The Truth About the Caroline Glick Episode at UT Austin
I am a proud Zionist, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and an uncompromising advocate for the Jewish state. I am also the past president of my high school’s Young Conservatives group, and a freshman at the University of Texas, Austin.
That’s why it hurt so much when my conservative and pro-Israel bona fides were questioned by people outside of my campus community, who do not know me, and cannot possibly know the reality of life at UT Austin.
Last week, an Austin community member with no connection to our university approached a group of students with the intention of stirring things up on campus. His goal was to bring a conservative journalist, Caroline Glick, to our campus to speak about Israel.
The community member spoke with a few students who are active in Hillel, Texans for Israel, the AIPAC group on campus and Christians United for Israel. He tried to entice us with offers for internships or jobs with his firm if we agreed to organize this program. We chose not to work with him or to host this event. More importantly, we never even brought the program through the formal Hillel process to review and approve.
As a strong supporter of the Jewish state, I believe our goal on campus should be pro-Israel outreach. That means spreading the pro-Israel message outside of the Jewish and traditionally pro-Israel community. To do that, we look for bridges to engage new audiences, and while Ms. Glick is a powerful advocate for Israel, we decided that she was not the best fit for that task at this time.
In response, this community member arrived uninvited to my fraternity house to accuse me of censoring conservative speakers because I was supposedly intimidated by liberal forces on campus.
I don’t intimidate easily. Last year, I filed a discrimination complaint against my high school, after administrators refused to take action when students wore Hamas scarves and vandalized Israeli flags. Ironically, some of those who are questioning our decision at UT are the same people who hailed me as a hero for my actions in high school.
Our decision regarding hosting the program with Ms. Glick was based solely on what we believed would help build the pro-Israel community on campus. We were not — and will not — be swayed by outside voices.
Community members with no connection to our university can’t parachute in with their personal goals and change our strategies. This man had one mission: to manufacture controversy. He was not interested in hearing from student leaders about our mission or our strategies.
In the course of our conversations, I learned that the community member wanted to bring other far-right speakers to campus to reclaim the “conservative pro-Israel narrative.” He admitted he hoped there would be violent protests targeting Jews at these events, so he could use his “media connections” to tell the story of “Jewish Students Under Attack on Campus.”
This might serve his agenda, but it does not serve the pro-Israel community at UT Austin.
Faced with certain defeat, the donor warned that I should expect to read in the press that conservative voices were suppressed by pro-Israel groups on campus. So I was not surprised when, the next morning, a reporter called me and other students asking about the “cancellation” of an event involving Caroline Glick.
UT Austin is home to a proud and strong pro-Israel community. This past semester, Texans for Israel hosted a campaign called “This is What a Zionist Looks Like,” tabling on campus for a week and holding discussions about Zionism as a liberation movement and act of self-determination. The goal was to reclaim the word “Zionist,” which has been tainted by opponents of Israel on campuses across the country.
Texas Hillel recently held a student leadership dinner, bringing together leaders from Black, Hindu, Christian, Latino, liberal and conservative groups, as well as numerous student government officials. And before my arrival, the Jewish community at UT Austin and its allies had already defeated BDS.
I stand by the decision we made. But more importantly, I stand by our right and our ability to determine our own programming agenda on campus. We are university students. We are here to learn but also to develop as leaders by making tough decisions and seeing them through. We will not allow outside voices to force our hand or mischaracterize us to the world.
Eliav Terk is a freshman at UT Austin. He serves as a CAMERA Fellow, is on the board of Texans for Israel and is part of the AIPAC cadre on campus.