A Reaction to Hussein Aboubakr Event

The following is an open letter to the Swarthmore community submitted by Swarthmore Students for Israel.

Today, the Swarthmore Students for Israel held an event with an invited speaker, Hussein Aboubakr. Hussein was a victim of torture (both physical and mental), repression, and hatred from his own government in Egypt. His only crime: studying Hebrew in his native country. We brought him in to speak because we believed his story was interesting and offered an important and original perspective on issues in the Middle East.

Our intention was to open a dialogue. Yet some students who attended behaved contemptuously from the very beginning. They opened textbooks and pretended to read while Hussein spoke. They talked amongst themselves. They interrupted and scoffed at him when he told the most harrowing parts of his story. As he tearfully recalled painful experiences in a military prison of being assaulted and cursed at, our peers prepared to yell at him and say that he “can’t f***ing say that.”

Understandably, Hussein reacted negatively to this rude treatment. The students who had come to interrupt now escalated. Soon our question-and-answer session degenerated into a screaming match. Instead of asking the speaker questions, these students yelled at us for bringing him to campus to spread “hatred” and claimed that his lecture “[didn’t] belong here.” One student stood up and proclaimed that he was shocked to hear such opinions at Swarthmore. We thought people attended college to hear new opinions. We expected people to disagree with him politically. What shocked us was that a survivor of sustained torture could be treated in such a way on our campus.

We should all be able to agree, at a minimum, that guests to our campus, especially those who have suffered extreme physical and mental abuse, should be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of whether we disagree with what they have to say. Alternative opinions should be listened to, not shut down. Unfortunately, those who most fervently advocate diversity seem to be the ones least tolerant of it when it is presented to them, especially in a civilized forum.

We had hoped to open up a dialogue here at Swarthmore, and the inability displayed here to do so only shows how necessary this is. We are cautiously optimistic that there may still be a space for a conversation on Israel and its neighbors here on our campus.

We as a group are committed to holding more events and bringing in more speakers, and we hope many of you will attend.


The Swarthmore Students for Israel



  1. The Swarthmore fringe has gone off the deep end. No longer satisfied with radical progressivism, or whatever they think they are doing, they have decided to act like Nazis. It’s an embarrassment as a resident in this town to know this is how our supposedly brightest and most gifted deal with disagreement – and treat a guest. This once great institution risks irrelevance when it allows spoiled brats to shut down discourse in an entitled tantrum, rather than show off their renowned intellects.

      • I disagree. They are not there to learn anything, but know it all apparently. How disrespectful!! They should have been removed.

    • Well said. Unfortunately this unacceptable conduct is not unique. Look up how New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down by protesters during a talk at Brown University. More unfortunately was the response of the University which gave a pass, to the students who felt they had a right to decide who should be heard

  2. They mimic the evil and deceived logic of the Muslims who stir them up. And why are some Americans, the youth on our campuses, willing to swallow the insane philosophy of those whose religious book it is based on, which says that they are allowed to lie to those who are not of Islam. If this has not been dealt with by the school administration as it should be, it is not a school worthy of teaching students. It is becoming instead a seed bed for the worst of humanity. Or at least for allowing such to dominate their campus. Such a pity, to see it degrade into this. God have mercy!

  3. This should be a letter with the salutation, ‘Students For Students’ not only ‘Students For Israel’. Students should especially be interested to hear him speak about his real life experience. Rude behavior motivated by arrogance.

  4. How dare you create a forum in which someone can challenge with facts the notion that Israel’s enemies are nothing but innocent victims oppressed by a colonial power backed by the 2nd most evil country in the world?!?

  5. There’s nothing wrong with instituting violent sharia inside the walls of Swarthmore. In fact we should welcome it. First we exterminate the critics of Islam then we exterminate the Jews. And then, well it’s not really important who.

  6. I applaud Hussein Aboubakr for his bravery and spirit, I am sure he had many interesting things to say, it is sad that he was not allowed to speak freely without being interrupted. I suppose the people who tried to shut him up had a very bad upbringing and no wish to widen their horizon by listening to Hussein Aboubakr´s experiences and ideas. It is their loss, as they will remain stupid and disinformed unless they change their mind. Hopefully Hussein Aboubakr will not be discouraged from holding further speeches in the future after being exposed to this uncivilized behavior of some of the Swarthmore students.

  7. Let’s talk about what really happened here– SIS invited a racist speaker to campus, he said racist things, and people were upset by it. And let’s be honest- you didn’t really want an actual dialogue on the issues here. This is what you wanted. You wanted a scandal. You wanted Laura Ingraham’s attention. You wanted this. So congrats, you’ve got it.

      • Well put.

        Speaking as the parent of two gifted, giving and worldly high schoolers, we simply seek an environment that will help them become mature, productive and liberal-minded (non-ignorant) adults. This college sounds like the exact opposite.

  8. And we see the problem demonstrated in spades right here. Progressives are only for freedom when you agree with them. This twisted worldview has so infected our institutions of higher education that they promote an intolerant religion as long as that religion hates Jews, Christians and those who love freedom and believe this country, albeit flawed, is still the greatest hope this world has aside from the true Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His Messiah.

  9. The use of the term nazis is appropriate. These are Brown Shirt tactics all too common among the pro-Palestinian crowd in campuses across the country.

  10. The Dean of Admissions told me that “it was only 7 students…” and went on to add that that, well, “College students will behave like College students.” I expressed myself directly along the lines of “BratAlert” (above) and let him know in no uncertain terms that there were MANY who felt as I did – we who are in a position to determine how to allocate a tuition payment stream generally don’t take these events lightly, particularly in light of events on other campuses (UC Davis). A cross-section of Parents crossing Swarthmore off their “short list” may not have an immediate impact, but at some point the Administration will find themselves wondering what happened… on the other side of the equation, wait until those graduates looking for work discover how tolerance of these behaviors cast a long shadow. This event is a stain upon the school, and those “7 students” have just screwed many innocents.

  11. The following was contained in a posting in response to the recent events at Stanford – by an alum: “One thing that I do, in my law firm in Virginia, when we get an applicant for a law clerk or associate position, I do a Google search to see if the candidate was ever involved in any BDS or similar activity. If it comes up that they did, it would “can” the interview.”

    Long shadow, indeed.

  12. Speaking as an alumna, I recall someone getting exercising during a early 70s Collection who shouted out angrily and inappropriately. The student later apologized to the entire student body which seems consistent with the Quaker ethos.

    However, the students who behaved as they did indeed behaved as Nazis. There is a great Quaker tradition of opposition to the the Third Reich. Anyone quibbling with the term as used above is an enabler, at best, or a “Quisling”, at worst. If it quacks and walks like a Brown Shirt (or a Quisling), it usually is.

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