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What about free speech for BDS movement?

The editorial, "Free speech v. Ann Coulter" (April 26), carries a familiar theme, but avoids some serious questions. Certainly, colleges should have speakers representing many viewpoints. There are many conservatives. The Sun publishes Jonah Goldberg. Fox News is the largest cable news network. The Republican Party now controls all branches of the federal government. Given the large number of supporters, why would the Berkeley Republicans choose Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos as main speakers (and this pattern happens at other universities)?

Your editorial notes that she is more famous for put-downs than policy. If the Republicans want to manage the U.S., shouldn't their university representatives have a higher goal than having speakers who upset liberals?

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One sentence in the editorial mentions that left-wing speakers can just as easily be run off campus, too, but offers no example. But there is one important public issue in which paeans to free speech are rarely invoked: the situation in Israel and Palestine. The California Regents have already made several efforts to restrict discussion of this issue on campus on specific grounds that they might produce anti-Semitic emotions and thus make some Jewish students uncomfortable. Hillary Clinton, in her speech to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee last year, accused the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement of "bullying" Jewish students. New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last year which forbids state agencies to do business with any group that supports BDS.

However, BDS raises important issues, one of which is how the overwhelming majority of people in the Israeli territories have been treated for nearly 50 years with no end on the horizon.

The issues raised by BDS are on a commpletely different level of seriousness than those associated with Ann Coulter. Your praise of free speech and discussion seems hollow when it is invoked primarily to support speakers the paper considers "self-promoting provocateur[s]." The BDS movement has important support in Europe, among religious groups in the U.S. and organizations representing a significant portion of U.S. Jewry. Where are the lectures to politicians and trustees when this issue arises ("The virtues of engagement," Jan. 13, 2014)?

David Drasin, Columbia

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