November 4, 2015
Calls for the University to investigate and denounce this incident
Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement in condemnation of yesterday's illegal and shameful disruption of New York University Professor Moshe Halbertal's "John Dewey Lecture in the Philosophy of Law" at the University of Minnesota Law School:
"Yesterday, I had the disturbing experience of attending a lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School by an Israeli academic who was aggressively shouted down by disrupters. Professor Moshe Halbertal, of New York University, was invited by the University of Minnesota Law School to give the annual 'John Dewey Lecture in the Philosophy of Law.' This illegal and shameful disruption created a hostile environment in which police were required to lock the doors to the lecture hall and respectfully remove the disruptors.
"As an alumnus of the law school, I was proud that our University extended an invitation to Dr. Halbertal, who is an internationally renowned scholar in numerous fields, including military ethics. I was also proud of the manner in which the Law School's Dean, David Wippman, and Professor Oren Gross calmly and forthrightly noted that all were welcome to attend the lecture subject to the rules of the University. It should also be noted that in contrast to the disruptors, there were individuals - who were identifiable as critics of Israel - who sat through the lecture without interrupting and respectfully engaged with Dr. Halbertal at a reception afterwards.
"The disruptors, for their part, only brought discredit upon themselves as their behavior contradicts Minnesota standards of decorum and civility, as well as respect for free speech. There is a perverse irony of the disruptors' interference with the free expression of ideas on a university campus. Nearly all Minnesotans see no reason to import the worst elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to campus.
"The JCRC will not stand idly by as professors and/or students are intimidated and isolated by those who seek the destruction of the State of Israel. For example, the chilling chants which we were subjected to yesterday, 'From Sea to Sea, Palestine will be free,' mean nothing less than the murder or expulsion of over 6 million Jews from Israel.
"So egregious was the conduct of the protestors that Professor Dale Carpenter, the Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law and an expert on the First Amendment, wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that 'the freedom to present a lecture is threatened in this way at a public university is appalling, calling not only for punishment of violations but for a clear statement by university officials defending the free exchange of ideas.'
"We concur with Professor Carpenter and call for a thorough and swift investigation into yesterday's illegal and shameful disruption of the free exchange of ideas at the University of Minnesota. We respectfully ask the University to publicly denounce these bullying tactics."
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.