Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

In a posting last week on Minding the Campus, Herbert London endorsed an effort to banish anti-Semitism on campus, noting “The Israel Law Center warns that colleges and universities ‘may be liable for massive damage’ if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism.

London also praises the Israel Law Center’s reference to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, and Stanley Fish effectively explains why the Israel Law Center is wrong to call for Columbia University to ban Ahmadinejad from campus under anti-terrorism laws.

But London’s call for censorship goes far beyond foreign leaders of repressive countries. London writes in his endorsement of the Israel Law Center’s letter, “A center’s lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, ‘Anti-Israel rallies and events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews.’ A student at Rutgers, to cite one example, said he was called ‘a racist Zionist pig’ in a Facebook posting.”

The irony of London’s stand can be understood if you recall the founding anecdote of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). Back in 1993 at the University of Pennsylvania, a group of black women had racist remarks yelled at them from a dorm. Eden Jacobowitz admitted that he yelled at them, but he said that he only compared them to animals by calling them “water buffalo.” Jacobowitz was never punished (and never should have been), but the University of Pennsylvania was widely denounced for failing to drop the charges quickly enough (even Doonesbury mocked them). Alan Charles Kors defended Jacobowitz, and his experience led directly to Kors co-writing The Shadow University and co-founding FIRE with Harvey Silverglate.

So now the shoe is on the other hoof, and we have London, a member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, declaring that comparing a student to an animal is not only a legitimate basis for punishing a student, but that universities should be sued for “massive damage” if they fail to penalize students who compare people to animals. What London and the Israel Law Center call for is far, far more repressive than anything done in the “water buffalo” case. Where is the outrage from the defenders of free speech on campus?

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