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‘The tide of public opinion is turning’ — Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism commends Brooklyn College

on 26 Comments

January 31, 2013

Karen L. Gould
President, Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11210
[email protected]

Dear President Gould:

The Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) supports and applauds your determination to stand firm against recent attempts by Zionist alumni/ae, students, and media to persuade the Brooklyn College Department of Political Science to withdraw its co-sponsorship from a panel discussion, sponsored primarily by the Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), featuring two world-renowned figures, Professor Judith Butler and Palestinian spokesperson Omar Barghouti, on the topic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).

CODZ is a group of lawyers, professors, physicians, writers and others who came together in 2007 to counter our society’s pervasive suppression of criticism of Israel, often in a manner that reminds us of McCarthyism.

Heavy-handed efforts to suppress discussion of Palestinian perspectives have proliferated with the increasingly active opposition on US campuses to harsh Israeli practices used to contain the Palestinian population within ever-tightening boundaries that increasing world consensus holds resembles South African apartheid. We understand that there are now about 100 SJP chapters either active or in formation on our campuses. The neoconservative ideologue Alan Dershowitz, who turns his vitriolic counterattack from one campus to another, has now taken aim at Brooklyn College administrators, faculty, and students to have the panel discussion canceled. But his efforts have only strengthened the determination of campus activists to resist such bullying. We are glad to hear that you recognize how hostile such pressure is to the spirit of free inquiry and peaceful discussion of controversial issues of global import, which great colleges and universities seek to nurture and encourage rather than snuff out.

Among numerous false claims being made against the panel discussion is that proponents of BDS are anti-Semitic and immoral. As a scholar of French-Canadian literature as well as the president of a university with an historically open policy of admitting Jewish students and other religious as well as ethno-racial minorities, and of developing curriculum for analyzing issues of significance to these communities, you are demonstrating your understanding that criticism of a particular government, in this instance the state of Israel, is qualitatively distinct from condemnation of a racial or religious group that comprises the majority of that state’s population and also exists in large communities around the world.[1] The tide of public opinion is now turning—from intimidated silence on Israeli policies that bring shame upon a country which calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East, to a growing global chorus of condemnation of Israel’s segregation of Palestinians and bullying efforts to gag critics. The commitment of Palestinian civil society to nonviolent resistance, which its call for global BDS represents, is a commitment in the finest tradition of nonviolent movements for social change, from Gandhi to King and our own civil rights movement, all of which well deserve academic study and discussion.

To deny students and faculty their right to explore these issues on a campus that prides itself on its promotion of critical thinking, ethical action, and diversity would dishonor Brooklyn College’s historical mission and violate fundamental academic freedoms, and needlessly incite unreason and disunity on the Brooklyn College campus and beyond. We therefore publicly applaud your principled stand in favor of discussion, debate, and the modeling of practices for dealing with our differences that every institution of higher education attempts to provide for its students, and we add our voices to those of Brooklyn College students and faculty to urge you to continue to stand by the Department of Political Science’s decision to support the panel discussion at Brooklyn College on February 7.


(*Organizations listed for identification purposes only.)

Terri Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Board member, International Council for Middle East Studies*
former Visiting Assistant Professor, Brooklyn College

Michael Steven Smith, Esq.
Board member, Center for Constitutional Rights
co-host, Law and Disorder radio show

Barbara M. Harvey, Attorney, Detroit
Board member, Association for Union Democracy* and Michigan Coalition for Human Rights*
former Legal Director, ACLU of Michigan

Joel Kovel, M.D.

Carl Schieren, M.I.A.
formerly with the American University in Cairo

Abdeen Jabara, Esq.
Board member, Center for Constitutional Rights*

Jonathan House, M.D.
Faculty, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Department of Psychiatry
former Secretary, American Psychoanalytic Association*

Dennis James, Esq.

