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Ben White brings ‘apartheid’ talk to Brooklyn College dep’t (which hasn’t hosted Dershowitz in 39 years)

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Do progressive Americans care about the Israel/Palestine issue? I think they do. Last night Josh Ruebner spoke at Brooklyn College and supported BDS (then rode Amtrak back to DC) and tonight Ben White will be speaking there, despite a vigorous campaign to shun him. His subject is Israel: Apartheid not Democracy. The British author will “unpack the facts” about segregation and colonization in Palestine.

Check out these amazing photos of pro-Palestine activists bracing for the two speeches. The one above is particularly moving, because it is so defiantly about the status of the Other in American society– a category that minorities and majorities, from blacks to Jews to women, have defiantly occupied when they sought their rights.  IMG_6680 copy

More photos here and below, from friends at We Will Not be Silent.

Naturally, the New York Daily News is going nuts over Ben White’s appearance. It publishes an attack by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin:

Does Brooklyn College have a Jewish problem?

For the second time this year, the university’s political science department has outraged the Jewish community by agreeing to co-sponsor events hosted by Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization whose sole mission is to engage in campus activities that demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

And this editorial slamming Brooklyn College’s administration, for not having more pro-Israel speakers on campus. I wonder how many students are demanding such appearances?

Now, [Political Science Chair Paisley] Currah’s department is again pushing talks by anti-Israel speakers — Josh Ruebner and Ben White — who view the very establishment of the Jewish state as illegitimately and immorally oppressing Arabs. And [Brooklyn College president Karen] Gould and Currah can’t get their stories straight about what role the college is playing and under what standards….

After the controversy early this year, Brooklyn College drafted a manual defining what it is to co-sponsor, support and sponsor a speech. How’d that work out? Gould’s office and Currrah are fighting over whether the poli-sci department is “co-sponsoring” or “supporting” this week’s talks, with both sides saying the department doesn’t endorse the events…

In an email exchange with this Editorial Board, Currah said there were a “variety of speakers we have co-sponsored in the past , including pro-Israel speakers like Elliott Abrams, Alan Dershowitz, and Leonard Garment.” He also said that “our department has never refused a request from a student group or an academic department to co-sponsor a talk,” suggesting that poli-sci had supported a pretty full range of ideas.

Pressed further, Currah revealed that Dershowitz lectured in 1974 and Garment in 1998 — which only serves to highlight how scarce the department’s pro-Israel speakers have been. Abrams spoke this year. Count him a lone voice in the wilderness.

As for the full list of co-sponsorships, Currah sent what appeared to be 10 events. Five were presentations on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. The others included talks by Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, Glenn Greenwald and Abrams. There was also a Shirley Chisholm Day and an Anita Hill Conference.

Here’s the scorecard: three lectures by pro-Israel figures, who may or may not have talked about Israel, over nearly four decades. Three lectures by virulently anti-Israel advocates in the space of 10 months. That is not balance.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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19 Responses

  1. pabelmont on November 14, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Israel: “The Jewish State”? “The State Which Borders Jordan and Egypt and Lebanon and Syria (and Palestine)”? “The Apartheid State”?

    At least the last two are accurate. At least, I believe there is no other state well known as an apartheid state. Maybe Israel is only (oh, the disgrace!) “An Apartheid State”.

    The first is a hope for some folks, a fear for others (Palestinians, for example), and a falsehood for others (simply because it ignores 20% of its own population).

    Is America a “Hispanic State”?

  2. just on November 14, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Those pictures are amazing! I especially love the one at the top with the lovely girl and her stark message. I also love her sweet smile, her stance, her scarf and her keffiyeh juxtaposed with the man walking away from her, clutching his kippah to his head as though a fierce wind might blow it off.

    Thanks Phil, and good luck to Ben White and his honorable tour.

  3. annie on November 14, 2013, 1:04 pm

    i love these photos

  4. Blaine Coleman on November 14, 2013, 1:19 pm

    The top photo is the best. She comes closest to making a demand. Her sign features four words, taken almost verbatim from William Lloyd Garrison’s defiant declaration against slavery in 1831: “I WILL BE HEARD.”

    She is perhaps the bravest student in the Palestine solidarity movement.

    The other photos show an excellent protest posture, but with signs that demand nothing. The signs express 1% of the wholly justified outrage in these students’ hearts.

    They whine that Israeli “democracy” is flawed. Come on! Is that the best we can do?

    Millions of Arabs have been exterminated by four successive U.S. Presidents, and by many more Israeli Prime Ministers.

    Isn’t one student ready to just say “Boycott Israel” in any public place– until she or he is finally heard?

