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Williams Student Criticizes Israel, Defends Free Speech

Last week, in addition to publishing junior Noah Cape’s smart piece in support of Israel and in favor of open discourse, The Record also published a strange letter faulting the student paper for “platforming of a piece with factual inaccuracy and hateful speech”. The self-proclaimed “Students Against Genocide” (no name of an actual student was given) were upset about the publication of Jonah Garnick’s October 18 Op-Ed, “What the ‘Free Palestine’ movement gets wrong.

The writers cite only one “factual error” and that more a semantic quibble than anything else. They do not identify any “hateful speech” in the Op-Ed.

And yesterday, in response to the letter, a student who disagrees with Garnick, took to the Record to take issue with “Students Against Genocide”[SAG] and so made a strong case for free speech:

The Record — and the nation as a whole — must remember that freedom of expression is something which intrinsically benefits victims of oppression, those who do not stand with the powerful majority on a given issue. No one should legitimize censorship and intolerance by engaging in it against those who defend Israel.

SAG wants the Record to do exactly that. The group tries to justify its call for censorship by alleging that Garnick’s opinion caused harm to Palestinians and to vulnerable communities on campus. An anonymous student responsible for the newspaper postings told the Record, “the Record has blood on their hands — the blood of Palestinians — in printing that article.” But I find it ludicrous to think that more Palestinians will suffer as a result of the opinion Garnick wrote. In my opinion, the arguments in that article were so poorly reasoned that they exposed the hypocrisy and shortsightedness of some of those who defend Israel.

While I disagree with Satya Benson ’26 on the merits of Garnick’s Op-Ed, I agree with him about free speech and hope that Garnick will respond. It would lead a real exchange of ideas from which all Williams students—and even us alumni—could benefit. Two articulate Ephs debating one of the most important issues of the day.

For now, let me praise this sophomore for taking on one of the more prominent arguments in favor of censoring speech:

When claiming that the opinion makes people feel unsafe and unwelcome, SAG is tragedizing its members’ personal anger at someone else’s opinion. It is important to point out that Garnick did not say or imply that anyone is unwelcome, or that he wanted members of the Williams community to be harmed.

What an astute analysis. So, yes, Williams students are just as smart, just as able to think independently as they were during my days in the Purple Valley.

May Satya Benson’s spirited defense of free speech resonate across that valley and throughout the Williams community.

B. Daniel Blatt ‘85


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