My note this week is going to be short and focused on one point. I want the impact of my words to be clear.
The eviction notices posted on Emory University’s campus earlier this month by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine said, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempt to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab habitants and maintain an exclusively Jewish character of the state.”
The issue I have with this statement being the basis and rationale for posting these eviction notices is that every facet of this statement is categorically false. There is not a shred of factual truth in this statement. Unfortunately, the average reader of this posted notice will have no idea that the writers have just made up this statement in order to support their condemnation of Israel. The average reader will just assume the statement is accurate, or at least mostly accurate.
I have a problem when people are having a debate and one side makes up facts, or outright lies, to prove a point. What is more frustrating is that the onlooker, with little knowledge, just assumes the debater is offering fact, maybe biased, opinionated facts in a worst-case scenario. Most people would not assume the basis for an argument is totally fabricated.
This is not about free speech or even “free speech that I do not like.” This is about someone, or some organization, that is attempting to sway people’s opinion with a known false narrative and outright lies (not even “opinions I do not like.”)
Universities need to safeguard free speech. Universities need to safeguard free dialogue of opinions. Universities should be wary of hate speech, violence-inciting speech, racist speech and the teaching, debate and dissemination of lies and fake information. I know there are people that believe the world is flat and that World War II and the Holocaust did not occur; but, these opinions, often purposely disguised as facts, are totally inaccurate and shouldn’t carry the same protection and freedoms as intellectual debate and free speech.
Emory is confronted with a reoccurring tactic used by anti-Zionists. Over the past 50 years or so, the Jewish fight for self-preservation (as seen in Holocaust denial, the blood libel, or in this instance, the random/wanton genocidal destruction of Arab homes) has had to argue against an adversary that has no use for the boundary of fact to prove its argument.
Students in the SJP organization are quite content making up facts that sound good to support their cause. That is not to say that Israel hasn’t demolished hundreds of homes of convicted murderers, a known punishment written in law (the murderer is not punished by death). This law, however, is leagues away from ethnic cleansing or acts of genocide. Emory should consider being a leader in stopping the dissemination of false arguments posed as factual dialogue.
The Jewish people understand that it is impossible to win a debate when the other side freely constructs facts to support their argument. The question in front of us is how to convince the rest of the world of this concept.