On November 13, the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) at the University of Texas (UT), Austin disrupted a lecture called “The Origin of a Species: The Birth of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Military Culture,” hosted by Israel Studies Professor Ami Pedahzur and featuring visiting Stanford military historian Dr. Gil-Li Vardi.
The PSC activists, led by second-year UT law student Mohammad Nabulsi, former grad student Patrick Higgins, and sociology graduate student Katie Jensen, entered the public event waving Palestinian flags and yelling anti-Israel insults. When they were asked to either participate in the event or leave, they instead took to chanting “Long Live the Intifada” and “We don’t want two states, we want 48,” referring to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that ended the formation of Israel.
“We don’t want to listen to your whitewashing. We know who you are. We’ve read your stuff,” Nabulsi scoffed. “We want to talk about the fact that the Center for Israeli Studies exists on our college campus to whitewash the State of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”
Even when a wimpy liberal participant suggested that Pedahzur’s event was actually going to talk about that, Nabulsi shouted her down and said it didn’t matter because it was coming from the Israeli side.
“It doesn’t matter, you are a former IDF soldier,” Nabulsi shouted. “We do not listen to you. You have nothing to say to us about the Palestinian experience.”
Watch footage of this as obtained by Legal Insurrection below:
The same night, Nabulsi and his peers took a screenshot of the encounter between him and Pedahzur, using the terrorist name Georges Abdallah to frame Pedahzur as the person attacking him.
That was the start of a massive “smear campaign” against Pedahzur; from an article in the student newspaper calling him “Islamophobic,” to a tweet from Glenn Greenwald painting him as a professor who “threaten[ed] & assault[ed] non-violent pro-Palestinian protesting students.”
Legal Insurrection obtained a video of captured by students standing in the hallway at the end of the event, proving that Pedahzur was clearly on the defense and had simply asked the protestors to participate or leave. Pedahzur did not assault the PSC students as they claimed he did.
In an interview with the Algemeiner, Pedahzur said that the result of the incident is the first of its kind that he has ever experienced in his career, and he now has to wear a disguise on campus for fear of his and his family’s safety.
“Along with the PSC petition smearing my name and accusing me of inappropriate behavior, I’ve received death threats,” Pedhazur told the Algemeiner. “But no one at the university has offered to protect me or my students. That is why I went to the police last Monday to request protection for my class — titled ‘Suicide Terror’ — which is in a basement, so in an emergency situation, it would be very hard to evacuate 95 students. I couldn’t take the chance that because of my name, someone would try to do away with a ‘Zionist professor.’”
Legal Insurrection obtained a video of captured by students standing in the hallway at the end of the event, proving that Pedahzur was clearly on the defense and had simply asked the protestors to participate or leave.
Ten days later, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UT finally responded with a statement that weakly condemned the disrupters while praising Pedahzur:
Amidst the current controversy concerning the disruption of an academic lecture sponsored by the Institute for Israel Studies, I want to reiterate my deep admiration for the work of Professor Ami Pedahzur and the Institute for Israel Studies in conducting courses and public programming that represent the highest standard of academic discourse and dispassionate reasoning and research on a controversial subject of enormous importance. Students and faculty of every background, including Palestinians and Israelis alike, have enthusiastically received Prof. Pedahzur’s courses and his supervision of undergraduate and graduate research.
Although reviews are still ongoing, I wish to emphasize that there are places on campus for responsibly discussing disagreements. Disruption of a visiting scholar’s invited academic lecture violates principles of academic freedom and free speech that are crucial to our mission as a great university.
Pedahzur said that the rally against him was part of an organized national anti-Israel campaign that attempts to promote its cause by attaching itself to other large campus movements, such as the racial separatist movement recently demonstrating at the University of Missouri. He also pointed out that the PSC students framed him as an oppressor the same night as the recent attacks in Paris, but that they “didn’t say a word about the news from Paris that same night. These rioters said nothing on Facebook nor condemned the attacks. They call themselves ‘Palestinian,’ but most of them don’t even speak Arabic, other than what they’ve learned in language classes at the university.”
Pedahzur vows that he will do whatever he can to find out who is behind the PSC, a group known for its militant pro-Hamas and Islamic jihad values.