they come into contact with an example of one type of speech that Amendment was designed to protect: speech that most peope find odious and hateful. Holocaust denialism, for example, is pretty odious stuff and clearly a lie and divisive, but in the US it’s protected (not so in Canada or other places).

      1. The Weimar Republic had many troubles, but it allowed free speech. Hence, the Nazis were able to spread their propaganda without fear of repression and, indeed, partake in democratic elections. I find it hard to believe that the Nazis’ free speech did not play at least a more than insignificant role in allowing them to gain power. Of course, the United States is not the Germany of 1932, but I take the view that democracy is in jeopardy. I hope that “good” political speech will defeat “bad” political speech, but I am fearful. In other words, I try to avoid making statements, particularly in the area of free speech, with an air of certainty. This is why I call for humility. It is an admittance of uncertainty – the recognition that one’s position on free speech, whether it should be unfettered or regulated under certain circumstances, if in effect, has the potential of causing great harm or great good.

        1. … I take the view that democracy is in jeopardy. I hope that “good” political speech will defeat “bad” political speech, but I am fearful.

          I think democracy is in jeopardy and am fearful, too. But any society in which good political speech cannot defeat bad political speech in a free and open marketplace of ideas is probably beyond salvaging anyway — certainly beyond salvaging by imposing restrictions upon free speech. (Imposing restrictions on free speech is invariably the first move taken by undemocratic, autocratic governments).

          1. I believe you overlook something in modern day America that smashes all of our free speech ideas. And that is the internet and all that goes with it. Unregulated platforms are causing great damage to our democracy and may well bring it to a speedy end. The old days of the regulated and responsible news papers and regulated television are over. We now live in the wild west. The majority of republicans believe the election was stolen. And they are willing to go to war to get it back. Fox network television is mostly a misinformation product and they still refer to it as news. Look at what we have people in congress doing in the light of day. Calling other congress people names, threatening to kill them and nothing happens. Free speech has become garbage.

          2. Newspapers have never been “regulated”. That’s freedom of the press _per se_. And they haven’t been particularly “responsible” overall either in the past. Yellow journalism isn’t an Internet expression.

            What do you think Trump would have done with the ability to use the government against “fake news”. Why doesn’t this make it seem like such regulation would be very dangerous?

          3. Agreed but the concept of free speech never said anything about bad ideas and people believing in them. We have been shown by history that free speech is not enough.

        2. You neglect to mention that once the Nazis had ANY power, they immediately imposed censorship on all criticism. And perhaps that kept them going once they got power. Same with Lenin and Stalin. I’m really surprised you mention one thing but not the other.

          1. I could have mentioned the Bolshevik takeover of the short-lived Kerensky government that had taken power after the overthrow of the Czar. In this very tumultuous time, this government attempted to initiate democratic reforms. Per Wikipedia:

            “Despite its short reign of power and implementation shortcomings, the Provisional Government passed very progressive legislation. The policies enacted by this moderate government (by 1917 Russian standards) represented arguably the most liberal legislation in Europe at the time. The independence of Church from state, the emphasis on rural self-governance, and the affirmation of fundamental civil rights (such as freedom of speech, press, and assembly) that the tsarist government had periodically restricted shows the progressivism of the Provisional Government. Other policies included the abolition of capital punishment and economic redistribution in the countryside. The Provisional Government also granted more freedoms to previously suppressed regions of the Russian Empire. Poland was granted independence and Lithuania and Ukraine became more autonomous.”


            So, yes, when the Bolsheviks took power, they suppressed free speech, among many other bad things, as did the Nazis.

            But, unless I misunderstand you, I think you’re proving my point. In both instances authoritarians of the worst kind took power, in part at least, by taking advantage of the freedoms that society allowed them. In other words, they used free speech to gain power then used that power to end free speech. History cannot be rerun to find out what would have happened if the speech of the Nazis and Bolsheviks had been restricted. However, I think it fair to say that the outcomes could hardly have been worse than what actually happened.

          2. Hitler also first got his hands on governmental power via the democratic 1933 German federal election — but I see this as no more reason to abandon democracy than the Nazi’s taking advantage of the free speech allowed under the Weimer Republic’s constitution provides a reason to abandon free speech.

