Out of control: College activists or limiting free speech?

Out of control: College activists or limiting free speech? May 2, 2024

College activists utilize their First Amendment rights while city and state officials call in the police to end the protests.
Courtesy Middle East Eye

What Makes America Great?

In light of my recent series, “Why I believe the US is the Beast (empire),” some of you may suspect that I am anti-American. This is not true.

I believe that power and money influence those in power most often align with the Beast of Revelation 13 and that the US, and most governments, embody said power.

But that doesn’t make the US or any other government inherently evil. It merely makes them something of which we should be wary. Nor does it mean that all major corporations and those with exceptional wealth that influence government policy are inherently evil. It just means that we should be more than weary of them.

What I also argued in previous posts is that the primary weapon of the Beast (empire) is deception (aka “propaganda”).

NB: I realize this post is long as it is (there is much to say and I exhort you to devote the time needed): but I also believe this issue is critically important. I recommend you take one day each to review the following posts:

Who/What is the Beast #1 Rev 13/Dan 7

Beast: Satan as the deceiver #2

Beast as Empire #3

The Beast: Empire, Deception, and the Church #4

Beast: empire and power #5

So, what makes America great? The American constitution (the Bill of Rights) provides one of the most significant means of countering propaganda: the right to free speech.

What makes America great is the right to free speech! The right to free speech is critical to the survival of a democracy.

College campus activism:

The recent protests on college campuses across the US have been condemned by the mainstream media and politicians across the US (and foreign Prime Ministers; I’ll address this below).

But why?

Well, the claim is that the college protests have been motivated by antisemitism and threats against Jewish students and faculty.

In my post last week, I stated, “Unfortunately, because we have conflated ‘Israel’ with ‘Israel’ it has become unacceptable to criticize the state of Israel. Inside the Western Church, criticizing Israel is viewed as a sort of abandonment of our God-given responsibility to ‘bless’ Israel. Outside the church, criticizing Israel is labeled ‘antisemitism.’”

Is “From the River to the Sea” antisemitic?

The media and a host of politicians have expressly condemned the college protestants on the basis that the expression “From the river to the sea” is antisemitic and potentially genocidal.

The assertion rests on the premise that the slogan delineates exclusive Palestinian ownership of all territory stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Implicitly, such a declaration denies the legitimacy of Jewish presence on the land and challenges the right of Israel to exist within its current borders.

Now, if this is what the phrase means, then it is unequivocally antisemitic.

The argument is raised that the phrase becomes especially problematic when “Palestine will be free” is added to it (which rhymes both in English and in Arabic).

But is this the meaning of the phrase?

So, is the expression antisemitic? Well, it depends on who is using it and who is listening to it.

For example, is the expression “From the river to the sea” antisemitic when it is used as part of The Likud party (Netanyahu’s party) platform?, which states, “The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable and is linked with the right to security and peace; therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed to any foreign administration; between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.”

And is it antisemitic when it is used by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu? Netanyahu not only used the expression in Jan ’24, but at a meeting of the UN in Sept ’23 he displayed a map of the River to the Sea at a meeting of the UN which did not include the West Bank or Gaza. In other words, Netanyahu’s use of the expression clearly entailed an exclusive control of the land for the state of Israel and the absence of any Palestinian-controlled areas.

Netanyahu shows a map of “Greater Israel” with no Gaza or West Bank (Sept 2023)

And is it antisemitic when used by Jewish participants in the college campus protests?

What if pro-Palestinian activists use the slogan as a means of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians in the midst of their oppression? For example, Marc Lamont Hill used the expression at a meeting of the UN, for which he was subsequently fired by CNN, and he indicated that he used the phrase to affirm that Palestinians should be free wherever they reside from the River to the Sea (i.e, for Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel).

This is not to say that there are some who may well use the slogan with violent, antisemitic overtones.

NB: I have no reservations about condemning hate speech. I have no doubt that some of the activists/protestors on college campuses may well be using this expression in an antisemitic fashion. And if this is so, then we should indeed condemn it. 

I do believe that it is important to listen to the oppressed. This includes Jewish individuals who have been and continue to be the target of antisemitism. For many of them, this slogan is understood as anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

For this reason alone, I think we must discern whether or not to use this expression. As I noted above, I would not use it.

After all, even if I intended the phrase as an exhortation to free the Palestinians in Gaza from the oppressive war, to stop the violence in the West Bank, and to provide Arab-Israelis equal rights within the state of Israel, I recognize that this is not what others believe I am saying.

Omer Bartov, who is an Israeli-born historian who specializes in the Holocaust and genocide studies and currently teaches at Brown University, writes, “From one side we hear extremist Jewish calls to establish a halachic state from the Jordan to the sea—a religious version of secular Zionism’s goal of Jewish rule over all historic (i.e., mandatory) Palestine. From the other side come demands by pro-Palestinian protestors to free Palestine from the Jordan to the sea—echoing the extremist platform of Hamas, which seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in that very same territory. In other words, allegations of genocidal intent by one side appear to legitimize genocidal intent by the other, all in the name of liberation, self-determination, justice and dignity”

With that being said, I am not sure that in this situation these are the truly oppressed. I suspect, as I will argue below, that the peaceful activists (which by and large constitutes the overwhelming amount of the activists), who are opposing the genocidal actions against the people of Gaza, are the oppressed.

