Vic academics against free speech

Stuff reports:

Israeli soldiers involved in an operation that left thousands of Palestinians dead will speak at Victoria University, to the horror of some staff and students.

But the group of Jewish students bringing the former soldiers out say attempts to stop them coming to the university are an affront to free speech.

Students are planning to picket the Tuesday evening event at the university while 11 academics have signed a letter opposing it, arguing Palestinians would not be able to do the same.

This is just the typical we want to shut down speech from those we disagree with.

Speakers representing the Palestinian view speak regularly on campuses around the world. No one ever ever suggests they not be allowed to speak. But whenever there is a speaker representing the Israeli view, they try to shut it down.

The event, at the Cotton Building, is organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).

Spokesman Caelan MacBeth said it was shameful students were trying to prevent “an open exchange of views on a complex, longstanding Middle East conflict”.

“The basis upon which a university is built is that of debate, open discussion, equality of representation, and the right to free speech.”

The reserve soldiers were now students of medicine and business on holiday in New Zealand and planned to share their experiences of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Wouldn’t it be better to hear their first hand perspective, to ask questions of them, to challenge them if necessary. But instead they just want them silenced.

A letter signed by 11 academics expressed dismay the university would host the event which was “part of a nationwide campaign to justify Israeli crimes in last year’s war in Gaza”.

Operation Protective Edge in 2014 saw an Israel assault on the Gaza Strip in which more than 2000 people were killed. Of them, 1523 were civilians, the letter said.

“The United Nations stated that Israel’s use of heavy artillery against Gaza ‘may amount to a war crime’.”

Educational institutes were damaged and students were among the dead.

“It is astonishing, therefore, that an exercise in propaganda and apologetics for military violence should be hosted at a university setting under the guise of education and learning opportunities,” the letter states.

“This meeting gives a platform to [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers for them to celebrate the very conflict that led to such massive Palestinian loss of life.”

English lecturer Dougal McNeill – who signed the statement – said the event was nothing more than a propaganda project by Israel which, due largely to the rise of social media, was facing a “public relations disaster” after the deadly operation.

Palestinians would not be offered the same freedom, as most were unable to leave Palestine, he said.

While it seemed inevitable the event would go ahead he wished it would be cancelled.

The university has not invited them, but a club. The academics are saying they don’t want students to have the right to invite people they disapprove of. They are a shame to free speech and the hundreds of years of history of universities in promoting free speech.

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