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‘New York Daily News’ distorts why student Israel advocates were tossed from Brooklyn College event (updated)

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The Brooklyn College campus (Image via Forbes)

The New York Daily News continues to add fuel to the fire over the disturbance involving four student activists affiliated with Zionist organizations who were kicked out of the Brooklyn College event last week on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The Daily News ran three pieces addressing the matter recently (two of them today) — a news storyan Op-Ed today by Ari Ziegler, one of the students who was tossed from the event, and an editorial decrying the fact that the students were tossed out. But their coverage is misleading and does not even make the pretense of trying to get the full story out.

The articles push the narrative that was first published by Tablet magazine: that the students had flyers in their laps and were then picked out by a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member for no reason other than the fact that they were opponents of BDS. The SJP member, according to the student Israel activists, came up to Melanie Goldberg, an intern with the Israel on Campus Coalition, and demanded that they hand over the flyers in their laps. When Goldberg and the others refused, the narrative goes, the SJP member got security to toss them out. When Goldberg and her friends asked security why they were being thrown out, security had no answer. The college vice president allegedly said that the SJP members “were calling the shots” because it’s “their event.” The bottom line, according to this narrative: the students affiliated with Hillel were doing nothing wrong. They had flyers in their laps. They were kicked out for no reason. They were not creating a disturbance. In the Daily News’ world, that narrative is now fact.

But that narrative has been clearly disputed. As I reported last Friday, organizers of the event and witnesses to the disturbance tell a much different story. Here’s what I wrote:

According to Sarah Aly, a student volunteer with Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College who witnessed the mini-controversy, the students were passing out anti-BDS flyers [update: amongst each other] in the middle of the event, while Judith Butler was talking–contra the claim that they had flyers “in their laps.” They were also talking during the event. When a student volunteer asked them to stop passing out the flyers and to quiet down, the Hillel-affiliated activists refused. That’s when a volunteer asked a security guard to remove them. Two other witnesses who preferred not to have their names published also confirmed this story to me. So yes, these students were removed, and you can debate whether that was the right move or not. But it wasn’t about them getting kicked out because they were “pro-Israel” or had flyers “in their laps.”

I have since spoken to SJP member Carlos Guzman, who told me the same story that Aly did. But it’s not only SJP students that dispute the story from Goldberg and Ziegler. It’s also the Brooklyn College administration–as well as another witness who posted her account on Facebook in response to Goldberg’s narrative.

“My understanding is that these students were in the room along with the rest of the audience. From the first speaker they began to speak out, they were becoming vocal and disruptive to the members around them and one of the student organizers of the event went to them and said ‘you really need to be quiet you’re disrupting other people around you,’” Jeremy Thompson, a spokesman for Brooklyn College, told Algemeiner. “They then did not comply and a couple of police officers asked them to come out into the lobby.” Thompson also told the Daily News a similar thing in an otherwise misleading story by reporter Corrine Lestch.

The ICC’s Goldberg posted an account on Facebook of what she says happened to her at the event. It is similar to the Ziegler Op-Ed in the Daily News. But someone in the comments section, named Emma Snyders, disputes Goldberg’s story. Snyders is not a member of SJP at Brooklyn College, according to Guzman. “I am a student at Brooklyn College, have been for about two years now. I don’t mind being the odd person out in this conversation by saying that I was directly in front of you and had to ask you to be quiet numerous times before you were asked to leave. While leaving someone you were with yelled ‘This is a violation of our freedom of speech,’” wrote Snyders. “If you had been quiet and respectful of an incredibly amazing and articulate person, such as Judith Butler, you would have had a chance to not only learn that, but ask questions at the end. There was a lot of tension in the room and your behavior made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.”

So on one side, you have a witness to the disturbance who was not a member of SJP disputing the account of Goldberg; multiple members of SJP who say a similar thing; and the college administration confirming the accounts of SJP students. And on the other side are the four student activists who are claiming they did nothing wrong and were tossed out because they had anti-BDS flyers in their laps.

The Daily News is publicizing one side of the story while omitting claims that complicate the story. I did not clearly see the incident, so I can’t definitively say who is right and who is wrong. But it’s the height of journalistic irresponsibility to publicize one narrative while leaving out another side of the story that complicates things greatly.

The Daily News also reports that the City University of New York is opening an investigation into the matter. Let’s hope an inquiry clears the matter up once and for all.

