Protesters disrupted a panel discussion held Thursday evening by a Jewish student group at the University of Virginia, prompting the dean of students to email the student body saying the incident “runs counter to our important shared values of respect and intellectual inquiry, and should be firmly rejected.”
Organized by the Brody Jewish Center-Hillel at U-Va., the panel included reservists from the Israel Defense Forces who came, the group said in a post on its Facebook page, “to share their personal stories and answer tough questions from the university community. The idea behind the panel was to humanize the conflict, learn about Israeli society, and allow for honest conversation.”
Representatives of the Brody Center did not immediately reply to an interview request.
In its Facebook post, the group said its meeting was interrupted by students and non-students chanting anti-Israel slogans, holding up signs and passing out information. The Brody Center said it invited the protesters to take part in a discussion, but the “protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff, and panelists.”
Campus police arrived to restore order and the protesters left.
In his letter to students, Dean Allen W. Groves said he had reviewed video of the incident and that it appeared several university policies and standards of conduct were violated by the protesters. Neither Groves’s letter nor the Jewish group’s post identified how many protesters took part, who they were or what they were protesting.
The protest, Groves wrote, ran counter to the university’s commitment to a free exchange of ideas.
“Freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion are all critical tenets of our diverse community of scholars,” Groves wrote in his email. “We have been fortunate that despite the interplay of passionately held views on opposite sides of many issues, our students are generally very respectful toward one another and reject the ‘heckler’s veto of shouting down those with whom we may disagree.”