American colleges have seen an exponential increase in displays of antisemitism since the October 7th Hamas attack under the guise of supporting Palestine. But how can the right of free speech be preserved in the face of such hatred? This became the topic of discussion for Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in a recent Judiciary Committee hearing.
Rep. Gaetz began by reaffirming his support for Israel and desire "for Hamas to lose," but this hearing was not for discussing military strategy. He then referenced a famous line from the 2002 comedy film Austin Powers in Goldmember: "There are only two things I cannot stand in this world: people who are intolerant of other people's cultures... and the Dutch."
Such a humorous contradiction, Rep. Gaetz continued, is all too real here.
"A similar tension seems to be on display today because, on one side of the witness table, we have people saying we have speech that we would like to have vindicated. And we are under this tremendous pressure from these entities that offer a heckler's veto of what we are trying to get out. And then, on the other side of the table, you have people saying, 'Well, we do not really like their speech; it is antisemitic and problematic. We have got to figure out ways to root it out," said Gaetz.
He then turned to civil rights lawyer Kenneth Marcus, co-chair of the Brandeis Human Rights Center to ask if celebrating the Hamas attack is constitutionally protected speech. Marcus replied that condoning their actions is different from expressing allegiance to the group.
"If you say, 'I am going to celebrate Hamas,' and then you celebrate them by giving a big talk and doing a little dance, that can be deeply offensive and protected. But if you say, 'I celebrate Hamas, their mission is my mission, and I will do what I can to advance them,' that may be material support for terrorism, depending on what exactly you do," Marcus answered.
Gaetz agreed but offered the counter, "What you focused on there is the conduct," and that "'PR' activity sounds a lot like people talking, and so I just think we ought to be careful with that."
The Florida Congressman shifted to American University historian Pamela Nadell, who has researched the history of antisemitism in America. His question for her was whether or not criticism of businessman and philanthropist George Soros is inherently antisemitic.
Nadell replied that Soros' name has often been used as a 'codeword' "to disguise antisemitism, and so Soros has become the codeword that replaced Rothschild." Furthermore, she argued that 'globalist' carries this same connotation.
Nevertheless, Gaetz replied, "But you ascribe that motive. See, when I criticize globalism, I am often criticizing the [United Nations], which then in turn goes around and criticizes Israel."
Nadell shot back, "Why use 'globalist' instead of the UN?"
"Because the UN's goals are to have a global order over things that deprive countries of their sovereignty, and one of those countries is Israel. That is the great hypocrisy of what I think is frankly a reverse trope that any criticism of Soros or any criticism of globalism is somehow antisemitic. Sometimes they are just criticisms of Soros and of globalism," Gaetz concluded.