Update: This story has been modified to make clear that the Daily News editorial was not published today, as originally stated. It was published on Saturday. The other modification was to clarify what the students were doing with the anti-BDS flyers during the event, according to witnesses. They were passing out flyers amongst themselves.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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20 Responses

  1. Cliff
    February 12, 2013, 3:15 pm

    It’s entirely possible that these kicked out students wanted to be removed.

    SJP isn’t violent and isn’t ‘Stalinist’ as slandered by Zionist hacks.

    So the Zionist pro-censorship crowd instigated a fight and got thrown out.

    The entire mood was confrontational from the beginning due to the organized assault on Palestinian agency by the organized Jewish community.

    And now Zionist mouthpieces are giving a platform to these kids. They all don’t want this talk. It’s their territory. So all of these allegations are in that context of hysteria.

  2. Ellen
    February 12, 2013, 6:00 pm

    As we concern ourselves with a mini incident among activists, Australians now concern themselves with the death by hanging of one of their citizens (who had apparently been recruited by the Mossad) in an Israeli jail. A jail designed with surveillace to prevent such deaths. The incarceration was never reported to Australian officials.

    • American
      February 12, 2013, 9:42 pm

      @ Ellen

      I read about that. There’s something very very big and bad there..that guy knew something he wasn’t suppose to know. I hope someone can get to the bottom of it.

      • MRW
        February 13, 2013, 1:14 am

        Watch the Australian documentary about it. Some story!

      • annie
        February 13, 2013, 1:47 am

        b thinks it may have something to do w/the mossad/dubai assassination:

        smart, as usual.

      • Sin Nombre
        Sin Nombre
        February 13, 2013, 6:11 am

        Nah, Annie, it’s something bigger than that, much bigger. That Dubai biz is already out, everyone knows the Israelis practice such assassinations, and Israel is essentially insouciant about its right to use other country’s nationals and their passports in their Intell operations so that’s not it either. Neither are nearly big enough for the Israelis to go to this sort of … Stalinist-Katyn/Schindleresque person-disappearing length, esp. given this guy was an Australian which always meant the possibility that Australia would become involved in some way, and then the consequent risk of having to admit it essentially tried to disappear the guy.

        And indeed when you think about it that latter aspect of it is breathtaking alone: In essence they’ve treated him in an even lesser manner than countries treat enemies of war or even their own traitors. As it reads now the only judicial aspect of this wasn’t via any trial of the guy whatsoever, but just going to court to try to ban all mention of the guy and then all mention of the ban even.

        Really remarkable, with it having even more resonance with Stalinism that noted given this guy’s alleged Mossad membership. Back under Stalin, that is, your membership in the fore-runners of the KGB—the Chekists/ OGPU/GPU/NKVD/GRU/whatever was seen as essentially subjecting you to extraordinary status so that if you betrayed that kind of employer you had no civil or criminal rights whatsoever. One story goes, for instance, that upon coming to the conclusion that one NKVD agent was a Western spy he was thrown into a blast furnace in front of a graduating class of NKVD guys to illustrate the philosophy. And in one spasm of Stalin’s paranoia in the ’30’s Beria was wholesale recalling the most trusted NKVD guys from their overseas postings whereupon they—and often their entire families—just disappeared off the face of the earth. Caused any number to defect to the West when they got their “report back to Moscow for consultations” notice.

        But that was totalitarian Intell practice back in the ’30’s and ’40’s, so making this Aussie guy’s story today so amazing. The Israelis aren’t stupid and know that their handling this guy like they did—with its consequent ever-present risk of disclosure—had to be way way worth it as opposed to whatever reality they are protecting getting out. And when they did what they did to Vanunu so openly, that tells you about how relatively care-free they are about problems arising from treating their “traitors” harshly.

        After all, compared to this guy Vanunu was damn near treated with kid gloves.

        And then you’ve got the apparent truth that Israel has apparently even convinced this Aussie’s *parents* to not make any waves, so you can imagine the enormity (but certainly no details) of the Israeli interest that the parents must have been told was at stake to just sit down and shut up about their boy’s disappearance and now death.

        Whatever the story is behind this guy, it ain’t some mere little beanbag like Dubai or goofing with other countries’ passports. It’s big. Really big I suspect. Israel ain’t stupid about stuff like this especially, and for them to run this huge risk of simply disappearing the guy … they didn’t do it for crackers I don’t think.

