Jewish Journalist Says He Was Harassed by Anti-Zionist Students at U of Houston

March 28, 2019
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A reporter for the Jewish Herald-Voice, based out of Houston, wrote in a March 28 piece for the site that he was harassed by anti-Zionist students on the University of Houston campus.

Michael Duke, an editor for the publication, wrote that he was covering a demonstration during Israeli Apartheid Week – hosted by the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter – on March 20, where students were finalizing the building of an apartheid wall. ­Duke was interviewing a student from Lebanon when one of the organizers, shouted, “If this man approaches you to speak to you, do not speak to him – he’s part of the people we are attempting to, he’s part of the system of oppression that we’re trying to bring down.”

That student, identified as “the student in the red T-shirt,” and a taller student, identified as “the student in the dark T-shirt,” tried “to physically block me from reporting” on the event, Duke wrote.

“After demanding that I not photograph the students who were harassing me, the taller of the pair then stood directly in front of my camera in an attempt to block the scene,” Duke wrote. “Meanwhile, the student in the red T-shirt threatened to call campus security. I encouraged him to do so, and he walked away to consult with some colleagues at a nearby table.”

The student in the dark T-shirt then followed Duke around as he attempted to cover the demonstration, standing “inches” from Duke, the reporter alleged. Duke wrote he kept trying to interview the student, but the student in the red T-shirt kept telling him not to talk to “The Zionist.” Out of nowhere, Duke said, the student in the dark shirt accused Duke of assaulting him.

“You pushed me,” the student said. “You touched me against my will.”

The student then “crossed his arms, opened his eyes wide and began to shake in mock-rage” for “several minutes” before showing Duke a petition to overturn a 2017 anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions state law. When Duke began asking questions about it, the student reverted back to accusing Duke of assaulting him.

“As annoyed as I was to be falsely accused of assaulting someone who was harassing me, it came as no surprise,” Duke wrote. “As a reporter, I’ve covered meetings where anti-Israel activists workshop various techniques designed to put their ‘enemies’ on the defensive and provoke them into a physical altercation. I have no idea if this particular student attended such trainings, but his behavior certainly came across as familiar, if not rehearsed.”

Eventually, the Lebanese student told Duke that he was willing to be interviewed, only to have the student red t-shirt again tell him to not speak to the “Zionist reporter,” prompting the following rebuke from Duke: “I’m from a Jewish newspaper. Apparently, that’s threatening.”

Duke was later able to talk to various students on campus and even get one of the Israeli Apartheid Week demonstrators to go on record about his position about “his endorsement of the creation of a bi-national Arab-Jewish socialist state called Palestine as a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Mike Rosen, the executive director of media relations at the University of Houston, told the Journal in a statement via email, “As the second most diverse public research institution in the country, we strongly condemn statements of hate and encourage constructive and respectful dialogue, cultural awareness and a spirit of unity.”

“The University of Houston stands firm on the values of diversity and inclusion and remains committed to the principles of free and open expression and the Constitutional rights of those who enter our campus,” Rosen said.

University of Houston’s SJP chapter did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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