Milwaukee, WI – On November 21, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee administration put together a panel event featuring two speakers who oppose the genocide in Palestine and two Zionists. Pro-Palestine organizations across the city put out a call to mobilize people to the talk and pack the house with anti-Zionist elements. UWM Students for a Democratic Society was one of them.
The Zionist speakers included Rabbi Josh Herman, the executive director of the Milwaukee branch of the far-right Zionist group Hillel, and a political science professor at UWM named Shale Horowitz. They started off with a fictitious recounting of history, claiming that the blame for the genocide and occupation rests with the Palestinians and their unwillingness to “compromise.”
The comments from the two Zionists only got worse from there, including claiming that the Palestinian liberation chant “From the river to the sea” is a call for Jewish genocide; that a people who were victims of a previous genocide could not be perpetrators of a new genocide; that the Zionist state should be commended for its efforts to “prevent civilian casualties,” and that Muslims are the most successful colonial forces in the history of the world – especially, as stated by Horowitz, compared to Europeans.
To their credit, the other two panelists – Othman Atta, leader with the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; and Dr. Caroline Seymour-Jorn, professor and director of International Studies at UWM – responded to the genocide apologism with sharp rebuttals, reasoned positions, and factual accounts of the history.
The crowd, largely pro-Palestinian, responded more frankly, with jeers and laughter at the absurdities being put forward by the Zionist speakers. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) took it a step further and held up red-painted hands whenever one of the Zionists would speak, symbolic of the blood on their hands and the hands of the government which they defend. The silent protest had begun to wear on them both as the event went on, with more and more frequent allusions to their detractors in the crowd. Horowitz in particular seemed to direct his vitriolic comments at the student demonstrators.
As the panel was coming to a close, the moderator pointed to UWM's chancellor, Mark Mone, and said that he had the unenviable task of figuring out how to navigate the challenges of creating a safer and more welcoming campuses from students of all backgrounds. He then turned to the panelists to provide advice for the chancellor, but before any of them could answer, a member of SDS shouted out, “Change the name of the library!” The SDSer was referencing the UWM library named after Golda Meir, an infamous former prime minister of the Zionist state. Most in attendance cheered and clapped. There was no response from administration.
SDS will be initiating a campaign in the coming weeks to pressure campus administration to make that change. Efforts are underway to unite other organizations around this project, particularly the Muslim Student Association and the UWM chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.
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