Megaphone-wielding students disrupt pro-Israel event at UVA
The University of Virginia forcefully denounced the use of the so-called “heckler’s veto” after protesters aggressively disrupted a pro-Israel event on campus last week.
“Last night in Clark Hall, a meeting of Jewish students and a rabbi, properly reserved and wholly peaceful, was disrupted,” began the February 23 statement issued by Dean of Student Allen Groves. “Individuals entered the classroom reserved by these students, used a megaphone to interrupt the conversations of the students attending the meeting, and otherwise attempted to prevent the students in attendance from exercising their rights of free and peaceful association.”
Noting that campus police had to be called to restore order, and that “the scene in the room felt threatening to many students in attendance,” Groves added that video footage of the incident indicates that “several university policies were violated” by the protesters.
The “Building Bridges” panel was hosted by the Brody Jewish Center-Hillel and featured Israel Defense Force reservists who are a part of Reservists on Duty, a group that, according to its website, works to “expose and counter BDS, the new anti-Semitism.”
“The idea behind the panel was to humanize the conflict, learn about Israeli society, and allow for honest conversation,” the Brody Jewish Center-Hillel said in a statement on its Facebook page. “During the program, a group of students and non-students entered the room, began chanting anti-Israel slogans, holding up signs, and passing out information.”
Rabbi Jake Rubin, the executive director of the Brody Jewish Center-Hillel, invited the protesters to engage in conversation and dialogue, but the post claims that they refused.
“While free speech and the ability to protest are important aspects of college life, we are disappointed that protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff, and panelists,” the post continued. “UVa is and has always been a place for the free exchange of ideas, learning from opposing views, and open dialogue.”
The protesters later dispersed and the panel continued.
“While free speech and the ability to protest are important aspects of college life, we are disappointed that protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff, and panelists,” the Hillel post stated, adding that the group is in contact with university administrators to discuss strategies for preventing similar outbursts in the future.
“I felt very threatened,” Ben Borenstein, a second-year student who attended the event, told The Cavalier Daily. “It was probably the most afraid that I’ve been in a situation at U.Va. because it was such a small classroom and it was so loud…it was very antagonistic and almost militant.”
Amit Deri, CEO of Reservists on Duty, told The Jerusalem Post that the incident “proves unequivocally that, as in all cases, anti-Israel activists are a violent group whose goal is to intimidate and silence Jewish students and the pro-Israel voice on campus.”
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