‘Odious and wrong’ — politicians threaten to shut down Brooklyn College boycott debate

Israel/Palestine
on 42 Comments

Corey Robin is the political science professor at Brooklyn College who has spearheaded the free speech effort to have boycott discussed at the campus on Thursday evening. At his website, he has reported on the political pushback against the event. Two posts follow. First the threat by the City Council to withdraw funding from Brooklyn College.  The letter, signed by ten City Council members, says that speakers at the event have likened Israelis to Nazis. But the Oscar-nominated film, The Gatekeepers, likens Israelis to Nazis! Oh but in that instance Israelis are doing it. Americans are not allowed to have their own discussion of these matters. Corey Robin: 

We have the document. Lewis Fidler, Assistant Majority Leader of the NYC Council, and several other members of the City Council, write in a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that if the BDS event is not canceled—or the political science department’s co-sponsorship of it is not withdrawn—the City Council will withdraw its financial support from the College and/or CUNY. The letter is here.

An excerpt:

A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City—many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program—want their tax money to be spent on.

We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong. So, should this event occur, we must strongly oppose it and ask you to reconsider any official support or sponsorship.

The following post at Corey Robin’s site also describes political pressure, and resistance by important figures who want the discussion to go forward: 

My department at Brooklyn College—political science—is Ground Zero of a controversy over Israel/Palestine, academic freedom, and free speech. Early in January, we were asked by a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, to co-sponsor a panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). The panel features Omar Barghouti and world-renowned philosopher Judith Butler. We agreed to co-sponsor.

Since then, things have exploded. The usual suspects—people like Alan Dershowitz and Dov Hikindhave weighed in; we’re being called anti-Semites, comparisons to the Holocaust are being made, and I got this lovely bit of hate mail: “Just writing to wish you and your family the worst…You are being a piece of f*cking trash, and you’re on the side of the antisemites and Islamic jihadists now.”

What’s different in this case is that progressive elected officials, including all three top mayoral candidates and four members of Congress, are also weighing in, trying to get the president of Brooklyn College to force my department to withdraw our co-sponsorship of this discussion. We’re talking people who control the purse strings of CUNY and people with real state power. This is straightforward political coercion.

Rather than give my account of the story, I’m going to give you some good links to catch yourself up. I also want to post here some letters from various supporters.

Glenn Greenwald probably has the most exhaustive treatment, including exposes of Dershowitz’s hypocrisy that will take your breath away. Make sure to read his update; it’s, well, I don’t even know how to describe it.

Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones goes after the members of Congress, who claim that any speaker on a college campus should be balanced with another speaker of opposite views. (Will be curious whether next time the senior senator of NY speaks at Brooklyn College commencement, as Charles Schumer does virtually every year, they ask the College president to put someone on stage to offer the opposing view.)

Amy Schiller at Daily Beast gathers these unbelievable nuggets from Dov Hikind:

Hikind called for the department vote on sponsoring the panel to be public: “Is someone hiding behind someone’s skirt? Release the vote to the public! Those who want to sponsor the event, put your names down!” He noted just prior to the press conference that the college president Gould has cancelled her upcoming trip to Albany to request increased funds for the university. Hikind added that he was disappointed that she would not be able to advocate for additional funding: “You don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that I said I would make her life a little miserable?”

Finally, I myself had an interesting exchange with New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who issued a public letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, in which he asked for her “intervention with [Political Science] Chair Paisley Currah in an effort to allow both sides of this hot-button matter to be discussed with equity, preferably in the same forum. If that cannot be accomplished, I urge the removal of the department’s sponsorship of this event.” Here’s the kicker: Williams is a former student of mine. The class he took with me? Civil liberties.

Our department, whose policy on co-sponsoring talks and panels you can find here, has had an outpouring of public support. Here are just a few of the many letters that have been sent to President Gould on our behalf.

Keith Gessen

Dear President Gould,

 My name is Keith Gessen; I’m an editor at the Brooklyn-based literary and political magazine n+1, as well as a writer and translator here in Brooklyn.

As a fan of Brooklyn College, I’m writing to express my support for the Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti event, and to say how disturbing I find all the political pressure that’s being brought to bear on the College. I was particularly concerned by the letter from “progressive politicians” proposing to instruct you on the meaning of academic freedom. That Brooklyn’s politicians do not know who Judith Butler is does not mean that people in the community do not know that she is one of the most admired, subtle, and interesting philosophers in our country, and that having her speak in Brooklyn on such a vexed and painful issue as divestment in Israel is a significant intellectual and political event.

In short, I hope you’ll continue to hold fast, and will let us in the community know if there’s anything we can do to be helpful in our support. I look forward to attending the event.