      • Sumud
        February 13, 2013, 8:30 am

        MRW ~ the [Australian] ABC has a rather unfortunate habit of geo-blocking content to countries outside Australia but Annie’s link contained a new link to the content as uploaded on YT and available for all to see:

      • Ellen
        February 13, 2013, 9:55 am

        While we’re off topic about the activists spat in Brooklyn, here goes. Aside from speculation of what this poor soul knew and why he had to be secretly imprisoned and possibly eliminated or driven to suicide, this much is clear:

        He was a very young man who went to Israel believing in all the indoctrination that a state is a “Homeland” and the state was his religion. (Golden Calf anyone?) And like many Jews around the world, got caught up in joining the IDF (Rahm Emmanuel also did this) to practice his religion of state worship.

        A young smart Australian like this is a great find for the Israeli security machine. So he, like others, is recruited for the Mossad.

        Then something went very wrong from him and he became a threat. And the treat had to be contained. This much we know.

        Meanwhile we hear nothing from his family in Australia, or his widow in Israel.

        It is the nature of institutions and states to morph into criminality and terrorism of it’s own to defend their survival.

        So I do not get it. Why do so many Jews adopt ideas of Zionism and State as their identity and as a religion? Isn’t this the Golden Calf?

        The fate of Ben Zygier is tragic and possibly symbolic of so much to come.

      • American
        February 13, 2013, 12:07 pm

        I agree this is something much, much bigger than Dubai or anything else we know about Israel to date.
        To be able to get his wife and family not to make peep about his disappearance?….someone put the fear of God in them.
        I think he stumbled on something he wasn’t suppose to know.

      • American
        February 13, 2013, 12:59 pm

        “Former ASIS operative Mr Reed told the ABC: “However the transgression came about, it would have to be involved with espionage, treachery – very, very sensitive information that known to others would pose an immediate threat to Israel as a nation state.”

        What are the biggest things you can thing of that would end Israel’s existence as a state….and who would ‘end Israel or pose a threat to it’s survival if this were known? Obviously Israel’s biggest fear is the US turning on it…not anyone else ending it.
        First- would be a Israeli involvement in 911.
        Second- would be the US and the world learning of Israeli involvement in the 9 billion heist in Iraq.
        Third- going back further would be the assassination of Kennedy.

        Spying, stealing US secrets, sabotage, cyber rigging other countries weapons systems, assassinations, forging other countries passports for assassination and spying, etc,etc ——all of those are small potatoes Israel does all the time, well known to everyone, and it gets away with it so no threat in those common place things. Even proving Israel poisoned Arafat wouldn’t pose that kind of threat to Israel. Could it be a planned or failed assassination attempt on a world leader, or Obama–I doubt that some attempt to assassinate a world leader would have been missed by the press…there would have been a meniton..even without mentioning Israel.

        Whatever it is it is something horrific–Israel treated Rabin’s assassin with kid gloves compared to this….they treated Vannu, the nuke whistle blower, better than this. Their treatment of this guy is unprecedented. If he had been a double agent or spy ‘against’ Israel they would have simply killed him off the books. No, I think he came across something explosive while in Mossad and he didn’t even have to have threaten to reveal it, his just knowing about it was too dangerous for Israel. And perhaps despite all his declarations of being a good loyal Jew it was too risky to let him roam the earth–so Isr had 2 choices—kill a fellow Jew who swears he’ll never tell or lock him away. So they locked him up in lieu of killing him. Then maybe he started going bonkers in prison, started ranting to his guards and they helped him or let him hang himself.

      • annie
        February 13, 2013, 1:44 pm

        To be able to get his wife and family not to make peep

        this reminds me of the pedophilia scandals in new york. i think it’s common to consult the rabbis and follow their advice. it could be the family knew of his sons involvement in the mossad. it could be he knew he was in trouble, it could be he communicated with his father and it could be this involves a very hot topic in australia. re passports

      • American
        February 13, 2013, 2:06 pm

        I think passports are old news…..Australia, New Zealand, Canada have all had on going problems with this and every assassination Isr has carried out using them we already know about. The Dubia assassins were even identified, even if not by their real names, even drawing of their faces published, as well as the fake passports they were using….some money they used was even traced to a US bank and still nothing came of any of that either. And you know that the CIA knows the deal on the bank that was used…and nothing came of that either.
        Israel has admitted for instance Pollard was after all ‘their spy’…you think they care if one of their assassins is outed as an….they don’t care…everyone knows about them and that kind of thing isn’t a threat to Israel’s survival.
        Israel doesn’t’ give a [email protected] about being tagged with any of that stuff…..the only thing they would care about is something that would make the US come down on them. They don’t think anybody else can touch them.

