Muslim Student Tries to Silence Pro-Israel Arab Voices
JNS.org – In the latest college controversy involving Israel’s minority populations, police at the University of Minnesota arrested an unidentified woman on October 24 for disrupting a pro-Israel student group’s event that featured Arab Israelis who served in the IDF.
Video footage obtained by the Haym Salomon Center shows a young hijab-clad woman walking up and down the aisle of a conference room, slinging personalized verbal assaults at the guest speakers — all of whom are members of Reservists on Duty (RoD). RoD is an organization founded by Israeli reserve combat soldiers and officers who, the group says, “felt it was their duty to expose and counter BDS” on American college campuses.
RoD was hosted on the University of Minnesota campus by Students Supporting Israel (SSI), an international campus movement that focuses on Israel advocacy.
The incident in Minnesota came approximately a week after both Hillel and a student-run Israel engagement group pulled their support for an RoD event at Stanford University. Stanford Chabad ultimately hosted the event.
In this week’s incident, the unidentified woman, reading from prepared notes on her smartphone, began by attacking Jonathan Elkhoury, a gay Christian who immigrated to Israel in 2000 after his family escaped war-torn Lebanon.
According to the protester, “Jonathan’s cowardly rat of a father is a former officer in the South Lebanon Army (SLA).” Describing the SLA as a “genocidal pack of rats,” she continued to attack Elkhoury’s family and his Christian-Lebanese heritage.
Arab-Israeli Muslim Dema Taya was next on the protester’s list of targets. Her questioning of Taya’s background drew laughter from the crowd. At that point, two minutes into the protest, requests for security can be heard on the video.
“The personal accusations made by this anti-Israel activist prove once again how those who despise the Jewish state fear Muslim, Arab and LGBTQ speakers who speak the truth about Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East,” said SSI President Ilan Sinelnikov. “SSI and RoD will continue working together in order to promote the voices of Israel on campus, be they Jews, Muslim, Christians, Druze or any other Israeli citizen.”
Elkhoury calmly asked the protester, throughout her diatribe, to stop and allow them to proceed with the event. His words were ignored, and the protester continued reading her prepared statements, stopping only when she lost her place or when remarks from the crowd distracted her reading.
The unidentified woman’s speech escalated into a tirade when she called a Muslim Israeli-Bedouin reservist a “war criminal.” He responded by repeatedly declaring that, “Israel is my homeland. I’m a proud Israeli soldier.”
During her arrest outside the conference room, the protester accused police officers of being white supremacists.
Amit Deri, the founder of RoD, said that the protester “called herself a Palestinian, but … was born and raised in Minnesota. She had the nerve to tell our group of Muslims that they are traitors. They told her, ‘You don’t know; you don’t live in Israel! You left your so-called land, you live here in the states and you want to tell us what it’s like living in Israel?’ This was an interesting situation for the students to watch.”
Deri added that RoD and SSI will be pressing charges against the woman. He said that the groups want to send a message to anti-Israel protesters that free speech is a two-way street, and that pro-Israel groups have a right to hold events without fear of disruption or personal harm.
In May, IDF reservists speaking on behalf of RoD at UC Irvine had to be escorted out by police following a violent protest by anti-Israel students. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim IDF delegation was on campus to counter “Israeli Apartheid Week” events at the university.
That protest was documented on video by smartphone cameras, ultimately leading to the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine being placed on disciplinary probation for two academic years.
The RoD event in Minnesota was part of a two-week speaking tour at colleges and communities across the US, covering 12 cities. The tour concluded on October 26 at Columbia University.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter: @pauliespoint.