Best,

Keith

 

Dear President Gould,

I write to applaud the courageous statement you issued last week in defense of academic freedom at Brooklyn College.  As a former chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, I can say I haven’t seen a finer defense of the right of students and faculty to engage in critical examination of difficult issues.  On this question, the supporters of Israel have been notoriously remiss, being willing to violate deeply held principles of academic freedom in order to cynically support their political cause.  Only their views, it seems, have the right to free expression; those they disagree with they would ban from any public hearing.  You have said it more eloquently than I can–this is not a situation universities should countenance.  I urge you to stand fast, to reiterate what you’ve said on this question, and to permit the meeting on BDS to go forward as planned.  Too many university administrators have been cowed by the thuggish tactics of these lobbyists on behalf of the current right-wing Israeli government.  I hope you will provide the leadership we need to prevent that from happening at Brooklyn College.

Sincerely,
Joan W. Scott

 

Dear President Gould,

As a writer and an admirer of Brooklyn College and its remarkable faculty, I’m contacting you to urge you not to submit to pressure from local politicians and encourage or compel the political science department to rescind its co-sponsorship of the upcoming panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Clearly such co-sponsorship does not constitute the endorsement of a political position that deserves to be aired without eliciting threats of financial or political reprisal.

The attempted political bullying of committed researchers and serious thinkers is of course beyond your control. But it rests with administrators like you to resist such tactics and take a stand for academic freedom. I don’t doubt you will do just that. But encouragement in the right course can be useful in situations like the one you face, and please know that you have mine.

Yours sincerely,

Benjamin Kunkel

Matthew Frye Jacobson

 

Dear President Gould,

I am writing in my capacity as President of the American Studies Association to urge you to stand up against the pressure to force the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College to withdraw their co-sponsorship of the upcoming event on BDS. Though couched in the language of “academic freedom,” much of the opposition to this event–including the recent letter from a group of New York office-holders–is odious in its conflation of the department’s merely co-sponsoring a discussion on the one hand with the university’s “officially endorsing” certain views on the other. This proposition corrodes the spirit and the very mission of a university, whose raison d’être is to create space for expressions without having to worry about the appearance of “officially endorsing” them. It is especially disturbing when voiced by elected officials in direct violation of the intellectual autonomy of a university in their jurisdiction. Surely these office-holders know that their constituents, including New Yorkers in general and Brooklyn College students in particular, have easy access to the strong arguments, views, analyses, and passions arrayed against BDS. Their “equal time” argument is itself a familiar tactic for shutting down discussion; their attention to “academic freedom,” disingenuous at best, a ruse at worst.

Neither I nor the American Studies Association are concerned here with a position on BDS; but we do know the dangers in elected officials trying to dictate the content of university centered discussions, courses, or events. BDS represents precisely the sort of minoritarian speech that academic freedom is meant to protect, and I urge you to reject the specious arguments to the contrary.

Sincerely,

Matthew Frye Jacobson
William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History
Yale University

If you wish to contact the Brooklyn College administration, contact info is here. As always, be polite, civil, and firm.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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42 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    February 4, 2013, 10:06 am

    This is now a clearly-set-forth political battle. It is fruitless to suppose that the BDS crowd can dis-elect EVERY city council member who threatened BC. The CC folks are politicians, they feel they MUST talk this way and they might very well carry out their threats.

    So much for “freedom of speech” in a public college supported (as they all are) by politically-controlled money. That might be why UC-Berkeley seems to have caved in to the California assembly or whoever did the equivalent legislation there.

    There was similar uproar in the matter of Brooklyn Museum and artwork involving Jesus and Virgin Mary.

    Religious attacks appear to reside in the eye of the beholder, not in the intention of the alleged attacker. The present BDS matter is wholly, wholly unconnected with religion, and entirely connected with politics and human rights.

    The city council of New York City has decided that a political controversy that touches on Israel (but not in any way whatever on NYC) is nevertheless “political” for them — they apparently fear that if they do not join The Dersh and others in trying to shut-down this event, they will themselves suffer politically. Hmmm. Might be right!

    So much for freedom of speech when it bumps into the politics of money.

    MY BET? The BC department of poli-sci will (prudently) remove its sponsorship and the event will go on anyhow. Be very sad if another “venus” had to be found on short notice.

  2. eGuard
    February 4, 2013, 10:14 am

    Glenn Greenwald has a follow up this morning, about the political blackmail. Note that he is invited to give the Konefsky Lecture at Brooklyn College, and has promised to withdraw if BC gives in in this one.

    link to guardian.co.uk

  3. Avi_G.
    February 4, 2013, 10:15 am

    This is ironic and instructive on several levels.

    (1) This kind of politicization of academia is very common in Israel. In fact, it is an intrinsic part of the Israeli system.

    (2) It is unfortunate that those who continue to defend Israel’s criminal and immoral behavior are bringing the so-called fight to the United States. It is no different than the Israelization of U.S. law enforcement, airport security and military. How far will the Israel Lobby go in polluting the American landscape with Israeli policies, tactics, deception, lies, hypocrisy and hate?