        A lot of people however might want the world to think it’s the old passport and assassins scandal.

      • Bumblebye
        February 13, 2013, 7:32 pm

        Perhaps he was part of the team selling Stuxnet infected equipment to Iran?

        “In 2009, while living in Jerusalem and filing stories to the Australian Fairfax group, Katsoukis was contacted by an anonymous source with connections to the intelligence world.

        The story that the source told over a series of conversations was indeed extraordinary.

        The source named three Australians with joint Israeli citizenship whom, he said, were working for a front company set up by Mossad in Europe selling electronic equipment to Iran and elsewhere.”

        iirc, the computer virus hadn’t yet hit Iran? If he had a crisis of conscience after being confronted, he’d need to be kept quiet (and incommunicado) for at least a while – maybe longer to maintain deniability in the face of all the accusations.
        And after the Dubai murder plus accompanying farce, the passports fiasco could have been blown wide open:

        “”There was other stuff about Zygier. In Australia you can change your name once a year. He’d done it four times I think, but they were beginning to get suspicious. I also found out that he had applied for a work visa for Italy in Melbourne.”

        The repeated changes of name would have allowed Zygier to create new identities and multiple passports.”

      • Sin Nombre
        Sin Nombre
        February 13, 2013, 4:05 pm

        A couple of additional thoughts:

        First, from what is … quasi-known so to speak, it seems that the Israelis weren’t keeping this kid to punish him so much as to make sure he never talked to anyone, period. A little different than Vanunu, to a degree.

        Second, I don’t think that what he might have been able to say had to be of the ultimate, cosmic sort that threatened Israel’s very survival; not much would do that I don’t think, and I doubt Israel would engage in that kind of thing even knowing the risks of leakage. (E.g., plotting to kill an American president for instance, or at least any we’ve had in the past.) Maybe … subornation of American politicos … now that would be big enough, or something big nuke-wise; that seems more the likely scale to me at least. Or just jeopardizing some very important on-going scheme, like manufacturing and implanting false data regarding Iran’s nuke project. Or perhaps the threat to unmask some very big Israeli agent, with Intell agencies all over absolutely wild keeping that kind of thing amongst its biggest secrets.

        Three: It’s lack of bigness is not shown by them failing to kill this guy outright—if indeed they didn’t kill him and he did commit suicide. (And if they didn’t push him to the suicide.) There was some admission by some Israeli involved in the Vanunu biz who said that if Vanunu hadn’t been jewish he definitely would have gotten the quadruple-tap solution (two in the chest, two in the head), so we know of their sensitivity to this. (Although that decision was made at the political level; at the operational level I recall Pollard’s handler saying that if he had been on station when Pollard came running in to the embassy with the FBI on his heels he would have put a bullet in his head right then and there. But that would have been an on-the-spot decision; not the sort made here for prison.)

        Four: If one really wanted to try to possibly intuit more to reasonably consider to come to some better suspicions—since we’ll never know the truth here I don’t think—you’d go back to the timeline known on this and especially at the crucial stage (when he went from agent to danger) look at that point in time in context of what was going on with Israel, the U.S., Iran and etc. at the time.

        In other words as opposed to this guy being involved in something long-lasting deeply secretive as I noted above it may have had its time-sensitive nature about it too. So what was going on especially in 2010, I’d first take a look back to see. Or maybe 2009 leading up to 2010. Any funny little blips of this or that thing sticking out? Particularly anything that seemed potentially adverse to Israel that had to be quashed?

        Noting the good chance that this guy was put through this for his silence, that might indicate that there was a worry he was about to pull a Vanunu and tell his story in reaction to seeing Israel telling some particular big whopper right back then. So .. what potential big whoppers was Israel telling back then is the question?

        (A difficult one given Israel’s *serial* telling of big whoppers, but you know what I mean.)

        Fifth, and again: Forget about ever really knowing the truth here in terms of reasonable probabilities. There is already a Disinformation team standing by watching all this, readying and updating Narrative Options A, B and C for how to divert the story from reality depending on what further comes out that’s real. And indeed watch out for what just *seems* to come out further since early diverting can be the best, where you yourself put out so many wrong leads that later on nobody believes even the right leads.

        Sort of like … you yourself planting all kinds of evidence to incriminate yourself in something in some way, but evidence that will lead nowhere or can be later disproved and can later be ridiculed, allowing you to ridicule whatever other true lines of inquiry there may be.

        But forget about ever really knowing the truth here, unless you are ten and expect to live another 90 years.