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party
Chair, WBAI (99.5 FM) Local Station Board*

Provost William Tramontano – [email protected]
Director of Communications and Public Relations Jeremy Thompson – [email protected]


[1] See “We Can’t Say This,” Jewish Daily Forward (13 July 2011) at

Terri Ginsberg

Terri Ginsberg is a film scholar and Palestine solidarity activist based presently in Cairo. She is author of Visualizing the Palestinian Struggle (2016), co-author of Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema (2010), author of Holocaust Film: The Political Aesthetics of Ideology (2007), and co-editor of A Companion to German Cinema (2012). Her co-edited collection on cinema of the Arab world is forthcoming.

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26 Responses

  1. pabelmont on February 2, 2013, 7:14 pm

    This group needs the widest possible membership.
    Anti-McCarthyism was a noble cause in its day, and there are many similar — including Anti-suppression of discussion of Zionism.

    Count me in.

  2. wondering jew on February 2, 2013, 7:57 pm

    The headline might make us think that indeed the tide of public opinion is changing, but this group is an anti Zionist group promoting speech by anti Zionists. Big deal. Stop the presses. Joel Kovel wants anti Zionists to speak at Brooklyn College. Man bites dog. News. Dog bites man. Not news.

    • Terri Ginsberg on February 3, 2013, 5:46 pm

      The exact line to which the title phrase refers reads:

      “The tide of public opinion is now turning—from intimidated silence on Israeli policies that bring shame upon a country which calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East, to a growing global chorus of condemnation of Israel’s segregation of Palestinians and bullying efforts to gag critics.”

      This phrase about shifting public opinion, part of a collectively written letter, does not–nor is it intended to–refer to CODZ or any one of its members but instead refers to an increasingly broad range of increasingly vocal criticism of Israeli policy and Israel’s severe mistreatment of Palestinians. Stepped up Zionist attacks on BDS and the Palestine Solidarity Movement generally are in fact a reaction to this shift in public opinion and indicate that BDS and PSM are making effective inroads against Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) campaign meant to bolster its international image in the face of growing condemnation of its horrific, murderous actions.

      By the way, Zionist Israelis–including, famously, Yitzhak Rabin–have, in addition to so much other bad behavior, been calling Palestinians “dogs” for decades. Not news.

      • wondering jew on February 3, 2013, 9:03 pm

        Terri Ginsberg- Regarding Rabin calling Palestinians dogs, please include the quote and a link.

      • Cliff on February 3, 2013, 10:26 pm

        Rabin ordered his generals to break the bones of Palestinians.

        The Israeli official felt Rabin had ‘thrown him to the dogs.’

        But Rabin didn’t call Palestinians, ‘dogs’ afaik – he simply wanted their human, full of humanity, bones broken.

        Is that better, Wondering Jew?

      • Terri Ginsberg on February 4, 2013, 10:08 am

        In addition, Moshe Dayan said in 1967 — see: :

        “Let us approach them [the Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories] and say that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave — and we will see where this process leads. In five years we may have 200,000 less people – and that is a matter of enormous importance.”

        And just two weeks ago, Israeli soldiers baited Palestinian children in the West Bank with the moniker, “dogs,” then shot one little boy to death: .

      • Cliff on February 4, 2013, 10:56 am

        Wondering Jew specializes in passive-aggressively missing the forest for the trees.

      • jon s on February 4, 2013, 11:53 am

        Terri’s link is to a website which promotes crackpot conspiracy theories and fabricated “quotes”.

      • Cliff on February 4, 2013, 2:36 pm

        Yea, I’ve come across – it’s entertaining but crackpot.

      • Terri Ginsberg on February 5, 2013, 9:40 am

        Here’s a link to the same quote, this time on Mondoweiss. The fact is that the denigrating moniker contained in Dayan’s statement (and in similar statements made by many other Israeli officials) is so well-known that one can find it posted across the internet spectrum:

        According to the above article, numerous books that cite Dayan’s words–which are by no means “fabricated”–may be found here:

      • seafoid on February 5, 2013, 11:39 am

        It was Dayan who said “treat them like dogs” .

