Earlier this month, I wrote about New York University’s disgraceful decision to honor Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization solely devoted to delegitimizing Israel, with a President’s Service Award. So enthusiastic are NYU-SJP’s members that two were arrested last year for disrupting a celebration of Israel’s Independence. Law enforcement has terms to describe stealing flags and hurting people as you rip microphones from their hands, such as “robbery in the second degree” and “assault in the third degree.”
NYU, on the other hand, calls such actions, having an “extraordinary and positive impact on the University community.”
President’s Service Award recipients are selected not by the president’s office but by a “group of student affairs staffers from across the university and a student representative.” So I hoped that President Hamilton, who has denounced the boycott Israel movement of which SJP is the leading campus representative, would rescind the award. “We believe,” he said last year, that “the university exists to bring people together not to separate them.” This was one week after over fifty student groups, headed by SJP and one other anti-Israel organization, pledged to boycott not only Israel but also pro-Israel groups.
President Hamilton, I suspected, would balk at now saying that SJP makes a “significant and positive contribution to the University.” I was wrong.
On Wednesday, SJP received the President’s Service Award.
That’s despite the best efforts of Judea Pearl, a major figure in the field of computer science and a winner of NYU’S Distinguished Alumna award. After his son, the journalist Daniel Pearl, was murdered by Islamic militants, Pearl and his family set up a foundation that, among other things, supports Muslim-Jewish dialogue. SJP stands against dialogue. At UCLA, where Pearl teaches, SJP has, in Pearl’s words, “resorted to intimidation tactics that have made me, my colleagues and my students unwelcome and unsafe on our own campus.” After NYU met his inquiries with “platitudes about free speech,” Pearl, according to the Algemeiner, “renounced his status as a distinguished alumnus.”
It’s worth dwelling for a moment on those platitudes about free speech. NYU spokesman John Beckman told Pearl that although “many in our university community disagree with the SJP, NYU will continue to defend the rights of our students and others to express their opposing views.” By conflating respecting free speech and rewarding discriminatory behavior, Beckman managed in one brief statement to declare NYU both morally and intellectually bankrupt.
Those looking to excuse President Hamilton and NYU can point to how the ceremony was handled. SJP complained that Hamilton didn’t show and that “they [were] also not calling out the names of the award recipients. Pathetic.”
Here, I must agree for the first time with Students for Justice in Palestine. Even if SJP is right that Hamilton and NYU were sending a message in the way they handled the ceremony, this coward’s mode of distancing is, indeed, pathetic.