ANN ARBOR — A resolution passed by the Michigan Student Association aimed at quelling "vulgar or offense language" or "hate speech" was utilized on Dec. 6, 2011 against an activist who has worked for years with others in the area for the passage of a divestment resolution against products supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine at the University of Michigan.
An offense against Blaine Coleman was issued by Assembly Speaker Matt Eral according to a report in The Michigan Daily after the activist compared the Israeli military to the Ku Klux Klan.
"Anyone wearing the Israeli army uniform is a Ku Klux Klansman who does not deserve any place at any table in polite society because they are racist killers trying to break the back of Palestine, and they have succeeded," he reportedly said.
Coleman recently made headlines after his ad proposing a "Boycott of Israeli Apartheid" on Ann Arbor buses was denied, prompting the ACLU to file a lawsuit against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
Offenses are used to prevent speech at the meetings, with the second one leading to the end of allotted speaking time and the revoking of speech privileges for that meeting. Five offenses results in being banned from the meetings.
Omar Hashwi, a board member, defended the rights of Coleman and his wife Mozghan to speak at the meeting last week. Mozghan was given three offenses for saying that "there is a fan of the Israeli military among you," in reference to an assembly representative who wore an Israeli army sweatshirt.
"She simply pointed out that there is a fan of the Israeli military in the room which was a fact and the rest were silenced as she attempted to give her reasoning," Hashwi said.
His motion was denied, but not before he spoke up in favor of their speech.
"I can't even begin to express to you how mad I am right now that somebody here just got completely silenced for pointing out that somebody's wearing a certain shirt. Somebody's wearing a shirt, so they weren't allowed to talk even further. I'm so mad. I knew this was going to happen when we passed these rules," Hashwi said.
"Saying that somebody in the room is wearing a shirt bans them from speaking? I'm here shaking because I'm also afraid but I will express my opinion. I will always express my opinion to support Palestine and to support people that have been treated unfairly here today and in the past."
Daniel Cobert, another representative, said that the first two speakers at the meeting who spoke about Palestine and Israel spoke civilly but said that Mozghan did not, and that she continued to fight the objection and speak out of turn.
E-mails to other representatives who supported the offenses against her were not returned as of press time.
Hashwi said he didn't agree with the methods of Coleman and his wife but said he did not believe that the comparison between the Israeli army and the KKK constituted a violation of the rules.
"There will always be people who disagree but that gives us no right to take away their speaking privileges," he said.
At the beginning of the current group's terms, a student organization on campus called "Practice What You Preach" authored a resolution urging the University to not make any future investment in what were deemed to be socially unjust companies. They targeted four companies including Hanes Brand, Northrup Grumman (which was alleged to provide military weaponry to Israel to be used against Palestinians), BP, and Monsanto.
The resolution fell two votes short of passing, however.