      • Sin Nombre
        Sin Nombre
        February 13, 2013, 6:42 pm

        While we’re all at the mercy of events in terms of learning anything more/real about this there is one thing here that stands out and brings up an opportunity.

        Apparently this kid was the son of an Aussie guy who was big in the formal jewish Aussie organization(s), and at least the son held dual citizenship it seems and that’s always seemed crap to me. Indeed I suspect it was pushed so as to allow mischief.

        While we also have little ability to directly change that law we do have the power to throw some wrenches in it, such as writing in where relevant and questionable, and demanding in response to news and opinion pieces that the media organizations reveal the *full* citizenship status of their reporters and opinion writers/columnists and etc. And doing so over and over so that the likely non-responses you get to same become obviously motivated by fear/bias/rejection of transparency and etc.

        And draw the parallels: They don’t run editorials or news stories about guns by Wayne LaPierre without mentioning his NRA connection, why hide citizenship status when what’s being talked about is potentially relevant to same?

        Enough people started doing this, over and over, especially to the major outlets/periodicals and I can easily see them feeling that they just have to cave to maintain any sort of credibility. Once again, the simple question they can’t answer is just “what are you hiding otherwise?,” and that’s a devastating cloud hanging over your head day after day, time after time.

    • DICKERSON3870
      February 13, 2013, 12:09 am

      RE: “Australians now concern themselves with the death by hanging of one of their citizens (who had apparently been recruited by the Mossad) in an Israeli jail.” ~ Ellen

      ALSO SEE:

      “Prisoner X was Mossad Agent, Ben Zygier”, By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 2/12/13
      LINK –

      “Fallout from Zygier Case”, By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 2/12/13
      LINK –

  3. annie
    February 12, 2013, 8:15 pm

    the City University of New York is opening an investigation into the matter.

    omg. next they’ll be a lawsuit!

  4. The Hasbara Buster
    The Hasbara Buster
    February 13, 2013, 6:50 am

    In one of the comments to Melanie Goldberg’s Facebook account, Ari Ziegler, another of the students kicked out of the event, states:

    I fail to see how my behavior, sitting, listening, and taking notes, or even my brother’s whispering to me about an aspect of the info sheet he didn’t understand, can be construed as behavior that would make someone feel “incredibly uncomfortable.”

    Here he recognizes they were whispering things to each other. While he may not feel uncomfortable if other people do that, the average person attending and event where you’ve got to pay a lot of attention, be it a play or a BDS conference, is very much distracted by whispering. So that what Emma Snyders claims –“I was directly in front of you and had to ask you to be quiet numerous times before you were asked to leave”– appears to be quite probably true.

  5. Reds
    February 13, 2013, 7:27 am

    One sided coverage of a event, taking an pro-israeli side?


  6. hophmi
    February 13, 2013, 2:29 pm

    The comments on Goldberg’s page are overwhelmingly in her favor.

    From Ari Ziegler:

    ” Emma, I’m sorry that you felt uncomfortable and I agree with you that Judith Butler is an amazingly articulate speaker and spoke quite logically from what I heard (I was one of the students removed before the end of her prepared remarks.) However, I must say that there was only one instance of speech from us that might be construed as disruptive or unsettling and that was after we were asked to hand over our info sheets or be forcibly removed. The instance of yelling “This is a violation of our freedom of speech,” was as we were leaving, as you rightly pointed out. But it was not in response to the event at all. Rather it was in response to the apparent reason that the organizing member was giving us for kicking us out, that we wouldn’t hand in our info sheets which would later inform our questions had we been allowed to ask. I’m curious what it was that we said that was not quiet or respectful, and since you were directly in front of us then perhaps you can tell me a bit about that.

    Personally, I came to the event to hear and attempt to understand the BDS movement. Their goals, their aspirations, what would be a success in their eyes. Not to agree, disagree, or debate them. But to understand what they had to say and what they might have to say to their critics (which is what the info sheets had: past criticisms of the movement’s actions and consequences). I came to ask questions and try to understand an opposing viewpoint. There was another student who contacted me who also sat directly in front of me (as can be seen in one of the photos in SJP Brooklyn College’s facebook page album) and he actually needed me to explain to him how we disrupted and why we were kicked out because he didn’t hear any disruption at all.

    You’re right, there was a lot of tension in the room, but I fail to see how my behavior, sitting, listening, and taking notes, or even my brother’s whispering to me about an aspect of the info sheet he didn’t understand, can be construed as behavior that would make someone feel ‘incredibly uncomfortable.'”

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