Jewish student senator faces probe for questioning anti-Israel protest
A Jewish student senator at the University of Michigan is fighting back against an ethics probe related to his criticism of an anti-Israel demonstration on campus last month.
“My actions came from my own place of hurt and that of a sizable portion of my constituency’s,” Jesse Arm told The Algemeiner. “I am saddened that my fitness for office has been called into question by virtue of my opposition to a purposefully inflammatory protest.”
Arm is currently under investigation by the Central Student Government (CSG) ethics committee for an altercation he had on November 19 with members of the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) group, during which he questioned their decision to hold a pro-Palestine display on the same day that an American student, Ezra Schwartz, was killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.
“That American student was a contemporary of mine from my community with whom I shared many mutual friends,” Arm explained. “He was abroad on a gap year program that I seriously considered attending before eventually electing to enroll at Michigan. His story was my story.”
According to The College Fix, video footage of the incident shows that Arm did not resort to violence, but merely expressed his opposition to the display when he encountered it on his way to class.
“You’re not serious about this, with these signs here,” Arm tells the protesters in the video, referring to two large walls intended to symbolize the security wall between Israel and the West Bank, one of which bore the slogan, “to exist is to resist” alongside crude maps intended to illustrate Israel’s territorial expansion since 1946.
“You want to hold a moment of silence, you ought to take a moment and recognize that if you want peace to ever happen, it’s going to have to happen with people who understand the situation and who are going to be delicate about it,” Arm continues. “So take that thing down about ‘existing to resist’ and say ‘exist for peace’.”
One student retorts that SAFE will take down its wall when Israel takes down the actual wall, while another comments, “Oh my God, do you see how racist he’s being?”
Arm told The Algemeiner that any claims that he engaged in hate speech or verbal abuse are “categorically untrue,” and rejects the notion that his role as a student representative confers an obligation to withhold his opinions.
“I believe my actions reflect the type of civil exchange we expect from a representative of the student body and indeed from every student,” he asserted. “I disagreed with the decision of these student activists and voiced my concerns … [and] acted as a representative of students who felt marginalized or unsafe by that public demonstration.”
Noting that one his fellow senators was an active participant in the SAFE demonstration, Arm also pointed out that if his actions are unethical, then certainly the other senator’s must have acted unethically, too, by participating in the protest.
Although the CSG ethics committee has not yet announced a determination from its investigation, The Algemeiner reports that numerous students, including some former CSG representatives, came to Arm’s defense at the CSG’s latest meeting Tuesday night.
“I can tell you from first-hand experience this was a very emotional day in the Jewish community,” former senator Matt Fidel told the assembly, saying Arm’s actions were clearly influenced by his distress over the death of his friend. “To have this protest and then not even understand slightly why this may have been a triggering experience for members of this community on campus I think is insensitive and also not really logical.”
Jon Lin, another former senator and current law student, also criticized the decision to investigate Arm, saying it “sets a very low bar for what this assembly considers to be conduct becoming of a representative.”
Past representatives, he noted, have often been involved in activism on campus, and on one occasion several were arrested while protesting a meeting of the Board of Regents.
“So I wonder,” Lin mused, “if being arrested doesn’t count as conduct unbecoming of a representative and didn’t start ethics investigations, how does a civil discussion on the Diag [quad] reach that standard?”
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