    (3) If Israel were truly a democracy, why is it that its defenders in the U.S. are using tactics common in oppressive countries like China and Saudi Arabia? There is a glaring contradiction here. Is the average American to believe that those who criticize Israel are doing so because they are predisposed to hating Jews? And if the US is rife with anti-Semites, how is it that Israel — the ‘Jewish state’ — has such clout in Congress, the White House, the media and academic institutions?

    • Annie Robbins
      February 4, 2013, 10:45 am

      (1) This kind of politicization of academia is very common in Israel.

      reminds me of this fantastic video ( scroll) link to mondoweiss.net

      israel will not allow 5BC to be shown in the classroom. they indoctrinate the students

      link to mondoweiss.net

      Creating a compliant society requires Palestinians’ acceptance of their own domination by Israelis. After decades, what’s become apparent is that acceptance will not be forthcoming– hence, an unsustainable occupation.

      The unending unaccountability for Israeli violence nurtures a system in which Israelis are indoctrinated in the dominance and control of Palestinians. The unaccountability is not limited to Israeli soldiers, but extends to violent settlers in the occupied territories.

  4. Cliff
    February 4, 2013, 10:28 am

    Zionists are interested only in hasbara and Brand Israel campaigns.

    They censored a Palestinian children’s art exhibit. That is how low they are.

    During the Iraq War, Iraqi children were permitted to showcase their art in the same museum. This artwork similarly depicted the American army unfavorably.

    Yet, no one was able to censor the Iraqi children. I don’t believe any tried. But Zionists have no shame and simply want to control the narrative in every single venue.

    There was also another case where a Zionist student at a high school protested including Edward Said on an exam.

    Any mention of the Palestinian perspective. Any recognition of Palestinian resistance (and for our purposes, non-violent) as legitimate – then the Zionists go into berserker mode.

    The BDS debate at this college is not unique to the Zionists. They censor everything and anything that will humanize and empower the Palestinian people.

    They want to attach Jewish identity as they see it to every aspect of Palestinian agency that will seem positive to the non-tribe member.

    So if we have a debate about BDS, it is a debate about what can be done to help the Palestinians in their struggle.

    A Zionist observes this and thinks, ‘WHAT ABOUT ME, ME ME ME’.

    It is an absolutely disgusting sense of entitlement, selfishness and narcissism.

    It also presupposes that Zionists are victimized and as powerless as the Palestinian people being kicked off their land and homes and shot to death in the fish barrel that is Gaza.

    There is not parity. There is no parallel. Hence, the only conclusion is that Zionist objection to ALL these initiatives on behalf of Palestinian agency (a child traumatized by Israeli war machines and expressing him or herself in art/a Palestinian being mentioned in a high school exam/a Palestinian winning a prestigious art prize only to have it taken away because Lacoste is a Zionist-connected organization and owner/etc. etc. etc.) is an attempt to CONTROL the narrative.

    Zionism is all about control and hammering Jewish victimhood into non-tribe member’s heads (as well as impressionable young Jews) to keep their prized status whilst they drive out the indigenous population from their homeland.

    • seanmcbride
      February 4, 2013, 10:57 am

      Cliff,

      A Zionist observes this and thinks, ‘WHAT ABOUT ME, ME ME ME’.

      It is an absolutely disgusting sense of entitlement, selfishness and narcissism.

      Abrahamism at its worst:

      1. authoritarian
      2. hostile to free speech
      3. hostile to free intellectual inquiry
      4. intolerant of political opposition
      5. hatred of cult outsiders

      Failed Messiah covers the culture behind these attitudes in depth:

      link to failedmessiah.typepad.com

      Abrahamism = the Western monotheistic tradition, which is often a license to plunder and destroy cult outsiders in the name of “God” and with the utmost self-righteousness and ruthlessness.

      • hophmi
        February 4, 2013, 11:51 am

        How a campaign asking the BC polisci department to withdraw sponsorship of a speaker any of these things?

        Curious if you feel the same way about the attempts by Muslim student groups and the SJP at UC Irvine to have Michael Oren disinvited from campus (and not just to argue against his sponsors).

      • Cliff
        February 4, 2013, 2:26 pm

        Oren can speak if he is sponsored to do so. It’s a matter of choice.

        I don’t agree with waging a campaign to get him kicked off campus.

        I would support a ‘boycott’ (demonstration) against his speaking engagement though. Same for those touring Bedouin IDF soldiers who are only on such speaking tours to present a multi-cultural (Arab-y) face for the Israeli army. It’s akin to the IDF twitter battle using propaganda and youth memes to appeal to the uninformed and partially engaged (i.e. sex/violence and ‘cool’ sells over intellectualism; see the women of the IDF Maxim spread).

        That being said, an Ambassador for Israel, literally, and a persona like Oren (who himself lambasted the 60 minutes or whatever it was, presentation on Palestinian Christians, which cited Palestinian Christians) is wholly different from the entire BDS movement.

