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Palestine-Israel Conflict Enflames Passion on American Campus

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Sentiments over the Arab-Israeli conflict led to a heated protest and raised serious tensions at the University of Texas at Austin.

On November 13, members of UT Austin’s Palestine Solidarity Committee disrupted a lecture on the Israeli Defense Force by Professor Ami Pedahzur. Shouts of “Long live the intifada” and “Free Palestine” could be heard in a Legal Insurrection video shot outside the room where the lecture was taking place.

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A separate video edited by the PSC shows their leader Mohammed Nabulsi delivering a speech and speaking of “ethnic cleansing,” while a UT Austin student confronts him. The student is seen standing nose-to-nose with Nabulsi with his arms crossed as Nabulsi says “don’t touch me.” The student repeatedly tells Nabulsi that he wants to hear the lecture and snatches the Palestinian flag from him multiple times.

In the edited PSC video, Professor Pedahzur is seen stepping in and then pushed away by protestors and told to “get out of his [Nabulsi’s] face.” However, text on the video accuses Pedahzur of assaulting a student. Pedahzur, nearly in tears, can be heard saying “I’ll get out if his face.”


According to Mint Press News, Pedahzur posted the following statement, which been removed, on his personal website and the website for the Institute for Israel Studies.

“I never imagined that my academic research on terrorism and my administrative role as the Director of the Institute for Israel Studies would coincide in such a chilling way,” the statement read.

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“Less than forty eight hours after the horrific attacks in Paris, I feel that it is my responsibility to ask you to join me in an attempt to confront the radicalization process on campuses and to protect students, staff and faculty members from intimidation and violence. … What I saw was a tight group of young men and women who follow a charismatic leader who admires a notorious murderer. After spending two decades of learning how people turn to terrorism, I fear that what I witnessed on Friday should raise many red flags.”

Following the incident, members of the PSC left the building and were detained by campus police, according to MintPress. A member who no longer is a student was given a criminal trespass warning.

Nabulsi tells MintPress News that he has received threats following the incident. He’s also joining a group of students in filing a civil rights complaint against Pedahzur, arguing he was “discriminated.”

“He has defamed my character and insinuated that my political opinions and expressions are red flags for terrorist activity,” Nabulsi told a local news station.


According to the Washington Post, students were also chanting for the destruction of Israel.

The PSC is now demanding the university lead a full investigation. It has hired Brian McGiverin, an attorney with the Austin Lawyers Guild.

UT Austin is reviewing the event and social media postings around it.

“Any type of disruption is not constructive in my opinion, and we try to promote constructive dialogue in all our settings,” said President Gregory L. Fenves in an interview with local news outlet KVUE.  

Fenves also released a statement through the university.

“The University of Texas at Austin strongly defends and supports free speech for all members of the university community,” said Fenves in the statement. “We will be guided by those values as we review the recent events. The freedom to engage in challenging conversations openly and responsibly is absolutely vital to what we do. Our students and faculty benefit from an environment that encourages this free exchange of ideas — and in which everyone is able to both share their views and let others do the same.”

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