Wednesday, December 7, 2011

University of Michigan student government effectively outlaws anyone who compares the Israeli army to the Ku Klux Klan.

"MSA issues offense against anti-Israel activist"

A blog of the Michigan Daily (University of Michigan student newspaper)

December 7, 2011

Local anti-Israel activist Blaine Coleman received a second offense at last night’s Michigan Student Assembly meeting after he compared the Israeli army to the Ku Klux Klan.

“Anyone wearing the Israeli army uniform is a Ku Klux Klansman who does not deserve any place at any table in polite society because they are racist killers trying to break the back of Palestine, and they have succeeded,” Coleman said.

Coleman attends the assembly meetings almost every week and calls for the University’s divestment from Israel.

The decision to issue the offense was made by assembly speaker Matt Eral. Two representatives said the language Coleman used was offensive and inappropriate, and two people voiced concerns that the assembly’s rule was not being properly utilized because an offense should not be issued for making people feel uncomfortable.

The assembly ultimately voted to uphold Eral’s issuance of the offense.

The resolution that passed in the assembly on Oct. 25 states that offenses may be issued to speakers during the Community Concerns portion of the assembly’s agenda if they use “vulgar or offensive language” or “hate speech.” A second offense results in the expiration of allotted Mspeaking time and the revocation of the speaking privileges for the current meeting. After five offenses, speakers are considered “ineligible” to address the assembly and to attend the meetings.

MSA president DeAndree Watson said on Oct. 25 that the resolution was brought to the table after two meetings last semester when another resolution concerning divestment from Israel was before assembly and offensive language was used.

During the time allotted last night for representatives to speak freely before the assembly, the subject of Coleman’s offense arose again when a representative said she felt uncomfortable and threatened by his comments. MSA representative Peri Silverman, an LSA junior, resigned and said the assembly shouldn’t continue to deal with such contentious and external issues week after week because it was divisive to the organization.

Echoing representatives’ comments made during the meeting, MSA president DeAndree Watson said after the meeting that he saw the importance of listening to community members’ concerns but also that he thought representatives should feel safe and comfortable in attending the meetings.

“Personally I’m not letting this stop me from doing what I’ve been elected to do … and I think we can continue to move forward and try and make life better for students even with this distraction,” Watson added.


Henry Herskovitz

Could someone from the MSA provide a legal definition of "hate speech"? Since I sometimes address the Assembly, I'd appreciate some guidelines in this regard, so that I may tailor my language appropriately. Perhaps the definition exists within the Oct. 25 resolution mentioned in Hall's article, but I was unable to locate the document.


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