Anyone who doubts the hostile, repressive atmosphere that the modern college poses for religious, pro-Israel Jews (and other people of faith) should look into the case of Daniel Mael, a student at Brandeis who has been ensnared in a number of recent controversies. He seems to be a lightning rod that attracts the attention of assorted Jew-haters, Israel-bashers, and PC purveyors, and, in his pursuit of justice, truth and honor, kicks up a storm whenever he speaks. In other words, my kind of guy.
Two issues have recently brought him into the public eye. In the first, he stated that the Jewish campus head of J Street, an organization that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” but functions more as “useful idiots” (in Lenin’s phrase) for Israel’s sworn enemies, is, more or less, a “bad Jew.” For that offense, he has in essence been charged with bullying, brought up on student charges, and threatened with expulsion.
It is worthwhile to note that college campuses today are routinely free-speech-free zones. No longer are ideas and issues to be discussed and debated, no longer are sincere opinions openly exchanged. Conservative viewpoints and strongly held moral beliefs are best kept to oneself, or there are recriminations – from students who will prosecute their fellow students if certain opinions make them feel “uncomfortable” (think opposition to abortion-on-demand or same-sex marriage) to teachers who will exact vengeance on students (test scores, grades, recommendations) for espousing disfavored opinions in class or on exams. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the norm on many, if not most, of today’s elite college campuses.
Of course, the absence of free speech is only imposed on the right, Israel supporters, or voices of traditional morality. Students on the left feel free to disrupt pro-Israel events, and have been known to call Jews and other advocates for Israel “murderers, baby killers” and the like – all references to Israel’s brief war in Gaza this past summer, in which Israel had the temerity to respond to rocket and missile fire on its civilians with a bombardment and its own short-lived invasion. (The nerve! Don’t they know that Jews are just supposed to die quietly?)
Most college campuses have been liberal for quite a long time, but back in the day there was greater openness to debate. Liberals used to support that kind of honesty. People were free to agree or disagree, and I recall spirited debates in college on a wide number of issues. The environment has changed so dramatically that opinions that were freely discussed (even widely shared) 30-40 years ago are simply unacceptable discourse today. And those assumed to harbor those opinions are singled out for special treatment.
Many Jewish students on a variety of college campuses today fear to wear their kippot in public or attend public events geared to Jews so as not to call attention to themselves. None of that – and the “discomfort” they must feel – seems to concern faculties or administrators. The protections only extend in one direction, to the classes that are coddled by society and often allowed to run amok. For those colleges and the adults who run them, those are shameful displays of fecklessness and cowardice born of their own fears and guilt.
In the matter referenced above, as the Wall Street Journal reported recently, Mael, knowing the deck was stacked against him, defied the campus rule and hired outside counsel to defend his rights. That seems to have put a damper on Brandeis’ enthusiasm for prosecuting or expelling him. It is worthwhile to note that in a letter to the WSJ, Brandeis’ president denied all the accusations of misconduct, bias and due process violations, and criticized the student and his attorneys – and then said nothing about why the accusations are false, hiding behind the confidentiality of the proceedings. But denials are facile; evidence has to be adduced or the accusations ring true.
One would think that Brandeis would be a bastion of pro-Israel advocacy, but those days are long gone. It bills itself as a “non-sectarian university under Jewish auspices,” but, aside from the facts that the founders were Jewish and the school calendar is Jewish, little else – the values, the ambiance, the world view – is Jewish anymore.
That is on a par with Brandeis’ pusillanimous and un-American disinvitation to activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, invited last year to receive an honorary degree because of her outspokenness about Islam and her courage in facing down her critics. That degree was summarily withdrawn under pressure, not exactly a shining moment for freedom, but quite natural and understandable given the current political and intellectual climate at American colleges. Undoubtedly, Daniel Mael stands out at Brandeis for his fearlessness and passion for truth. It must be a lonely stand.
His second venture involved the exposure of one of his classmates – a black female – who tweeted some reprehensible statements in support of the murder of two NYC police officers last month and some utterly vulgar diatribes against the United States. The fallout from that was enormous – not for the tweeter but for Mael who published her comments and her picture. The woman was deeply aggrieved at having her public musings made even more public. As a result, Mael’s life has been threatened and further campus charges are being considered.
Of course, in a normal world, the female tweeter would have been expelled for advocating, or at least celebrating, the brutal murder of two police officers. Attendance at any particular college is a privilege, not a right, and Brandeis should recoil from educating someone with such repugnant and racist views. And if you convince me that the First Amendment protects even that type of abhorrent speech – although celebrating murder straddles the line between protected speech and criminal advocacy – then at least extend the same protections to Mael in his writings.
We should all speak out on behalf of Daniel Mael. Those who have ties to or influence at Brandeis should use it. There is something anomalous – not to mention revolting – about a campus on which the only speech that is protected is anti-American, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-Christian, anti-morality and even anti-white, while speech that is pro-American, Jewish, Christian, morality and, I suppose, white, is suppressed in the name of … morality, ethics, understanding but really just political correctness.
It is actually the height of cowardice. There is a price to be paid for not standing up to bullies of all types, and not defending the cherished freedoms that Americans, Westerners and Israelis have long enjoyed. That price is being paid across the world. It was paid in New York City last month, and paid in Paris yesterday. In his personal turmoil today, Daniel Mael is paying a price as well.
The least we can do is help him fight back.