Student protestors from the LGBT campus group TALQ Big disrupted a film screening at the Goucher College Hillel last week, claiming the event was ignoring larger issues about Israel.
Israeli television personality and LGBT rights advocate Assi Azar was invited to Hillel to screen his movie “Mom, Dad, I Have Something to Tell You,” which addresses how parents cope with their children coming out as gay. During the screening, about 15 students sat with pink duct tape over their mouths. At the end of the screening they removed the tape and began chanting anti-Israel sentiments.
According to the Israeli filmmaker, this was the first time in his U.S. tour that he has encountered “pro-Palestinian protestors.” The event, organized by Goucher Hillel and Gophers for Israel, a student group at Goucher, was full with about 70 people in attendance.
“There were many students, many non-Jewish students and many students who are part of the LGBTQIAA community,” Azar reported in a Nov. 6 Facebook post that has been reposted by some in the Baltimore Jewish community.
“Before the screening began, I told the audience that I hope we could all engage in an open dialogue as we all share the same goal: Jews and Arabs living side by side in peace,” he continued. “We are all against the death of innocent people. We all must engage in dialogue in order to put an end to the conflict.”
Sammy Eisenberg, a senior and student co-president at Hillel who was in attendance at the event, said, “The LGBT group had seen the screening as a form of pink-washing (using the LGBT issue as a cover of sorts to smooth over bigger issues about Israel) and had asked for the event to be shut down prior to the screening. It wasn’t, so they decided to protest.”
Eisenberg continued, “From what we understood, they were protesting the organization that was funding the film, Brand Israel, and they tried to make it clear prior, but it came out like it was [in protest toward] the speaker and the story. … Many people left feeling more confused, hurt, more alienated. There was a lot of misunderstanding.”
“The film screening was peaceful, but it was quickly succeeded by students removing the tape, standing and chanting against Israel, with posters in their hands,” Azar wrote in his Facebook post. “These chants were combative [and] filled with distortions of facts, mostly anti-Semitic. I found myself under attack, accused of ridiculous accusations. I was arguing with 20-year-old students who were brainwashed against Israel, had never visited Israel and who were targeting pure hatred against us.”
Kristen Pinheiro, interim executive director of communications at Goucher, said the institution supports “the students’ right to protest.”
“But we don’t tolerate obstruction of events, and that was communicated to both sides,” she said. “Public safety knew about this well in advance, and five safety officers and five staff members, including a chaplain, a provost and the vice president of student affairs, were there.”
After about 45 minutes of heated discussion between the students and Azar, “some of the college officials decided the dynamic was changing and decided to end the event,” said Pinheiro. “Everyone left around 9 p.m., and the event started at 7:30 so it was not cut short in any way.”
Eisenberg thought the question-and-answer period after the film had mixed together too many heated topics, such as LGBT rights, the Palestinian- Israeli conflict and race issues.
“Those three very large issues spiraled out of control, and in a way it had masked what [TALQ Big] intended to protest,” said Eisenberg. “It was a rough night for everyone, protestors included.”
Assi Azar did not respond to inquiries for comment.