        All of this presupposes that both movements are symmetrical. At some point you have to choose a side. I side with the colonized and not the colonizer.

        Of course there’s two sides to the story. I just disagree with yours and Oren’s.

        But let Oren speak and let BDS promote/discuss BDS.

        Tactically speaking, I don’t really see much diversity in an Oren or Dershowitz lecture. So it was tactically wasteful for the MSU protestors to protest Oren. I think they did it because it was a symbolic act (and emotional and personal).

        I think the Zionist community is responding to BDS with emotion as well. I think the difference is that BDS is more compelling than Michael Oren or Alan Dershowitz or a Bedouin soldier re-Branding Israel on American campuses.

      • Mooser
        February 4, 2013, 1:39 pm

        “Failed Messiah covers the culture behind these attitudes in depth”

        Doesn’t Failed Messiah (and BTW, never mind what personal axes he has to grind) mostly cover the Orthodox, Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox? Are you sure that “culture” extends to Conservative, Reform, and Secular Jews, and the many, many Jews who know longer identify as Jewish? (Sure, they may no longer identify as Jewish, but those “core drivers” are persistent!)

        Cause if you’re telling us that religious sects based on like 17th Centiry models have some real problems, Quel surprise, Sean.

        Oh, BTW, how many people are we talking about here, in the “culture”?

      • piotr
        February 4, 2013, 7:48 pm

        I will defend Failed Messiah at any time — Hasidim and Ultra-Orthodox deserve to have axes ground with them in mind. But indeed: the issues are TOTALLY unrelated. A big portion of ultra-orthodox are anti-Zionist, and they belong to “worst offenders”.

        But the over-the-top reaction of “our elective officials” is amazing. To paraphrase Abbot Amalric Arnaud: “Defund them all! Lord knows who belongs to Him.” After all, some of the faculty members and student at the Brooklyn College are perfect Zionists…

  5. W.Jones
    February 4, 2013, 10:41 am

    The students are brave.

  6. Annie Robbins
    February 4, 2013, 11:09 am

    the conversation has gone national: msnbc link to mondoweiss.net

  7. HarryLaw
    February 4, 2013, 11:34 am

    The very first law the communists passed in the Soviet Union in 1917 was to suppress newspapers that opposed them and so Pravda was born, no deviation from the party line was tolerated and so writers and scholars were deported and pre publication censorship was implemented, this is what those 10 city representatives and fellow travelers want. I hope the Zionists pile in, it is a fight they cannot win.

  8. Les
    February 4, 2013, 11:56 am

    In a word, grotesque.

  9. John Douglas
    February 4, 2013, 12:45 pm

    Every biographical sketch of the life and work of the philosopher/
    logician Bertrand Russell writes with incredulity about his retracted contract to teach at City College, unfit according to the famously blockheaded NYC politicians of 1940 because he advocated for the wisdom of living together before marrying.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    February 4, 2013, 3:19 pm

    ● RE: “We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong. So, should this event occur, we must strongly oppose it and ask you to reconsider any official support or sponsorship.” ~ City Council members

    ● FROM BELOW: “As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage. . .” ~ Goldberg & Makdisi

    ● SEE: “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009

    [EXCERPT] . . . It is an extraordinary fact that no fewer than thirty-three distinct organizations – including AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Jewish National Fund – are gathered together today as members or affiliates of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side. Its self-proclaimed mission is not merely to monitor our colleges and universities. That, after all, is the commitment of Campus Watch, which was started by pro-Israel activists in 2002. It is, rather (and in its own words), to generate “a pro-active, pro-Israel agenda on campus.”
    There is, accordingly, disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses across the country by a coalition of well-funded organizations, who have no time for — and even less interest in — the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process. Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies. As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to tikkun.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 4, 2013, 3:27 pm

      ● ALSO RE: “We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong. So, should this event occur, we must strongly oppose it and ask you to reconsider any official support or sponsorship.” ~ City Council members

      ● MY COMMENT: This is yet another reason that I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like "the right of free speech"] ! ! !
      “Down, down, down we [the U.S.] go into the deep, dark abyss; hand in hand with Israel.”

      EXAMPLES OF ZIONISM’S VALUES TRUMPING (OVERRIDING) THE VALUES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT HERE IN THE U.S.

      “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
      LINK – link to theamericanconservative.com
      “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi, Antiwar.com, 7/05/12
      LINK – link to original.antiwar.com
      “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald, guardian.co.uk, 11/15/12
      LINK – link to guardian.co.uk
      ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
      LINK – link to mondoweiss.net
      “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
      LINK – link to rawstory.com
      “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
      LINK – link to richardsilverstein.com
      “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
      LINK – link to mondoweiss.net

  11. yonah fredman
    February 4, 2013, 3:58 pm

    Could someone clarify how co sponsorship by the Poli Sci. department changed the nature of the event? As in, did co sponsorship involve a financial advantage to Students for Justice in Palestine? Was the scheduling of the event or the logistics affected in any way by this co sponsorship? Is co sponsorship something that groups expect and receive with regularity from the department?