        But the doggies in the West Bank window with the waggely tails mostly didn’t leave. Because it is not about living standards. It’s about justice.

        Israel got the population projections all wrong.

    • on February 4, 2013, 5:31 am

      friedmann – “this group is an anti Zionist group promoting speech by anti Zionists.”
      Correct. So what the hell are you doing here, Propaganda-Abteilung robot? And how the hell are you to know what is news to us, murderer or at least accessory?

  3. Mike_Konrad on February 2, 2013, 10:45 pm

    The tide of public opinion is now turning—from intimidated silence on Israeli policies that bring shame upon a country which calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East, to a growing global chorus of condemnation of Israel’s segregation of Palestinians and bullying efforts to gag critics.

    The United States is the only real power which, at this time, is standing between world opinion and Israel.

    This is why Zionist groups (many of which are Christian) are fighting hard to control the narrative.

    You can’t blame them.

    If one thinks the USA is too pro-Zionist, then the rest of the world is rabidly anti-Israel. It balances out. If the USA flips it will get ugly.

    It may not change Israel’s policies though. Israel is determined to listen to no one it seems; and seems ready to take her own counsel on what is proper.

    Heavy-handed efforts to suppress discussion of Palestinian perspectives have proliferated with the increasingly active opposition on US campuses to harsh Israeli practices used to contain the Palestinian population within ever-tightening boundaries that increasing world consensus holds resembles South African apartheid.

    The Apartheid comparison is not exactly correct.

    Security reasons have driven Israel to impose a permanent state of martial law.

    But one does not see separate bathrooms, nor some of the other petty insults that accompanied apartheid.

    There are Israeli only roads, but a lot of the insulting regulations of apartheid are not there. Israel does not even rise to the level of Jim Crow.

    It is more of a martial law than apartheid system.

    Israel’s actions stem from a very real fear of being destroyed. It is not to hard to find pro-Palestinians saying “From the River to the Sea, Palestinian will be free,” which, in essence, is a call for Israel’s destruction. 65 years of non-stop war have impressed upon the Israelis that the Arabs will not give in. This has imposed a siege mentality, where martial regulation is administered.

    My chief observation is that Israel should administer the areas less sternly.

    PS: Why are my comments not being shown on when you click on my name? When you click on my name, you get 0 comments.

    • annie on February 3, 2013, 8:59 am

      re your bolded question, email phil and adam.

      The Apartheid comparison is not exactly correct.

      it is precisely correct:

      The law enables Jews, but not Palestinians, to reclaim property they left behind enemy lines in 1948.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on February 3, 2013, 12:48 pm

      ”The Apartheid comparison is not exactly correct.”

      True. The Israeli system is much worse that Apartheid ever was.

      • MHughes976 on February 3, 2013, 6:57 pm

        All systems of controlling movement by roadblocks where intrusive searches are carried out are profoundly humiliating and there is little point in drawing subtle distinctions between different examples of the type. Massive humiliation is a thing with no subtlety, a thing of blatant impact, so the presence or absence of this or that special feature of the system, the sort of thing subtle analysis detects, is of no moral significance. So concentrating on that sort of analysis can only be a conscience-salve.
        As to existential fears I well remember defences of the old SA regime based on fears sparked in the White minority by the terrible events in the ex-Belgian Congo. And we could recall Jefferson’s argument that ‘we have the wolf by the ears’, so cannot act in the short term to end slavery. I accept that people must be influenced by fear but most of us would think that allowing fear to justify, as we see some Israeli apologists justifying, endless continuation of humiliation, hatred-inducing situations on balance only makes matters worse.

