In red America, defending Israel is not controversial

In some parts of the country, defending Israel is controversial, even dangerous.

On the campuses of places like Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, anyone who dares to wave an Israeli flag (or, increasingly, wear a kippah in public) risks being attacked by angry mobs of people with disabilities. face covered.

In Los Angeles, a pro-Palestinian computer science professor allegedly killed a pro-Israel protester.

(Judge Ryan Wright reduced the professor’s bail from the original million to just $50,000.)

Many parents of Jewish students are concerned, and rightly so, about the safety of their children in these institutions.

Even off campus, the streets of New York and many other big blue metropolises seem somewhat dangerous for Jews these days.

Things are a little different in my danger zone.

I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee, where we have not seen any such violence.

Last week I attended a pro-Israel rally in downtown Knoxville that was peaceful, ecumenical, and quite moving.

At the center of Knoxville’s burgeoning downtown is Market Square, where the city’s Jewish Alliance set up a 239-place table to commemorate the hostages Hamas terrorists took from Israel.

Each chair had a sign with the name, biography and photograph of a hostage.

They ranged from babies to seniors.

Several hundred people attended.

There were speeches from local political figures, all pro-Israel, including Knoxville Rep. Tim Burchett.

All expressed sympathy for Israel, horror at Hamas’s brutality and support for the hostages.

There were letters of support from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty.

There were prayers from both Jewish and Christian religious leaders.

Many attendees carried Israeli and American flags.

There were no counter-protesters, and although there was a police presence, it was moderate and unnecessary.

Passersby seemed generally friendly and supportive.

When the event ended, people spread out to dine at downtown restaurants, buy ice cream, and generally spend the night.

Of course, not everyone is on the same page, not even in a place like Knoxville.

As I write this, a group called Palestinian Action and Liberation is planning to pack the next City Council meeting, dressed in black, and demand a statement in support of Gaza and a boycott of doing business with Israel.

But this group’s numbers are much smaller, and while they may cause headaches for Knoxville’s Democratic Mayor Indya Kincannon, who is criticized for recently visiting Israel, I doubt she’s losing much sleep.

The most important thing is that public order has been maintained.

Since the Black Lives Matter riots of the last decade, Knoxville police and the Knox County sheriff have maintained order.

Protests and rallies are protected; People who try to get their way through violence or destruction of property are arrested and prosecuted.

Similarly, on the University of Tennessee campus, the administration has strongly supported free speech but has been unwilling to tolerate disruptive, destructive, or violent behavior.

It shouldn’t even be worth mentioning, but it is.

Since Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave rioters “room” to “destroy” in 2015, many municipal leaders have adopted a hands-off attitude toward destructive mobs (at least those mobs aligned with the left, which to be fair is pretty much all of them).

This has been reinforced by the criminal justice “reform” approach of not charging or prosecuting most crimes, not even those arrested.

University administrators have shown a similar unwillingness to enforce basic principles of social order and provide a basic level of safety and security to students and faculty attacked by angry mobs.

So it’s really noteworthy to note that it doesn’t work that way everywhere.

It is possible for people to engage in free speech without official tolerance of violence; In fact, it is official intolerance of violence that makes freedom of expression possible for all.

(As Adlai Stevenson once said, a free society is one in which it is safe to be unpopular.)

The irony is that many of the people who are supposed to be the healers of our civilization have forgotten this truth or have chosen to ignore it.

It’s also ironic: There are more people who remember these things running things in supposedly intolerant red states than in those jurisdictions that go on and on about their tolerance.

Things seem to be changing a bit, as universities and cities are reaching the limits of their patience with illegal and violent behavior, even by those operating in the name of approved causes.

It’s time.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee and founder of the blog InstaPundit.com.

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