    • hophmi
      February 4, 2013, 5:09 pm

      I think, in all honesty, Yonah, it’s a tempest in a teapot. Like most events like this, the organization that brought the speakers likely drew on the resources of other student organizations and academic departments on campus for money to bring the speakers. And it’s fairly clear to me that BC Polisci is not ideological; if a Jewish group asked for money to sponsor an anti-BDS event, I am pretty sure it would be forthcoming. When I was in college, I put together a panel of speakers on the conflict (though mine represented a much wider swath of the political spectrum), and my campus PoliSci department gave us funding and promoted the event. Unfortunately, once a politician like Dov Hikind gets a hold of something like this, it gets out of control. My bet is that the Jewish kids on campus who made the original inquiry to the PoliSci department are not thrilled about the outside “help;” they’ve actually asked people in the community not to attend the event because they feel that they can handle it themselves.

      Dershowitz is claiming that college academic departments often have a rule against sponsoring partisan political events. It certainly wasn’t the rule where I went to college, though it may well be the rule elsewhere. When I was in college, professors were in general very reticent about taking public positions on this conflict and most others. In any event, some of Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of him were a little disingenuous; for instance, Dershowitz did give the Konefsky lecture, but he apparently gave it 40 years ago, and so it’s not exactly relevant to cite the opinion of a relatively new BC professor liek Corey Robin on how the Konefsky lecturer was selected at that time, and it’s not exactly fair to omit how long ago Dershowitz spoke and that his topic was not the Middle East. But in general, this is the type of thing I wish Dershowitz would stay out of; he is not helping, and at this point, he’s free publicity for the BDS movement.

      • Cliff
        February 4, 2013, 5:50 pm

        “the organization that brought the speakers likely drew on the resources of other student organizations and academic departments on campus for money to bring the speakers”

        Ohhhh, how scandalous! Probably illegal subsidies like the JNF and American tax dollars, right hoppy?

        Your framing of the funding is conspiratorial.

      • piotr
        February 4, 2013, 9:26 pm

        I mostly agree with you, hophmi, but it WOULD BE a tempest in the teapot if Dershowitz, Hikind etc. simply made some statements. Now the politicians started to throw their weight around, and clearly this is a case of “calculated stupidity”.

        Probably most of the council members who sign the letter are aware that it may backfire and provide publicity for BDS, but do they care? As long as no important constituents are unhappy and important donors are happy this is OK. If important donors are stupid this is THEIR problem. Dov Hikind is probably one of the “true believers”. You do not need to be a mental giant to be a political operative.

        Concerning rules against “partisan political events”, I would be very curious how are they formulated, because “non-partisan” in USA normally means “refraining from advocacy of a particular party or candidates in elections, but not necessarily refraining from advocacy of positions that are primarily advocated by only one political party”. For example, non-profit organizations are supposed to be non-partisan and it is clearly understood in that manner.

    • Cliff
      February 4, 2013, 5:41 pm

      David Horowitz was sponsored some years ago AFAIK (as per JewsSansFrontiers I think or Glenn Greenwald).

      And the Dersh said that Brooklyn College avoids controversial speakers or something (I think) – but that’s utter b.s. since the Dersh advocates torture, David Horowitz and his ‘Freedom Center’ are Islamophobic loonies and I believe the Rosenburgs kid was there protesting his parents innocence or something (not taking a side on this one but just saying that the nature of the topic is controversial).

    • ritzl
      February 4, 2013, 7:49 pm

      I’m going to go out on a limb here, but the minutiae of the questions you ask are only raised and elevated by this particular topic and contention of the speakers.

      Maybe someone can correct me, but I suspect that many, many equally divisive topics/events have been presented at BC without this kind of scrutiny. Greenwald lists Dershowitz’s own event(s) as at least anecdotal (i.e. the “never,” contrary argument goes away) proof of that in the polar sense of this particular issue.

      The better question is whether pro-Israel speakers will be invited to present without a shared stage in the future, as they have been in the past (without this furball). In that inevitable event, will this same level of scrutiny/your questions apply then?

  12. yonah fredman
    February 4, 2013, 4:03 pm

    Is it instructive that SJP has in fact sought to “silence” representatives of Israel (or is it only members of the government?) with disruptions of their speeches? The use of political pressure to force Brooklyn College to cancel the event is wrong, but from an objective point of view, both SJP and the Jewish politicians both try to silence their opponents.

    (I know that one is relatively innocent, shouting during a speech, and one is bad, pulling money strings or threatening to pull those strings, but the vector direction is the same.)