    Now read and learn from William Lloyd Garrison. His words, in 1831:

    “I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”

    That is the spirit you need — otherwise, Palestine will continue to be strangled to death while you snivel.

    • just on November 14, 2013, 5:45 pm

      Can’t you ever, just once, appreciate the strength and imagination of these students? Instead you show them disdain because they don’t follow your script and particular ’cause’.

      I appreciate what they do and however they choose to do it– in the spirit that they are supporting justice for the Palestinians.

      Your use of the word “snivel” is completely undeserved.

      • Blaine Coleman on November 14, 2013, 7:12 pm

        In reply to “just”:

        First, your anonymous handle tells me how terrified this so-called movement is. Yes, caution makes sense — but not 11 years of a BDS-free BDS “movement”. What kind of human rights movement simply can’t be found, on any campus, From September to March?

        Again, on what campus does this BDS “movement” publicly exist this semester? Pardon me for the rude question – but when will they audibly demand BDS against Israel? When?

        I guess your level of comfort depends on how urgently you feel that Apartheid Israel needs to be abolished. You seem very comfortable to see a dozen students with innocuous protest signs that demand nothing. I feel sick to know that those kids are the best and the bravest – and that 99% of campuses are doing even less.

        You have a lot of love for the students, even if it takes them 11 more years to publicly demand any form of action against Israel.

        But I expect more. These kids have Twitter and can materialize anywhere, anytime, on 30 minutes’ notice. Yet 99% of them can’t find their way to their own student government to demand a simple boycott against Israel. Why? After 11 years, why?

        I attended the first national divestment conference in Berkeley, over 11 years ago. So many “strategy” sessions. So much talk of “education”.

        But after that conference, there was never a sustained public demand to boycott, divest from, or cut all ties to Israel. Never on any campus, except for Wayne State University in 2003. Then (very briefly) on a few other campuses.

        Over those 11 years, a tiny handful of divestment campaigns snuck into their student governments in April and then – poof! – graduated, before any newspaper even knew about it. The BDS “movement” only wants a safe room to gripe in, privately. Will they ever march on any university office to demand any action against Israel, you know, like a real human rights movement does?

        11 years of “BDS” has consisted almost entirely of private sniveling emails, private postings on Websites unknown to the public, and a few private sniveling events.

        I expect wounded whimpering from a beaten dog, but not from thousands of bright students who could truly create a BDS movement nationwide in 7 days.

        Yes, I expect more from them.

        At the February 2002 national divestment conference, I said, OK, let’s all go demand divestment resolutions at our campuses, this month. Quickly a conference leader announced that — no — first we must “research”. Next we must have a website. Next– well, you know what came next: nothing, for 11 years. Just more private events, a few conferences that resulted in… more conferences.

        Again, this semsester, on what campus can you see a tangible movement to boycott Israel, 11 years after the first national divestment conference?

      • ToivoS on November 15, 2013, 5:18 am

        Blaine you complain too much about what others should do. I have been active in political causes for many years. I am old enough to remember the Sharpesville massacre. Between then and when Apartheid collapsed in 1990 or so I do not recall a single campus group (I have been in that environment over that period) that actively worked for BDS against S. Africa that lasted for more than a semester or two. That is the nature of student campus politics — those damn students who pushed for this just up and graduated. But guess what happened — BDS eventually worked and the whole rotten system collapsed.

        It turns out that there are many other issues that activist oriented people deal with. Between 1959 and 1990 we had the US Civil Rights Movement, the peace movement against nuclear weapons, the Vietnam war, US wars in Central America and other issues. It is still the case that justice for the Palestinians is not the most important issue facing the planet, though through linkage with other issues it is gaining prominence. That is the nature of this kind of political action.

        Right now the issue that is my top priority is stopping the US from making war against Iran. Thanks to Netanyahu he is linking that issue to Israel and the movement for Palestinian justice . I am not sure why he wants to make that linkage, but it can only work against Israel in this case.

    • oneof5 on November 14, 2013, 5:49 pm

      “The top photo is the best.”

      “She comes closest to making a demand.”
      It’s way, way better than that – she affirmatively asserts an outcome as a foregone conclusion … rather than seeking the acquiescence and permission of those that would oppose and silence her.

