Campus needs civil dialogue

Last week, Allen Hall hosted the Cafe Intifada program, which was billed as a free-speech, open-mic event. After listening respectfully, Jeffrey Gross was singled out as a Jew and marginalized by having his microphone cut off when he tried to speak. He later described being driven from the room.

The events of that evening left him feeling unsafe on this campus and deprived of freedom of speech at a campus event that ironically was supposed to have been a forum to engage differing viewpoints. I haven’t heard anything denying that this happened; however, there have been numerous attempts to justify it.

Clearly there are different viewpoints on issues connected with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But when reasoned discussion and exploration of these issues spills over into words and actions that sacrifice the ability of students to feel safe within our campus community, then truly we have crossed a line which I firmly believe is destructive for all of us.

Next week, our campus will experience both Israel Week and Palestine Awareness Week. It will be important for anyone attending these events to be ready to listen to whatever is said with respect for the speakers. Meanwhile, all of us who do speak need to be mindful of the effects of our words and actions. The narratives that frame the perspectives on these issues are meaningful to a great many people on our campus. What we all must agree on is that no one should be made to feel unsafe because of their religion, race or political opinions.

In the coming weeks, may civility prevail over incitement.

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    Joel Schwitzer

    Executive Director

    UIUC Hillel

    Editor’s note: Gross is an Illini Media Company employee.