A Teachable Moment

For the last week or so, hundreds of students have been protesting the war in Gaza by “occupying” university campuses at Ivy League universities and other schools.

In many cases, classes have been moved online, and some schools have even cancelled formal commencement ceremonies.

Student protests against government policies are probably as old as universities themselves, but this is no ordinary protest. The students involved are not just against the war in Gaza or promoting the Palestinian cause, but are actually advocating violence against Jewish students and faculty as they glorify Hamas terrorists. Injuries have already occurred: it’s only a matter of time until there are fatalities.

In some places, law enforcement has been called upon to help break up the encampments. But police can’t enter the grounds of private schools without permission of the administration. In the case of schools like Columbia in New York City, that has not been the case, and so the encampment there proliferates.

This comes on the heels of similar protests that have shut down the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, closed roads to access major airports, and even attempted to close major medical centers where Jewish doctors were known to practice.

The right to free speech does not include the right to incite or commit violence against those with whom you disagree. Educational institutions in particular are supposed to be places of higher learning—where one is exposed to varying schools of thought and opinions, and critical thinking is valued. Yet, this is where we see the worst offenders.

It’s hard to imagine schools or local governments would have the same hands-off attitude if protesters were advocating death to other ethnic groups or minorities. It’s time to teach those who want to protest that there are actions and behaviors that are allowable—and those that go too far.

The alternative would be a terrible lesson for all of us.


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