Williams, a member of the Education Committee in the state Senate, sponsored Senate Resolution 315, calling for the state Department of Education, the State System of Higher Education and each college and university in the Pennsylvania to work to prevent such conduct from happening locally.
State Sens. Andrew E. Dinniman, Michael J. Stack and Joseph B. Scarnati co-sponsored the Williams resolution.
“I was with a friend and saw a video of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren giving a speech at the University of California and was just shocked by the ugliness that erupted,” Williams said. “Freedom of expression does not mean acts of intimidation, as was clearly displayed. We certainly don’t want to see this behavior take root here in Pennsylvania.”
Oren recently spoke on the history of the United States in the Middle East as an invited guest at the University of California-Irvine. The lecture turned tense as he was verbally assaulted. Arrests occurred at the public campus event. Previously, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has called for a focused look at an increase in anti-Semitic behavior occurring on college campuses.
Williams, whose late father, former state Sen. Hardy Williams, a legendary civil rights activist, said the video jolted him back to the stories he heard and things he saw growing up.
“The scenario would have been just as appalling if the subject of the heckling were African American, Asian or Latino. Like racism and any other form of discrimination, anti-Semitism must be nipped as soon as it rears itself,” he said.
“My parents endured prejudice and racism during much of their lives, which is one of the reasons my father devoted his career to fighting against intolerance, be it based on skin color, ethnicity, creed, gender or orientation,” Williams said. “Even with the great strides we have made as Americans, we know too well our dark history when it comes to ethnic and racial hatred. It’s frightening to think how easily we can slip backwards. Dissent can occur, ideas expressed – but with civility, and always with the effort toward establishing mutual understanding and peace.”