Inflammatory posters titled “Students For Justice in Palestine” with the hashtag “Jew Haters” emblazoned on the bottom appeared throughout the college this week, prompting debate among the administration and faculty members about free speech versus hate speech.
One set of posters showed images of suicide bombers. Other posters showed a mother and child armed with guns. Although the meaning of the label “Jew Haters” was unclear, with some assuming it was anti-Semitic speech, while others viewed it as an attack on the SJP. However, author and right-wing activist David Horowitz took credit for the posters.
Several other campuses reported similar posters, including UCLA, UC Irvine, an DePaul University in Chicago.
Horowitz told the Jewish Journal that the posters are part of an effort to “raise awareness of the epidemic of Jew hatred on college campuses, like at UCLA,” stating that the SJP is not just critical of Israeli policies. Rather, he went on to refer to the organization as a “hate group” that is anti-Israel and that their privileges as a student group should be revoked.
However, he also told the Jewish Journal that he does not want the government or UCLA to impose on the SJP’s free speech rights but that getting it recognized as a hate group would remove its status as a student group.
Adjunct English professor Howard Ibach said that free speech must be tolerated, even if the ideas being expressed “boil your blood.”
“Free speech is for everyone, not merely those whose ideas you like or agree with,” he said. “The price of free speech is that you must tolerate someone else’s radical or dangerous idea because someone, somewhere may think your idea is radical, too. To have this freedom for yourself, you must grant it to others.”
President David Viar released a statement in response to the presence of the posters on campus.
“Regardless of the intent of these flyers and regardless of the importance of our protecting freedom of speech, we cannot be quiet when we read or hear hateful words,” he said. “The posting of these flyers at GCC points to the importance of our need to be ever vigilant. As a public higher education institution we encourage and expect a diversity of perspectives and wide-ranging dialogue on complex and often controversial issues. Indeed, it is the policy of the college ‘to maintain an educational environment that fosters the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.’ However, that free exchange of thoughts and ideas must be done in civil, respectful, and tolerant ways.”
Horowitz’s actions have received pushback from Jewish and pro-Israel organizations at UCLA, including Hillel at UCLA Student Board, Bruins For Israel Executive Board, Jewish Awareness Movement at UCLA Executive Board, and Chabad House at UCLA Student Board, and J Street U at UCLA.
In a statement released by the Daily Bruin, the groups condemned the posters that referred to the SJP as being anti-Semitic.
“While we have in the past condemned speakers sponsored by SJP for their anti-Semitic rhetoric and believe the inappropriate singling out of Israel to be discriminatory, we wholeheartedly condemn these actions and the malicious intent behind them,” the statement read. “This sort of hostility and offensive language has no place on a university campus, especially one as diverse as UCLA.”
Editor’s Note: Readers will find more in-depth coverage of the posters in the March 4 edition of El Vaquero. To read Horowitz’s full interview with the Jewish Journal, check out the full story at http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/conservative_activist_david_horowitz_admits_responsibility_for_posters.