    • Annie Robbins
      February 4, 2013, 4:48 pm

      yeah, the difference being one group are students at a college and the others are politicians not enrolled at the school. and as for representatives of a foreign government..tough call there, but i think the students may have more rights on their own campus.

    • Cliff
      February 4, 2013, 5:46 pm

      Wondering Jew,

      There is no equivalence here.

      The Jewish Zionist community is backed by corporate interests and the nation-wide Zionist institutions which are in-turn connected to our political Establishment (they ARE Establishment).

      SJP might do sound-offs during a Oren speech or when some Bedouin Israeli soldier does a shameless Brand Israel tour in the States whilst his people (although, hardly his people when he puts the uniform of a colonizer on) are ethnically cleansed (40,000 planned).

      But your cohorts in the Zionist community wage censorship campaigns and succeed.

      A Palestinian children’s art exhibit was censored because of pressure from ‘local Jewish groups’.

      Your inane straw-man is so sad. Palestinian solidarity activists may protest and in some cases attempt to boycott war criminals – but they don’t have the clout to get bought-and-paid-for hack politicians to sign off on their agendas. The Palestinian solidarity movement is grass roots and anti-Establishment.

      Your movement is corporate-backed and has much more power. The end. Stop grasping.

  13. DICKERSON3870
    February 4, 2013, 4:11 pm

    RE: “‘Odious and wrong’ — politicians threaten to shut down Brooklyn College boycott debate” ~ Weiss

    MY SNARK: How dare Brooklyn College (and more specifically its Political Science Department) refuse to be “politically correct”! ! !
    How dare they!
    How dare they!
    How dare they!
    Italy’s Blackshirts and Germany’s Brownshirts would have known exactly how to deal with Brooklyn College and its Political Science Department! ! !

  14. DICKERSON3870
    February 4, 2013, 4:21 pm

    RE: “‘Odious and wrong’ — politicians threaten to shut down Brooklyn College boycott debate” ~ Weiss]

    JUSTICE LOUIS BRANDEIS ON THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH:

    “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” ~ Whitney v. California, 1927

    • “No danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is an opportunity for full discussion. Only an emergency can justify repression.”

    • “Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.”

    • “The constitutional right of free speech has been declared to be the same in peace and war. In peace, too, men may differ widely as to what loyalty to our country demands, and an intolerant majority, swayed by passion or by fear, may be prone in the future, as it has been in the past, to stamp as disloyal opinions with which it disagrees.”

    SOURCE – link to quotes.liberty-tree.ca

  15. yonah fredman
    February 4, 2013, 4:23 pm

    A comment about the community of Brooklyn College and near Brooklyn College.
    First of all, this web site, Phil and Adam, have nothing to do with the Jewish community near and in Brooklyn College. These are not Phil and Adam’s type of Jews. One has to travel to Park Slope to find Phil and Adam’s type of Jews. (Of course there are individual Jews in Flatbush and environs who support Phil and Adam’s point of view towards Israel.)
    Brooklyn is a melange of ethnicities, the suppression of ethnic identification sometimes touted on this web site is a foreign language to most of Brooklyn.
    The ethnicities near Brooklyn College and in Brooklyn College include ultra Orthodox Jews (those who believe in a general education as a means towards an end). It is quite pleasing to see ultra Orthodox interacting with classmates on the trails of the university and in its classrooms and libraries. It is this multi culturalism that appeals to me compared to the feeling of “us and them” which I feel near Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

    There is a type of unspoken rule not to raise politics. As in: Muslim students and Jewish students both realize that their politics regarding the Middle East clashes violently elsewhere and so it is best, like a family fight, not to mention certain things, in order to promote: “Can’t we all just get along?” Both Muslim students and Jewish students at the college are there to get an education in order to get a job. They are serious students, not those who can while away the hours, like those who go to Ivy League schools. I am rather sure that the day after the event with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, life will continue with the usual peace that reigns in Brooklyn and at the College. But there should be some comment regarding the community and not just regarding principles like academic freedom and free speech. Context might not change the bottom line, but context is important.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 4, 2013, 4:42 pm

      so it’s primarily serves Flatbush neighborhood?

      There is a type of unspoken rule not to raise politics.

      that must be challenging for the political science department. are the classes generally taught thru computer? no lectures? i’ve never heard of a campus with a rule not to raise politics, unspoken or otherwise. you sure it’s not Flatearth neighborhood?

      • hophmi
        February 4, 2013, 4:54 pm

        “There is a type of unspoken rule not to raise politics. ”

        That is often the way it is today with Jews and Muslims. One of my closest friends is a staffer at a major Islamic organization, and she is quite pro-Palestinian. She knows I’m pro-Israel. We don’t talk about it. It’s not what our friendship is about. That is similarly what prevails in many Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups. We don’t talk politics. And there’s a fairly good reason: we’re in America, not in the Middle East.