    • NorthCascadian on November 15, 2013, 1:09 am

      Once again I agree that the message needs to be sharper, more demands, though I am glad the students are at least trying. A warning: at least in Portland holding a sign in public that said “Boycott Israhell: Rachael we will not forget you” earned me my very own poster by an anonymous hate group called the “rose city anti-fascists” whom called me all the typical hate names reserved for those whom must be silenced. The poster called for the worker owned bike cooperative, of which I was a founding member, to be boycotted until they fired me, which under pressure they did, but not until they had put up posters all over town, and even printed bumper stickers calling for the boycotting of the only anti-war, activist orientated, worker owned bike cooperative in town. Another thing about this poster was it featured a picture of me holding that sign, which I think sent the message that none dare oppose Israhell. Sadly the entire west coast worker cooperative movement has been stopped dead in its tracks from joining the boycott movement through such out and out oppression of political speech, and subversive infiltration of key staff positions.

    • pabelmont on November 15, 2013, 11:54 am

      Blaine — Thank yo very much for the quote.

      I join you in wishing that there were more muscle, more energy, more OUTRAGE in the pro-Palestine movement. We see, we feel, we know the occupation (begun, as some see it, in 1948) as OUTRAGEOUS but we often mumble our protest. I suppose this comes from the general discomfort people experience in making ANY protest about a dominant national policy. Also the discomfort we feel about getting too close to expressions of antisemitism (as we are often accused of doing).

      So, yes, in my view, it would be better if we were (on the whole) MORE OUTSPOKEN and more OUTRAGED.

      I hope many will read what you have written and by moved by it in that manner. Those who criticize you for knocking the demonstrators shown above (second picture) also have a point — let us encourage each other, not knock each other. We need all the allies we can find.

      • Blaine Coleman on November 15, 2013, 12:29 pm

        To pabelmont:

        Thanks for your kind insight.

        You are right on all points. We need to express outrage against the bastards, we need to demand boycott against Israel today, every day, and we also need to be supportive of each other.

        I deserve the blame for being hypercritical of timid efforts by well-meaning students, but my excuse is that I have seen too many years of that timidity, followed by too many Israeli massacres against Gaza and Lebanon.

        Boycott boycott boycott.

      • just on November 17, 2013, 4:16 pm

        Blaine, that was an extremely gracious post. Thanks for that.


      • Susan A on November 19, 2013, 11:44 am

        Glad you posted this Blaine because I was beginning to get fed up with the bitterness; I can understand it, and often feel intense anger, but we have to be above that. I thought what the students did was beautiful and is at least making people unaware, more aware of the truth. Sometimes a silent demonstration like this is far more effective than angry shouting and screaming. Let’s leave the ugly anger to our adversaries and keep on pushing in whatever ways we can. And please stop putting just in inverted commas because it really annoys me. Glad just is as gracious as your previous post proved to be.

  5. Cliff on November 14, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Basically what the ‘Jewish community’ is saying here is, ‘screw academic freedom’ – you either love Israel OR ignore that the conflict exists in Israel/Palestine.

  6. Steve Macklevore on November 14, 2013, 3:36 pm

    So, the New York Daily News calls for ‘balance’ does it?

    I think we should welcome that call full on. Whose up to writing to the editor and asking when was the last time the News published an Op-Ed which had a pro-Palestinian viewpoint, and when was the last time it published one with a pro-Israel viewpoint?

    And over the course of say… the last five years, what has the ratio been between pro-Israel op-ed columns and pro-Palestinian ones?

    Do I detect the foul stink of hypocrisy and double standards? Let the News make it’s case for ‘balance.’

  7. Henry Norr on November 14, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I’m with Phil, just, Annie, and Blaine – the top photo in particular is spectacular. (I’m going to make it the wallpaper on my tablet.) Check out more great pictures from this event, and many others, at the We Will Not Be Silent project’s Facebook page.

  8. Blaine Coleman on November 14, 2013, 9:17 pm

    Ben White deserves credit for his Brooklyn College presentation tonight. He did not shy away from speaking on the movement for boycott and divestment (BDS) against Israel, during the Question-and-Answer period.

    Ben expressed gratitude that a questioner brought up BDS, and recommended that people really do take advantage of BDS’ momentum around the world.

    He emphasized that BDS provides an answer to the question of “what do I do now?” He added that people should look for any opportunities to push boycott-type strategies and tactics.

    He deserves thanks for that.

    Now it’s up to his student audience to take action on that advice, before the semester is over, at Brooklyn College and elsewhere. These students are bright enough to figure it out – the louder you call for BDS, the faster Palestine is free.

  9. Hostage on November 16, 2013, 12:32 pm

    For the second time this year, the university’s political science department has outraged the Jewish community by agreeing to co-sponsor events hosted by Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization whose sole mission is to engage in campus activities that demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

    Establishing a Jewish state in the middle of Palestine without the consent of the population was never a legitimate proposition in the first place.

    As the name suggests, the group exists to promote “Justice” in Palestine.

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