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March 10, 2016 3:00 pm

U of Texas Exonerates Prof Who Prevented ‘Palestine Solidarity Committee’ Students From Disrupting Israeli Guest Lecturer

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University of Texas at Austin Prof. Ami Pedazhur. Photo: UT website

University of Texas at Austin Prof. Ami Pedazhur. Photo: UT website

Four months after a student group disrupted a lecture by a professor with an Israeli background, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) has completed its investigation of the incident, The Algemeiner has learned.

According to a summary released by the university, the investigation has exonerated Ami Pedazhur, founding director of UT’s Institute for Israel Studies, who confronted the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) students and was accused by them of having behaved violently and inappropriately.

The investigation concluded that Pedazhur had not violated any university rules or policies. The UT President also issued a statement of strong support for him.

According to the summary, the university

found that [Prof. Pedazhur] … did not violate the university’s Nondiscrimination Policy and did not engage in harassment of the student organization.

Allegations that Pedhazur had done these things arose after the original Nov. 13 incident, reported at the time by The Algemeiner. The Israel Studies program was hosting a lecture by Stanford Prof. Gil-Li Vardi, an Israeli, when students from UT-Austin’s PSC stood up, began shouting for the destruction of Israel and waving Palestinian flags, and repeatedly chanted “Long Live the Intifada!” Pedazhur attempted to calm the disruption, urging the students to either “sit down and learn something” or leave. Afterwards the students claimed that Pedazhur had exercised physical force and intimidation against them, and released edited video footage suggesting that Pedazhur had initiated a physical confrontation.

Later, the blog Legal Insurrection obtained unedited video showing that Pedazhur had not initiated any such confrontation, but instead repeatedly urged the students to stay and listen.

The PSC students, led by law student Mohammed Nabulsi and former graduate student Patrick Higgins among others, subsequently hired legal counsel to file a discrimination complaint against Pedazhur with the university. Although the details were not made public, the basis for the complaint, according to public comments by the students, were allegations that Pedazhur had referred to them as “terrorists.”

Nabulsi, for example, posted this on Facebook after yesterday’s announcement:

Today, the University of Texas released a statement backing a report issued by the Office for Inclusion and Equity (OIE) stating that this professor’s decision to vilify me and my Arab and Muslim comrades as “terrorists” … was not discriminatory. In so many words and in a move to blame the victim, the OIE stated that the professor’s decision to describe us as “red flags” for “terrorism” was motivated by our actions or decisions alone.

Not only that, but the President of this University took it upon himself to reaffirm his support for the professor in question. In doing so, President Fenves sent a clear message to Muslim and Arab activists on this campus: when it suits our interests, we will throw you to the dogs.

As Pedazhur told The Algemeiner in an exclusive interview last November, Nabulsi has openly called on people to rally behind Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups against the Palestinian Authority, which he views as “collaborators” with Israel. According to Legal Insurrection, further, Pedazhur also discovered that both Nabulsi and Higgins use online pseudonyms of known terrorists. Moreover, Legal Insurrection noted, PSC’s chants in support of intifada, directed at Israelis at a time when Palestinian knife attacks against Jewish Israelis are occurring daily, “reasonably could have been viewed as an attempt to intimidate, at best, or a threat, at worst.”

UT President Gregory Fenves released this statement yesterday:

Now that the provost has accepted the findings of the OIE report, I want to express my strong support for Professor Ami Pedahzur.

Over many years, Dr. Pedahzur has fostered open, responsible dialogue, often on contentious political issues, including those involving Israel. He is known for working in a constructive and proactive manner with people from across the political spectrum. Dr. Pedahzur hosts speakers representing a wide range of views to foster in-depth inquiry. His classes attract students from diverse backgrounds. I look forward to Dr. Pedahzur’s many future contributions in teaching, scholarship, and public service at UT.

Free discourse is vital to The University of Texas … Yet free speech also carries with it responsibility. The expression of free speech is not a license to drown out the speech of others, or to shout down ideas one disagrees with.

The Algemeiner reached out to Prof. Pedazhur, whose attorney, Carly Gammill of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), provided the following statement:

Dr. Pedahzur is pleased that the University’s investigative process has resolved this situation correctly in his favor, and that the baseless complaint filed against him has been dismissed.

As Jewish and Israeli members of campus communities are increasingly finding themselves the targets of calculated campaigns of intimidation, it is imperative that administrators not allow such tactics to prevail. We applaud the University of Texas for its thoroughness in this investigation and for refusing to bend to the will of those who would attempt to harm the campus community through their false accusations.

As for the student disrupters, The Algemeiner was informed by UT that federal law prohibits the university from discussing disciplinary proceedings with respect to students.

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  • Reform School

    The doctoring (selective editing) of photographic evidence submitted to a court of competent jurisdiction is neither a tort nor an infraction. It is both a fraud upon the court and an assault upon the civilization the court represents. Algemeiner references to federal laws that protect student crime from exposure does not instill confidence students are not the shock troops of an alien invaasion. Without direct citation of the specific laws purported, corruption of American legal practices may be reasonably inferred. The Algemeiner must cite the specific statutes and/or rules referred to or be condemned to lead the March of Lemmings.

  • Mark Davis

    What’s most amazing is these disruptive racists thugs are never disciplined. It would end quickly if they were to know that disrupting a lecture and shouting Hitlerite and bigoted slogans would end in dismissal from their studies. But of course this never happens and so it goes on and on.