        Parts of Brooklyn tend to be ethnic enclaves to a certain extent, particularly in the areas surrounding Brooklyn College. Midwood, to the South, is largely Jewish and ultra orthodox. A little North of Brooklyn College is a large religious Pakistani Muslim neighborhood where kids play cricket in the street on Saturday. To the East is a large lower middle class West Indian neighborhood. Everybody more or less gets along, intracommunal rhetoric not withstanding. Most people do not have the time or energy to engage in political fighting, and like any neighborhood, the vast majority of people are decent human beings.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 4, 2013, 5:45 pm

        Most people do not have the time or energy to engage in political fighting

        then you’d think they would tell their politicians to stay out of it. who’s fighting here?

        “There is a type of unspoken rule not to raise politics. ”

        That is often the way it is today with Jews and Muslims.

        who said anything about jews and muslims? this is an american issue.

      • Cliff
        February 5, 2013, 2:53 am

        I think your ‘quite pro-Palestinian’ friend should read the hateful **** you write here regularly, particularly in your older comments.

        And LOL@’this is America’. Yep, nothing to see here folks, move along.

      • jewishgoyim
        February 7, 2013, 11:02 pm

        “particularly in your older comments.”
        Now that’s funny you should say that because I have stopped reading the comments for a while and I find a brand new Hopmi. More conciliatory and less extremist. Maybe the banning of Witty caused him to be more subdued.

        I’ve always wondered whethere people like Hopmi (or Witty although I may liean toward him being sincere) are “men on a mission” here to try to stifle the debate and prevent the mondo community from having constructive conversation or whether they are honest individuals whose psychology naturally led them to invest themselves that much into barking at people on mondo’s forum.

    • Cliff
      February 4, 2013, 5:37 pm

      Wondering Jew,

      How do you know how the Muslim students feel? Did they tell you, ‘hey yonah, Israel continues to inflict facts on the ground and ethnically cleansing my cousins – but hey, LETS JUST GET ALONG so I can get a job, get married, have kids, pay taxes, and die’.

      Because you know, that’s a fulfilling life to these Muslim students. They don’t like all this noise the pesky Palestinian solidarity activists are causing.

      ‘Why can’t we just get along’? We can, according to you – because ignorance IS bliss.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    February 4, 2013, 4:47 pm

    ● RE: “Lewis Fidler, Assistant Majority Leader of the NYC Council, and several other members of the City Council, write in a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that if the BDS event is not canceled—or the political science department’s co-sponsorship of it is not withdrawn—the City Council will withdraw its financial support from the College and/or CUNY.” ~ Weiss

    ● SOMEONE WHO REFUSES TO BE “POLITICALLY CORRECT”:

    “Why I Support BDS”, by Rabbi Margaret Holub, 2/21/13
    I find the details of the occupation to be emotionally wrenching and morally challenging to me as a Jew and as a rabbi.

    [EXCERPTS] . . . I know that there are policy reasons on the part of the IDF for many individual demolition orders, checkpoints, passbook requirements, segregated roadways, destruction of trees, confiscation of Palestinian farmland, detentions without charge, establishment of “sterile areas” and other particulars of the occupation which may seem defensible when judged in isolation. I understand that high unemployment and deprivation and periodic violence may be seen as collateral damage. But I find the larger project of occupation, viewed as a whole, to be shameful. And I feel very strongly that it needs to end.
    Are the occupation of the West Bank and the constriction of Gaza worse than the occupation of Tibet or the incursions of Sudan into South Sudan or other places of oppression of one people by another? I don’t know. But as a Jew, and particularly as a leader of Jews, I feel like I have “skin in the game” with regard to what Jews do in the world which is different than my relationship with other places of inequality and oppression. For me, when Torah is quoted in support of these policies and Jewish politicians and bureaucrats write them and Jewish soldiers impose them, then kol yisrael arevim zeh im zeh (“all Jews are responsible for one another”) and as a Jew I feel responsible to voice my opposition. I am surprised when I hear people say that we who don’t live in Israel shouldn’t judge what Israel does. If that is the case, then we shouldn’t support Israel either.
    I also feel some hirhur bi’tshuvah (“inclination to repentance”) as an American about the occupation, knowing that it is supported in such great measure not only by US foreign aid but also American weapons, training and political cooperation. As Americans we are complicit in a whole panoply of oppressions. But US commitment to Israel’s present policy is disturbingly large, even relative to its other malign commitments. . .
    . . . There is no joy for me in advocating against the actions of my own people. I want Jewish business and culture and productivity to thrive in our world. But not at cost of the lives and livelihoods and homes and farms of another people. I hope very much that BDS will be a potent and quickly-effective worldwide movement and that very soon we can all, as South Africa has, turn our attention to the many crises of a just and sustainable aftermath to a cruel chapter in our history.