            If the majority of a nation’s population is willing to follow such a person, then (to paraphrase Ben Franklin) they don’t deserve to keep the republic they’ve been bequeathed, and no amount of restrictions on either democracy or free speech will save them from themselves.

            With the rise of authoritarianism, I fear for our nation’s fate, as you do, but I do not believe we are such a country.

        3. Of course being able to speak ideas freely helps them spread.

          But the Nazis didn’t take power through popular argument. They beat up and in some cases murdered political rivals. They used physical intimidation to prevent people speaking freely in opposition to their ideas, and to suppress or intimidate political opposition parties in the Reichstag. Heck, they didn’t even allow the communist party sitting in the Reichstag to participate in the vote for the Enabling Act, and they changed the rules so that their absence didn’t count against the requirement for a quorum.

          There are a few minor parallels we might draw between that and the “price to be paid” in the US for free speech. But those parallels are that we shouldn’t let a President use the unsubstantiated claim of voter fraud to change House and Senate vote counting procedures, because it’s structural process changes like that, built on lies, that Hitler used to gain and keep power. Angy pro-palestinian antisemitic students? We handle them just fine. They’re just the 2020s versions of Illinois Nazis marching down the street. They’re a 1970s Klan rally, the 2020 mid-east version.

        4. Calling to kill people is a call to violence and murder. The ‘imminency’ of which can be argued. But since, relating this case, violent attacks on Jews are far from theoretical, I’d consider it imminent, and hence not protected by ‘Free Speech’

      2. “All I can say, Historian, is that free speech has brought down many dictatorships, but I’m unaware of it bringing down any free societies.”

        You forget the rise of the Nazis. Their hate speech, their open Antisemitism, among other things was instrumental in their – legal – rise to power. And they even openly flaunted how they were using the rules of democracy and free speech to bring down both in the late 20’s and early 30’s.

  9. It’s worth noting that this is the same nniversity that suspended a professor for saying the chinese word “nega” because it sounded like the n-word, and the dean defended that by explaining: “It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” Garrett wrote. Patton “repeated several times a Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.” (See https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/09/08/professor-suspended-saying-chinese-word-sounds-english-slur)

    So they’re worried about the psychological safety of students who hear a word that *sounds like* a slur, but actual calls for violence are… defended as protected speech?

    These people are such absolute hypocrites.

    1. Reminds us of the guy that was attacked for using the word ‘niggardly’ or the paediatrician that was mobbed as being a paedophile.

  10. An Open Letter from 60+ USC faculty to USC leadership expresses the opinion that the university needs to speak up:
    As you can see, the letter does not call for any actions against the student. It calls for university to state its position on anti-Semitism and Zionophobia and to affirm that “Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students, as well as those who support the right of the State of Israel to exist […] are welcome on our campus.”

  11. I agree with you that, repugnant as Mashayekh’s statements are, they are protected by the First Amendment. (Whether social media such as Twitter can ban her for them is another matter, since it is a private company not subject to First Amendment standards.)

    Where The Dersh is coming from on this, I couldn’t tell you. He was once one of the best legal minds this country has produced. But then he went around the bend — up the Nung River past the Do Lung bridge into Cambodia with Col. Kurtz, where his ideas, his methods became … unsound.

      1. I agree with it, but I rarely post a comment ‘just’ to agree. It doesn’t add anything substantive to the conversation.

        1. One follow-up: I’ve found that political conversations about free speech are totally unproductive. Both sides are set enough in their ways that people tend to talk in circles. I can’t imagine that anyone is won over to either side by those discussions. That is why I tend not to participate in them anymore.

  12. As a non-Jew I also think you got it right. “Kill the Jews” is not quite the same sort of incitement as “Kill some particular Jewish person or some identifiable group of Jews like the people who live in some dorm or attend a certain class within reach of her incitement.” But on the other hand, social media has a worldwide reach, so could an anti-Semite in London or Cairo be inspired by her speech to kill the next person she encounters who looks Jewish?

