At Northeastern University, Educated Stupidity on Israel
I recently made the mistake of attending an anti-Israel rally outside the Hillel chapter at Northeastern University on November 2, 2017. The declared purpose of the rally was to stop a group of Israeli soldiers from telling their stories to students at the school — but amazingly enough, the administration at Northeastern protected the rights of its students and made sure that the event took place as planned.
At the rally, there were a fair number of police officers keeping order outside the Hillel building, and there were even a couple of administrators nearby to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand.
As I stood in the street videotaping the rally with my cell phone, a clean-cut young man came up to me, and asked what the folks in front of us were protesting.
“Jews,” I said, “Armed Jews who can defend themselves.”
The young man looked at me, took another look at the crowd and walked away. I’m not sure who he thought was crazier — me, or the folks who were protesting.
It’s an occupational hazard. It is hard not to be cynical after witnessing people from the LGBTQ community siding with Hamas in its war against Israel in 2014, or watching a young girl in a hijab carrying a sign reading “Another Jew Against the Bombing of Gaza.” She was, of course, not very likely actually Jewish.
I could have handled the exchange differently, but I was in a pretty foul mood. Why? Because I can stand the menace and contempt that exudes from these sorts of rallies; but the overt stupidity? That’s another matter.
I arrived before the picket began, and started taking pictures of the crowd as it prepared for its march. A young woman approached me. “Would you like a sign, sir?”
Someone in charge — a young man — then came up to me and asked, “Are you with the media?” He was pretty excited.
“Yes!” I said.
“Who are you with?”
I was at a loss to tell him which publication I was writing for. because I write for a few. I deliberated for a moment and said, “The Algemeiner.”
“It’s a Jewish newspaper,” I said. That seemed to put him off for a moment, but then he recovered. “Can you ask people’s permission before taking pictures of their faces?” he asked, gesturing toward the small crowd of protesters behind him.
“No,” I said. “It’s a public place.”
In a few short moments, I aged a decade.
This exuberant young man, excited that somebody — from the media, no less! — had shown up to document his heroic stand against a 24-year-old female IDF soldier, was now asking that the identities of his fellow protesters be protected from unwanted exposure.
You can’t fake that level of stupid — you simply can’t.
Anyone who shows up at a rally to protest in the streets of Boston knows, or should know, that there is no expectation of privacy on a public street — but apparently this young man didn’t get the memo. And despite his ignorance, he felt perfectly comfortable telling anyone who asked that Israeli soldiers were war criminals. That was the whole point of the rally.
The chants at the rally were the predictable fare: “We know what this event is for — occupation and endless war,” and “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have to got to go.” At least they weren’t chanting for an intifada like they did in 2014.
Eventually, I had enough and started walking back to my car. As I made my way home, I thought about the young student activist who tried to insist that I ask for permission to take photos on a public street. I thought about his parents who are paying for his schooling. Those poor people.
“Lord have mercy,” I said, and drove home.