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to rabbisletter.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 4, 2013, 5:34 pm

      P.S. ANOTHER PERSON WHO REFUSES TO BE “POLITICALLY CORRECT”:

      “Why I’m Boycotting SodaStream”, By Rabbi Brant Rosen,Shalom Rav,

      [EXCERPTS] Israel’s settlement juggernaut continues at full speed, creating apartheid conditions on the occupied West Bank while making a mockery of any hope of a two state solution. Since no nation or institution seems willing to hold Israel accountable, it seems to me the least any concerned citizen can do is to refuse to patronize companies that directly profit from this brutal and unjust occupation.
      At the moment, Exhibit A is SodaStream
      – a company that produces home carbonating devices. Promoting its product as eco-friendly, SodaStream is sold in 39 countries in 35,000 stores worldwide, including Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Bloomingdale’s, Sears, and Kmart.
      It is also manufactured in the Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim.
      A bit of history: Mishor Adumim is the industrial park section of Ma’aleh Adumim, the largest settlement in the West Bank. The land for both of these settlements originally belonged to the Palestinian towns of Abu Dis, Azarya, Atur, Issauya, Han El Akhmar, Anata and Nebbi Mussa, but was expropriated by Israel in the 1970s. Today, Ma’aleh and Mishor Adumim are a key part of the Israeli government’s plan to create Jewish facts on the ground around Arab East Jerusalem.

      The SodaStream boycott is a particularly instructive action since the company actively promotes itself as an environmentally concerned enterprise. This is a tactic known as “greenwashing” – a cynical attempt to hide behind liberal environmental values in order to divert attention away from egregious violations of human rights. . .
      . . . And what about the fact that the company says its product is “Made in Israel”, yet is based in the West Bank? . . .
      . . . Jordan Ash, writing in the Twin Cities Daily Planet has also recently addressed this issue:
      . . . At the SodaStream factory, when workers protested that they were being paid less than half of the minimum wage and were forced to work 12 hour days, they were fired. On another occasion, when workers who were fired and were still owed a month’s wages went to the factory to request their pay, SodaStream had them removed from the factory and banned from the entire industrial park. . .

      . . . While I certainly don’t have any illusions that this boycott will bring the Israeli economy to their knees, I do believe it provides us with the means to take a public moral stand against the injustices Israel is committing in the occupied West Bank – and to stand in solidarity with those whose lives are impacted by this oppression.
      It is a particularly timely action since the company has spent $3.8 million on a 30-second spot during next month’s Super Bowl. Apparently the commercial advocates “setting the bubbles free”. Those concerned with human rights should know that freedom for real, living breathing human beings is what is truly at stake here.

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to rabbibrant.com

  17. ritzl
    February 4, 2013, 4:50 pm

    The funding blindspot is akin to Dershowitz’s blindspot on “balanced” treatment. I mean we give Israel $3B+++ a year. I, and many, many others don’t want that line item funded, and that’s not even a remotely arguable free speech issue.

    Our aid to Israel is just pure waste, and/or the first leg of a corrupt, self-perpetuating campaign contribution cycle (h/t to American or MRW, iirc, on the latter). So as long as the standard is “people don’t want their money spent on ‘this’ ” lets take all of that $3B and give some of it to BC in the name of people that think BC would put it to better use (and rebuild/improve the f…ing electrical grid with the rest; or something, anything domestically useful and productive).

    Hard to believe the people that are all into withholding this or that funding don’t see what’s coming if they’re successful.

  18. DICKERSON3870
    February 4, 2013, 11:09 pm

    RE: “‘Odious and wrong’ — politicians threaten to shut down Brooklyn College boycott debate ~ Weiss

    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

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 5, 2013, 4:10 pm

      P.S. I have signed many ipetitions. There is no charge for signing one of their petitions. However, after you “sign” the petition, they do make a pitch for a voluntary contribution (as do many sites), but it is strictly voluntary. Usually I decline to make a contribution, but every once in a while I do make a small contribution.

  19. piotr
    February 4, 2013, 11:30 pm

    This episode is somewhat sad, but to a degree hilarious. A dreaded “event” is about to occur, with woeful consequences: “the taxpayers of our City—many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program”.

    I am really looking forward to the witch trial of the nefarious department at Brooklyn College, with tearful testimonies of the aforementioned taxpayers “when I read the program of the symposium (seminar?), I felt targeted and demonized”.

    And no wonder. When a similar seminar took place at U Penn, Prof. Ruben Gur complained “The macabre sight of the likes of Stella Kübler, (arguably Hannah Arendt) and the Capos in the extermination camps is about to be replayed here at Penn” and “their version of Mein Kampf (I am referring to Omar Barghouti’s book titled Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) “. If there is a limit to this hysteria, I am yet to see it.

    If Hannah Arendt is “the like of” a notorious Gestapo collaborator, then so is Judith Butler. Should she be burned on a stake, or served poison hemlock, in the recognition that she is a philosopher?

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