    My understanding of the rule about not shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre rests on how likely the hearers are to take immediate action that could harm themselves or others. A cry of “Fire!” could cause a fatal stampede for the exits, which is why pulling fire alarms is a crime. Even though most fire alarms in buildings on land are false, or fires in wastebaskets, and produce only exasperated sighs, we still evacuate just in case. If we smelled smoke, or if someone rushed into the lecture hall shouting, “Fire in the stairwell!”, fear would flare the nostrils quickly.

    So how likely is a call to kill someone going to produce the action that seems to be being incited? Especially when the call, like a false fire alarm, is regarded by most (even Jews?, even with the history?) as a show, not the real thing — they all say that, we hear it all the time. But someone haranguing a frenzied armed and liquored-up mob carrying Tiki torches surrounding a synagogue to Kill the Jews surely ought to be stopped somehow.

    In Canada, “Kill the Jews” could be prosecuted as hate speech, especially if the tweet was in all-caps, included “NOW”, with several exclamation marks. But your First Amendment doesn’t tolerate hate-speech bans. So if someone can claim “only” that her tweets are hate speech, then prosecuting her should surely fail. I don’t know enough about private entities and the First to comment on the university’s scope for action here. I do think the university should sanction her somehow, as it seems to have. I don’t see the problem with naming her, given that her statements were made in public. You let her off easier here than I would.

    On the other hand, people who call for the killing of any identifiable group, even if it is just “my oppressor” can’t be surprised if members of that group strike pre-emptively. So there is that. I would hope she doesn’t sleep easy, though no doubt she does, secure in her own moral rectitude.

  13. Thanks to aburstein in comment #10 for reminding us that USC is the very same university which suspended a professor for pronouncing the Chinese 那个, or ne ga, We have learned that logical consistency is not a strong point in the woke university mandarinate. No surprise there, inasmuch as
    logical consistency is susceptible to cancellation as an aspect of white, Eurocentric philosophy, like
    quantitative reasoning, objectivity, showing mathematical work, and similar offenses. Presumably the DEI program at USC is doing what it can to dismantle these offenses—even without, now. the help of Ms. Mayashekh as a DEI “senator”, whatever that was.

  14. Firing someone for cause is not retaliation. If a person is a DEI senator/ counselor and they are promoting hate towards a group of people based on religion, ethnicity, or other characteristics that fall under the DEI umbrella, they are behaving in direct opposition to the requirements and spirit of their position. I believe the university was afraid of a law suit and more undesirable media attention, so they transferred her instead. This is much more kid-glove-handling than anyone in private industry would receive for acting in conflict to their job responsibilities.
    I agree a public statement of the university’s values in response to this event is appropriate and necessary.

      1. I understand that. The author stated:
        “Should Mashayekh be fired from her student job? I think USC did the right thing in transferring her to a different job at the same pay. In that way there was no retaliation…”
        I am saying she could have been fired for cause, and that is not retaliation.

        1. I was going to make a similar point, Emily. If the CEO of some social media giant or tech company made repeated public statements that spending time on-line was a waste of time or damaging to mental health they might be constitutionally within their rights but would not expect to retain their job for very long. The same surely applies to a student senator for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion who chooses to make such vile and hateful comments about a particular demographic group. She might have been legally entitled to say what she did but in saying it she made herself totally unsuitable for the job she was doing.

    1. > they are behaving in direct opposition to the requirements and spirit of their position

      Yes, this is it. If your entire job description is to walk on eggshells around ethnic matters, then publicly calling for genocide is certainly a firing offence, even if you did it off the clock. I guess quite a few jobs have such restrictions… would be curious to know more about how they are handled in places with stronger employee protections.

      As an ordinary student, I do think such speech ought to be permitted, but mocked. A great response would be for a student newspaper to re-publish her exact words with “black” substituted for “jew”, or something. And a small correction later about apologising for getting hatreds mixed up.

  15. Solid analysis PCC, though the woke double standard really digs at me. 1A supporter me would like every ‘offensive speaker’ treated with the kid gloves she got, but when it comes to the private companies running social media, Uni administrations, and other non-governmental organizations, I am skeptical that anyone making similar comments towards blacks or gays or trans women competing in sports would get the “we respect the first amendment” treatment she got.

