NLG to Brooklyn College: Criticism of BDS event mischaracterizes advocacy for equal rights for Palestinians as anti-Semitism

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 7 Comments

From the National Lawyer’s Guild:

February 5, 2013

Ms. Karen L. Gould, PhD
President
Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue, 2129 Boylan Hall
Brooklyn, New York 11210

Dear Ms. Gould:

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) applauds you and the Brooklyn College Political Science Department for your support of an open discussion of the growing campus movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Your stand is especially important in light of the recent attempts to intimidate you and the department into canceling the event. Efforts to pressure the Brooklyn College administration to cancel the panel run contrary to the values enshrined in the First Amendment and they are an affront to the principles of academic freedom.

As you know, departmental sponsorship of this presentation does not connote endorsement of the BDS movement. The Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship is an acknowledgment of a notable social movement for equal rights for indigenous Palestinian people. This social movement is widespread in Europe and is beginning to sweep U.S. campuses. To deny its existence would be irresponsible of Brooklyn College.

The BDS movement seeks to achieve, by non-violent means, three goals that are recognized as legally enforceable rights under international law: equal rights, the restoration of lands stolen by an occupying power, and the right of unlawfully displaced people to return to their homes. These are a legitimate subject for campus discussion. The First Amendment protects individuals from government actions—including the actions of public university officials and city council members—that silence speech on the basis of its content.

The criticism of this event rests on labels that mischaracterize advocacy for equal rights for Palestinians as anti-Semitism. Across the country, universities and other public and private institutions are being pressured to stifle discussions of Palestinian rights. But criticism of a government, in this case the state of Israel, is qualitatively distinct from hatred of a racial or religious group. Universities have a responsibility to recognize and respect such distinctions and to expose students to the rich variety of perspectives on issues of public importance such as this.

The NLG is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar association in the United States. For over 75 years, our organization has pushed back against government attempts to silence activists, including our own members. We appreciate your principled defense of academic freedom in this trying time.

Sincerely yours,

Azadeh Shahshahani, NLG President

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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7 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    February 5, 2013, 6:33 pm

    NLG: “The BDS movement seeks to achieve, by non-violent means, three goals that are recognized as legally enforceable rights under international law: equal rights, the restoration of lands stolen by an occupying power, and the right of unlawfully displaced people to return to their homes.”

    To these three I’d add: “the duty of citizens of the occupying power who reside as settlers in occupied territory to return to their homes.” As to whether any of the “rights” NLG names (or that I name, here) is legally enforceable depends, as usual, in part, on the existence of a court which will both entertain and defend a claim to such a right. The courts of Israel have not, I believe, proved to be useful in this regard.

  2. RoHa
    February 5, 2013, 7:40 pm

    “mischaracterize advocacy for equal rights for Palestinians as anti-Semitism. ”

    I thought it was anti-Semitic to suggest equality between Jews and Gentiles.

    • W.Jones
      February 6, 2013, 1:22 am

      Why did you feel that way?

      • RoHa
        February 6, 2013, 7:29 pm

        I don’t feel that. I think it.

      • W.Jones
        February 7, 2013, 4:25 am

        It used to be 60 years ago that personal relations between Catholics and mainstream Protestants were often cold because of religion. There was alot of discrimination against Catholics too. I understand that there are differences between people, and that a significant portion of fundamentalist Christians have discriminatory views about other religious groups.

        But I certainly wouldn’t want people thinking I was discriminatory based on my own religion or cultural background…

  3. DICKERSON3870
    February 5, 2013, 11:01 pm

    RE: “The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) applauds you and the Brooklyn College Political Science Department for your support of an open discussion of the growing campus movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.” ~ NLG letter

    PETITION: “Support Academic Freedom at CUNY”

    We the undersigned write in support of the decision by Brooklyn College’s political science department to co-sponsor a panel discussion with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti. We urge CUNY President Karen Gould to resist attempts by those who have attempted to intimidate CUNY into canceling, changing, or withdrawing its sponsorship for the panel. We are especially concerned that the New York City Council has threatened to withhold further money for CUNY if it does not either cancel the event or withdraw its sponsorship. This is a grave threat to academic freedom and sets a terrible precedent for the future.

    TO SIGN THE PETITION - link to ipetitions.com

    P.S. I have signed many ipetitions over the years. There is no charge for signing one of their petitions. After you “sign” the petition, they do make a pitch for a voluntary contribution (as do many sites), but it is strictly voluntary. When you get the pitch for the voluntary contribution, just close the tab/page without making a contribution.
    Although I usually decline to make a contribution, every once in a while I do make a small contribution.

  4. Les
    February 6, 2013, 11:10 am

    Do Israel’s supporters actually believe that the opponents of the Jewish state’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are anti-Semites?

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