  • Aviva Sucher

    The students should be ashamed of themselves, to have disrupted an invited speaker of the only democratic country in the Middle East, a bastion of reprieve in that dusty, choking region, where women, Christians and Jews dare not even step foot. Shame on them.

  • C. Bruce Richardson Jr.

    The professor interfered with what the terrorist sympathizers assumed was their right to disrupt another group’s meeting. I wonder how many of those people were actually students at the University of Texas.

  • Ilana Fine Bar-Hai

    Very good that the lies and incitement, hatred and disruption of free speech and dialogue was were exposed totally. Shame on these hateful lying students. I hope they got kicked out on their rotten butts from the UT.

  • Peter Joffe

    The antisemitic weapon of choice is lies, misdirection and disruption. They cannot allow the truth of the words of argument to be heard. They try to kill all opposition and the stupid press follow them like lemmings.

  • stevenl

    The students should be punished. Most likely photos must have been taken that can easily identify these bastards. At the minimum suspended.

  • Evan

    It’s amazing the pro-Palestinian factions are so quick to engage in the kind of dishonesty, bullying and silencing that they falsely accuse others of doing. The fact that they have been caught red-handed doctoring videos shows just how morally bankrupt and intellectually lazy they really are.

  • Carol

    What an excellent resolution to the entire incident. They should all go this way. Kudos to the professor and the University of Texas.

  • Gregory Lewis

    Kids of the Palestine Solidarity Committee never learned how to conduct themselves with civility. It reflects badly on their upbringing that they think they can behave badly in public and not face any consequences.

  • ita

    Now it is time to muster a counter suit to make sure that they pay for their lies. And pay legal fees for filing a false mai6licious case…..

    Also it is time to file a complaint with UT against PSC.

  • Leonard Feinman

    The time for social activism is not on school hours. The place is not a classroom or lecture. I understand the role of social fraternities and political ones too, but their activities should be limited to off-campus locations. If you attend a lecture, it should be to listen and learn. If you go to dispute the relativity of the subject, you are taking away from the objective of those who have a legitimate interest.

    Protesters should be able to protest. That is a given in free society. But that should not take away from the rights of those who disagree. They have a right to learn and be informed. Nobody has the right to enforce their ideas on anybody. If you are interested in a lecture, you should be able to go to it without any fear of interruption. If somebody does protest, it is taking something away from those who do not agree.

    College campuses should be free of political pressure. Yes, there is room for discourse, but not in a lecture. You do not register for a class in order to fight with the professor. Schools ought to enforce this as policy. Do not kowtow to bullies.

  • basha kline

    By denying their own dispicable behaviour with the flag-waving and vile comments regarding Israel, these, so called, students have shot themseles in the feet and their future will be tainted with their implausable campaign, and such denials leave them backtracking and pulling at the air for someone else to blame. It is not Israel that is so hated but the antisemitism that rides high in the saddle. These idiots do not even understand why they hate so much, only that they will never be such high achievers, in any field of education and cannot climb such a rungless ladder in pursuit of Jewish capabilities.

  • noanoa

    Sadly, the arabs/muzlims are the world’s best liars, half way through spewing out their lie, they believe it to be true.

    Primitive people

  • Lia

    Methinks the University of Texas has noticed what happened to MU, when it allowed students to take over …

  • Sue Davis

    A shame our University of Sydney did not issue a similar statement after the disruption of (retired) Colonel Richard Kemp’s talk.

  • Ted U.

    I find it extremely sad that these Pro-palestinian student organizations consistently use intimidation and openly call for the destruction of Israel. They disrupt lectures, meetings, and other forums with their vile racism and they get away with it.
    In this case the Professor they targeted was exonerated rightfully so but I have not seen any of these “organizations” ever held to task for their actions.

  • martin

    “…..federal law prohibits the university from discussing disciplinary proceedings with respect to students.

    Does anyone know the title of that law?

  • duPont

    It is becoming increasingly clear that when pro- Palestinian/ anti-Semitic Muslims (and their supporters) are on American campuses, they assume that the right to free speech is inclusive of rude, demeaning and disruptive behavior. I believe that it is time for our campuses to expel those who are guilty of this behavior and to refuse entry to those who refuse to follow the codes of conduct for which America is so well known. I am disgusted with the plethora of these incidents on our college campuses mainly due to the Pro-Palestinian movement. Truly, they should not come to our universities as it is abundantly clear that they do not value them as institutions of learning nor their value to demonstrate how our diversity on the campus can bring greater understanding and peace to the world. The group responsible for this particular incident should be expelled for their dishonesty, disrespectfulness, litigiousness and intentional troublemaking.

  • brenrod

    those that disrupt and obstruct the business of others should be fined with punitive damages at the least. Its time all these liars paid the proper price.

  • Mickey Oberman

    This kind of intimidation by Muslims occurs over and over in all non Muslim countries that allow Muslims to enter and use our democracy to destroy it.

    Frivolous and false condemnations and costly lawsuits which the Muslims are undoubtedly paid for by Saudi Arabia and Iran and other Islamic countries.

    The Jews must raise their costs through charitable donations from ordinary citizens for the most part.

    This must stop. Those who initiate such suits must be made to pay all costs if they back out of the suits or lose them.