Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A False Charge of “Incitement to Violence”

The conservative site, The College Fix, offers up an article by Emily Schrader reporting that students “at the University of Pennsylvania have ignited tensions nationwide with their choice of headliners for their upcoming anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) conference.”

Schrader targets Ali Abunimah for being a keynote speaker at the event: “Abunimah in particular is highly controversial, having repeatedly condemned a two-state solution, and having gone on record with comments that sound a great deal like incitement to violence against Israelis.”

As for the claim that Abunimah is guilty of “incitement to violence against Israelis,” it's an absolutely outrageous lie. The proof Schrader offers is this quote:
In 2002 he told the Washington Post, “If Israel is going to maintain a military occupation over millions of people by nothing but brute force, then no power on earth is going to stop some of these occupied people responding in kind. The only way to end the violence is to end the occupation.”
Nothing in this statement can possibly sound like incitement to violence. In fact, Abunimah declares in this same lengthy interview about suicide bombings, “Such bombings are horrific and need to stop.” He added, “no good can come out of murdering innocent civilians. Palestinians have to stop doing it....” The quote Schrader emphasizes is simply a recognition of the fact that some people under occupation turn to violence. There's no endorsement of violence here, and it's hard to conceive how anyone could call it “incitement to violence.”

At least Schrader does not openly call for censorship of the conference. But incitement to violence is one of the traditional valid justifications for repression of free speech. That makes this utterly absurd claim (quoted with approval at Phi Beta Cons) such a disturbing idea. There are plenty of legitimate critiques a rational person can make against the divestment movement or Abunimah's argument. But “incitement to violence” isn't even remotely close to being true.

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