  16. I’m not sure we should protect people who promote violence against innocent people, I think it’s reasonable to censor believable violent threats directed against specific people because it limits free speech (it’s a form of censorship).

    Of course the words “violence” and “innocent” have no fixed meaning but interpretations of what these words mean can only be protected by a neutral judicial system. Without a neutral judicial system no free speech is possible.

    Every criticism of idea’s, right or wrong, should always be allowed; every democratic person will probably agree. But I think it reasonable to censor “Gas the Jews,” and “Kill the Jews.”, even “I know were you live” could be a punishable offense (a fine would be enough) depending on context (context is everything).

    I believe, without protection against intimidation we will tend to use emotions to make our decisions not our slower cognitive system.

    1. Any violence? Or only violence you personally don’t like? Should students who support a war be expelled from campus? How about other forms of state-sanctioned violence? The death penalty? I suspect there are a lot of shades of gray here; you might be willing to tolerate speech acts in favor of one kind of violence, while other people tolerate different speech acts.

  17. Whatever stance one takes, it is absurd that people complaining about calls to kill them are taken less seriously than those complaining about the name some journalist a hundred years ago thought up for a rock.

  18. Have you no “incitement to riot” or to commit a crime laws? I would revoke citizenship if she is an immigrant, as she calls for the downfall of the state. If born in the US that is different. If she is Palestinian, throw her out.

  19. I agree with Jerry’s analysis here. I do have a question – I think there could be a valid distinction between zionist and jewish (though that seems not to have been the case here), does anyone have an example of an anti-zionist that is able to acceptably walk that line?

    1. There is a lot of fascinating anarchist and libertarian thought. Unfortunately, it is not discussed much any more. Someone who wants to dissolve all states worldwide, including the State of Israel, is not singling out one entity or ethnic group. I suppose they could be classed as ‘acceptable anti-zionists’. Quite a bit of American anarcho-libertarian thought was actually developed by Jewish Americans, like Abbie Hoffman.

  20. I’m surprised by the number of comments here arguing that, “Sure, one has free speech BUT that doesn’t mean there should not be consequences.” WTH? I don’t buy this argument at all.

    In what world is one considered “free” to do X but will be punished for doing so? The punishment would be a cost, which by definition is the opposite of free. The “but consequences” position is plainly contradictory. The only “consequence” of producing protected speech is protected counter-speech, which may include disassociation.

    And don’t bother with the, “1st Amendment only applies to the state,” pedanticism. Free speech is both a negative right against government censorship and a cultural value of democracy and of the first principles of the Enlightenment. The State can’t unduly restrict speech and the rest of us shouldn’t.

    1. The point is that there is no absolutely free speech anywhere. Jurisdictions differ only in how they weight free speech against other rights (the right not to be insulted, the right to safety, etc.). You yourself mention “unduly”. Most of the debate is not about free speech per se, but about what “unduly” means and who decides that.

    2. The “free speech concept” is much simpler when applied to governments because, in that context, it means that the citizen will not be treated as a criminal if they say something unfavorable. If you consider “free speech” applied outside the context of government, it is totally a matter of context. For example, if a newspaper has an agreement with a comic strip author that requires no expletives may appear in their comics, then they are entitled to remove that comic strip if the author violates that agreement. Each case must be considered on its merits. It is certainly not always the case that the only reasonable consequences should be counter-speech or disassociation.

  21. Always a tricky question.

    Truth be told, I’d have to read more of her statements to form a clear opinion. Which on the other hand I don’t want to because what I’ve read so far is repulsive. My gut feeling tells me that this yet another case of downplaying Arab Antisemitism. Now, I am not saying that all Arabs are Antisemites, and I certainly have no idea how widespread Antisemitism is in this group. It’s just that whenever it emerges there is a tendency to ignore it or only act when one absolutely has to. I could, of course, be entirely wrong in this particular case.

    (And admittedly, it is not always as easy as in this case to draw a line between heated expression of some Palestinians’ hatred of Israel and Antisemitism, and most of the time they are the same thing. Just not always.)

    Quite another thing is that we all know that had she said “Biological sex is real” in her tweets, Twitter is likely to have banned her permanently and she likely would have lost her paid position at the university altogether.

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