The Beast and Propaganda

I would like to ask: “Is it possible that those in power are waging a war of the mind by setting forth a narrative that demonizes the student activists in order to overlook their own complicity in gross violations of justice?” The answer to this question is “Yes”; even if you don’t believe that this is what is happening, the answer is “Yes.” After all, my question was, “is it possible that this is happening?”’

NB: The Determinetruth Podcast is completing a year-long study of the book of Revelation. It is my conviction that understanding the book of Revelation and its message to the church, then and now, is as vital for the church today as it was in John’s day. One of the messages in the book of Revelation is that this is precisely what the Beast does. The Beast allows rhetoric that facilitates its narrative and silences opposing narratives with brutal force.

Now, I tend to believe that this is happening and that it explains some of the rhetoric denouncing the student activists.

If this is part of the explanation, it raises another question: Have those in power changed the narrative to cover their own sins?

I find it intriguing that the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel is on a probable path to genocide and yet the conversation has become whether or not college students throughout the US are guilty of antisemitism.

The equation has become: Israel, with the full support of the US government, is killing tens of thousands of Palestinians, bringing to rubble every college and university campus in Gaza, cutting off food, water, and medicine, and destroying most of the hospitals—which are vitally needed to care for the survivors—and yet the conversation has centered on college students who are gathering to protest their own government’s gross violations of international law and human rights.

Could it be that the negative portrayal of the events on American college campuses has been accentuated by the universities’ major donors? We know that most major donors to some of the leading US universities largely side with Israel and therefore they likely do not want the universities they fund to allow protests of Israel.

Could it be that officials in the US government are encouraging the silencing of college students, even those who are exercising their First Amendment rights, rights which elected officials are sworn to protect, in order to hide their own complicity with regard to the war against the people of Gaza?

NB: the speaker of the House, when asked about the protestors, claimed that the protestors are defending Hamas who beheaded babies and cooked them in ovens—allegations that have been disproved by a large number of sources. This sounds like a polemical attempt to justify the war on Gaza. 

Here is a documentary on the events of Oct 7 that debunks the beheaded babies and microwaving of babies, as well as the rape allegations.

The fact that the Prime Minister of a foreign country decided to weigh in on the issue of free speech by American college students suggests that something funny is going on.

For some reason, Benjamin Netanyahu, the PM of Israel, felt compelled to denounce Americans’ exercising their right of free speech.

Netanyahu declared, “What’s happening on America’s college campuses is horrific antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities.”

In one fell swoop, he not only denounced American students, but he has effectively silenced them by labeling them as “antisemitic.”

Netanyahu didn’t stop there. He suggested that the protestors, “Call for the annihilation of Israel. . . .  They attack Jewish students; they attack Jewish faculty.”

Then he went one step further, “This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s.”

What is troubling about Netanyahu’s speech is that he is not an American. Yet, he is endeavoring to undermine our First Amendment rights in order to silence criticism of Israel—and himself in particular.

Let me be clear. I do not believe that people should be allowed to advocate hate that threatens the well-being of others. But from what I have seen it is the protestors and innocent professors who are trying to aid the activists who are being beaten and harrassed by the police and authorities.

“. . . it has to be condemned.”  Netanyahu added, “The response of several university presidents was shameful.”

This statement suggests that something else is going on. And I believe that it is an appeal to major donors to put pressure on the universities’ administrations to silence the criticism of Israel.

Why? Because what makes the American democracy great and a vehicle for change is it empowerment of the people by means of their freedom of speech.

And Netanyahu knows it. He knows that these students have the power to change the tide among the American people.

The fact that Netanyahu was compelled to add, “There is a rise of antisemitism throughout Western societies as Israel tries to defend itself against genocidal terrorists who hide behind civilians yet it is Israel that is falsely accused of genocide. . . . Israel that is falsely accused of starvation and all sundry of war crimes. . . .”

Why go there? Why issue a polemic in defense of Israel’s assault on Gaza? If the issue is that the student activists are guilty of hate speech and attacks on Jewish students and professors, should that not be enough to silence them?

If I were in a classroom right now, I would repeat the previous two questions and then follow them with silence. We need to stop and think.

It is my suspicion that the reason why Netanyahu, a foreign PM, felt compelled to speak up and condemn American students from exercising the right to free speech, and the reason why he slipped and included a polemic defending Israel’s assault on Gaza, is because he is threatened by them.

This is not to say that the students are pious. It is merely to say that the hands of power are steeped in blood and they need to aim the cameras elsewhere.

What makes America great? Our freedom of speech. And when those in power are guilty of trying to silence those who are actively calling them out, we should ardently defend their rights. Sure, we cannot support hate speech.

But we must defend and applaud the right of students to call out our government for its complicity in crimes against humanity. Without such freedoms American democracy crumbles and we are left with tyranny at best and a dictatorship at worst.

And we should be appalled that a foreign PM wants to take away our freedom to speak. And we should be even more appalled that our own government is complicit in an effort to silence these students.

Have we been lied to?

So this raises the question: Is it possible that those in power are using their power to silence what is happening on college campuses to hide their own crimes?

 

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About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 34 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications. He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love Story” (Cascade Books, pending 2025). He is also in contract for a book on “Reading the NT in a year: A study and devotional guide.” Also, his new book, Land of Contention: Biblical Narratives and the Struggle for the Holy Land, should be out by the summer 2024. You can read more about the author here.

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