San Francisco State University (SFSU) president, Les Wong, has responded for the second time to criticisms that calling for the murder of Jews is perhaps something less than educative. And for the second time he refuses to address the central issue, which is a call to violence against Jews by the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS).
Professor Wong, who earned a PhD in educational psychology from Washington State University, makes three significant points. The first is that calling for the murder of Jews is essentially a matter of free speech. That is his first and foremost point. It is not that calling for the murder of Jews might be in contradiction to university policy, the law, or just common human decency, but that calling for the murder of Jews is a matter of free speech.
First and foremost, I ask that you stay firmly committed to free speech. Strong opinions—and strong disagreements—are essential to the life of our democracy, and the life of our university.
Thus, in the mind of the president of San Francisco State University, whether or not to kill Jews is a matter for discussion and debate. It cannot be condemned outright because that would ruin the discussion on this important matter. SFSU cannot expel Mohammad Hammad, the president of GUPS, who held up a knife before the camera and said:
“I seriously can not get over how much I love this blade. It is the sharpest thing I own and cuts through everything like butter and just holding it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier….”
Nor can the university cease funding GUPS, and thus eliminate the call for the murder of Jews on the campus of SF State, because that would violate student rights to a free and open discussion on the issues of the day. In other words, it seems to Professor Wong that the question of genocide against the Jewish people is a matter open to discussion and as the president of an important institution of higher education, dedicated to social justice and human rights, he does not want to interfere with that discussion.
He is, nonetheless, considering, maybe, doing something:
Second, trust that I will step in when speech or actions cross the line into violations of law or University policy. I am absolutely committed to maintaining a safe environment. In both recent cases, for example, we have conducted thorough threat assessments with law enforcement, increased campus safety measures, facilitated dialogue with student groups, offered counseling resources and initiated the student conduct review process. I am confident these actions protect both the safety and the rights of our campus community. In all situations, I ask that you give our processes the time needed to be thorough, objective and effective. Understand as well that these processes must protect the rights and privacy of those who may be the subject of counseling, review or sanction.
The way that Dusty put it, over at San Francisco State Unbecoming, is that:
We are being asked to respect the system, and to respect the process.
What president Wong is saying is that if, and when, it is determined that calling for the murder of Jews is in violation of the law or university policy then, perhaps, he may actually do something, but until we figure that out “first and foremost” is the matter of free speech.
It is not as if we are unclear whether or not GUPS called for the murder of Jews, because they quite clearly did so. On November 7, during a rally in honor of anti-Israel / anti-Jewish scholar, Edward Said, they handed out signs that said, “My heroes have always killed colonizers.”
The question to ask yourself is just who are these “colonizers” in need of killing?
I am pretty sure that you know the answer to that question.
Finally, professor Wong says this:
Third, keep an open mind. I have spoken before about the obligation to own your own mind. Issues being debated on campus can capture widespread attention. This can be a welcome contribution to the dialogue. It can also be a source of confusion, misinformation, and pressure to subvert our processes. Each of us at this university is a scholar—whether student, faculty member or staff—and each of us has the obligation to form opinions and take action based on exploring, analyzing and carefully listening before drawing conclusions.
Who could disagree with such a reasoned and sensible assessment of the question of whether or not Jews (i.e., “colonizers” – otherwise also known as insidious “Zionists”) should be killed or not? We need to keep an open mind on the matter and thereby see point number one, the matter of free speech. In truth, Wong’s Point Number One and Wong’s Point Number Three are essentially identical.
None of this should actually be surprising to anyone. For decades the progressive-left has told itself that the Jews in the Middle East deserve a good beating.
Doctor Wong just wants students to be free to discuss the possibility.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.