In response to Hamas’s terrorist invasion of Israel last weekend and its massacres of hundreds of civilians, Zareena Grewal, an associate professor of American studies and of ethnicity, race, migration and religious studies at Yale University, celebrated the slaughter on social media. Calling Israel a “murderous, genocidal settler state,” she said that “settlers are not civilians” and were fair game for Palestinians who chose to “resist through armed struggle.” (In fact, the places attacked were not settlements but actual cities, and their citizens were not settlers but residents, tourists, and others.) There are now calls for Grewal to be fired.
The Alliance for Academic Freedom affirms Grewal’s right to post such despicable remarks, even as we deplore them. Although Grewal applauded terrorist violence, she was not directly inciting it or directly harassing individuals. Her speech falls under a broad but sensible definition of political speech.
At the same time, one principle of free speech and academic freedom is that dishonest, offensive, or objectionable speech be met with more speech. Yale University should forcefully condemn Grewal’s social media posts and make clear that it repudiates her values. In cases of extremely vile racist speech, universities have sometimes removed the offending faculty from teaching required classes. Based on Grewal’s remarks, there is a legitimate concern that she might discriminate against students who are Jewish, Israeli, or pro-Israel or treat them unfairly. Yale is within its rights to stipulate that no student will be forced to take a class with Grewal or have her involved in evaluating them academically.