    • justicewillprevail on February 3, 2013, 3:18 pm

      Hasbara 101. Big up the hypothetical, hysterical ‘destruction’ of israel meme, while you actually engage in the real destruction of Palestine. The occupation is ok, but should be ‘less stern’. Lol, in case you attract too much attention to what you are doing.

    • Woody Tanaka on February 3, 2013, 5:10 pm

      “The Apartheid comparison is not exactly correct.”

      Nelson Mandela said it’s Apartheid. Desmond Tutu said it’s Apartheid. But what the f*ck do they know about Apartheid, right Mike?

    • Cliff on February 4, 2013, 10:32 am


      Nakba denial may be a reason you are not able to spam this forum. If you are interested in revisionist history akin to the History Channel and Aliens or Holocaust Denial, then go to Pam Gellar’s blog Atlas Shrugged or the Elders of Ziyon, settler blog.

  4. ritzl on February 3, 2013, 12:13 am

    Greenwald said he would decline/boycott his upcoming engagement at BC, should this event succumb to outside pressure.

    When I wrote about this controversy on Tuesday, I said that if this BDS event is cancelled, then “I’d strongly consider asking them to cancel mine as well, as I assume when I accept invitations to speak in academic venues that I’m going somewhere that fosters rather than suffocates the free exchange of ideas.” I’m going to make that more definite: if this event is cancelled, or if the Political Science department is forced to change it to include speakers they never wanted to invite, then I will absolutely refuse to speak at Brooklyn College. Others should use this updated list* to contact school administrators and make your views known.

    Long article. GG’s pissed.


    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on February 3, 2013, 1:45 pm

      Great link. Thanks for it. Greenwald is one of the few voices of sanity in The Guardian’s increasingly New York Times-ish (non) coverage of Israel/Palestine. I particularly liked this quote:

      ”Imagine being elected to public office and then deciding to use your time and influence to interfere in the decisions of academics about the types of campus events they want to sponsor.”

      Says it all.

    • eGuard on February 3, 2013, 2:11 pm

      Great piece indeed. In an update, Dershowitz is caught contradicting: I would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department, while Dershowitz actually has spoken at exactly such an event at PennU last February. Single speaker: AD. Topic: BDS.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on February 3, 2013, 5:28 pm

        Dershowitz is a thug and a bully. And not even a skilled one. He should go back to what he’s good at: defending those he knows to have committed the most serious crimes. Oh wait, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

  5. on February 3, 2013, 12:15 am

    here is the name of one reason the US congress…has no guts what so ever

    Cerberus Capital Management
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.

    Type Limited Partnership
    Industry Private Equity
    Founded 1992
    Founder(s) Steve Feinberg & William L. Richter
    Headquarters 875 Third Avenue
    New York City
    Products Distressed securities and assets, Private equity, Leveraged buyouts, Growth capital, Real estate investing, Commercial lending
    Total assets $20 billion
    Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. is an American private equity firm.[1] The firm is based in New York City, and run by financier Steve Feinberg, who co-founded Cerberus in 1992 with William L. Richter, who currently serves as a senior managing director. The firm has affiliate and/or advisory offices in the United States, Europe and Asia.[2]
    Cerberus has more than US$20 billion under management in funds and accounts. The company is a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Registered Investment Advisor.[3] Investors include prominent government and private sector pension and retirement funds, charitable foundations, university endowments, insurance companies, family savings and sovereign wealth funds.[1]
    The firm’s headquarters are located at 875 Third Avenue in New York City.

  6. Les on February 3, 2013, 8:38 pm

    New York politicians who so very publicly do the bidding of the Israel Lobby as orchestrated by media owners, are Lobby enablers.

  7. MitchelCohen on February 4, 2013, 6:11 am

    Let’s also remember that these politicians are enrolled in and endorsed by the Democratic Party. In New York City, the Democrats are controlled for the most part by Real Estate interests that are hugely pro-Zionist.

    – Mitchel Cohen
    Brooklyn Greens/Green Party

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