On March 16th, I attended a DePaul University event that I helped to organize, which was meant to bring greater understanding about the recent Hamas-Israel War in Gaza to the campus. The goal of StandWithUs, Hillel, and the Political Science department, co-sponsors of the evening, was straightforward: After weeks of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) events filled with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric and titles like “Gaza Under Fire,” Israel’s side of the story had yet to be heard. StandWithUs brought Jacob Shrybman from the Sderot Media Center to give personal, human accounts of the impact of incessant rocket attacks on the daily lives of Israeli men, women, and children living in Sderot. The hope was to show that Israelis also suffered from the conflict, and to foster more reasonable dialogue. Instead, the right to free speech was shattered.
From the moment planning began, SJP worked to derail the program and subvert its purpose. SJP had claimed that the Qassam rockets were as harmless as toys or firecrackers. SJP attacked the event’s Facebook page with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic diatribes such as,
“That’s right, continue whimpering and whining over the people who are committing genocide against [the] firing of a few rockets! You have really descended into psychotic, fascist racism, utterly unable to have any regrets over the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men, women, children, babies, and old people, many of them incinerated by white posphorus shells. Your group is a joke, a mouthpeice of a corrupt, colonialist state. You can burn in hell for what your beloved Israel did to the poor people of Gaza.”
SJP even circulated a letter condemning the event. It was signed by several campus organizations, including the College Democrats and Amnesty International. Shamefully, several of the signers have admitted that they never read the letter, and had no idea where Sderot was. SJP had inverted the facts, giving them the impression that Sderot was a city in Gaza, and that Israelis were the ones who had fired over 10,000 rockets at civilians over the past eight years.
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Attacking Sderot at DePaul University/Jacob Shrybman – One week ago I shared the human side of the conflict in southern Israel and told my personal stories from Sderot in a presentation at Depaul University in Chicago sponsored Read more
After weeks of SJP generated conflict, the event took place. When we arrived, over ten people held signs that mocked the crisis in Sderot, denied that Qassams are dangerous, and claimed that Sderot’s residents deserved to live in terror because of the Israeli “occupation.”
The event began with a few dozen people, but by the end, SJP members and their sympathizers swelled the number to 100. They laughed and mocked at footage of Qassams smashing into playgrounds with kindergarteners running for their lives. More disgracefully, they attacked the speaker, screaming accusations of war crimes, hurling curses in Arabic and English, shouting down the speaker every time he attempted to answer their off-topic questions. One SJP member shouted, “If Hamas is not supposed to throw rockets on Sderot, then where should they throw them?” Apparently he and his peers had never considered the possibility that Hamas should end its violence.
When the angry mob began chanting for more terrorism against Sderot citizens, the speaker and the Hillel staff had to be escorted out by security.
The anti-Israel students claim to be pro-peace and pro-human rights but they exposed the fact that they are quite the opposite. They did not want to hear-and did not want others to hear-another side to the story. And they showed that they have no empathy for Israelis who are suffering from constant rocket attacks. The story of Sderot could not be told at DePaul. Freedom of speech died at DePaul on March 16th 2009.