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Brooklyn College under attack from Dershowitz and Hikind over author talk on Israeli ‘apartheid’

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Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via russelltribunalonpalestine.com)

Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via russelltribunalonpalestine.com)

Brooklyn College is once again on the defensive from local pro-Israel forces.

Brooklyn Democrats have harshly criticized the school and academic departments over an event featuring Ben White, an author and activist who is critical of Israel. He is set to speak at the school November 14.

The fracas comes nearly a year after Brooklyn College found itself at the center of a storm over the school’s hosting of an event featuring proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Like last year’s controversy, this year’s features ardent supporters of the state of Israel accusing the speaker of anti-Semitism and the school’s departments of supporting the event, which will feature White arguing that Israel is an apartheid state.

“It is predictable and unfortunate that defenders of Israeli apartheid seek to smear me as an individual in order to distract from the ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights,” White told me in an e-mail. “I oppose anti-Semitism as a form of racism, and in fact, it is precisely because of opposition to racism that I am in solidarity with the Palestinians’ struggle for their basic rights in the face of Israeli policies of systematic discrimination.”

Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the school are the ones organizing the event.  The Political Science Department and the Sociology Department have agreed to co-sponsor the event, though the school says that does not connote endorsement of the speaker and the event.

“Ben White is not just anti-Israel, he is also an anti-Semite,” state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an influential Orthodox Jewish politician who got into hot water for wearing blackface as part of a Purim costume, told the website Matzav.com. “Brooklyn College’s continued co-sponsorship of anti-Israel hatefests is abhorrent.”

Fueling the outrage at Brooklyn College is the claim that the departments are “supporting” the event, though the claim rests on a misunderstanding of new Brooklyn College policies on student events.

The first salvo in the campaign against White and Brooklyn College came on November 4, when New York Daily News reporter Reuven Blau published a piece calling White “a controversial author who has likened Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi Holocaust is bringing his act to Brooklyn College.”1451520_10100708320427350_1768162782_n

“It’s unfortunate that Brooklyn College seems to be consistent in sending a message to their Jewish students that they are not respected on campus,” Brooklyn City Councilman David Greenfield told the Daily News.

The reporter, Blau, charged that White defended “Iranian hatemonger” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that White has “defended anti-Semitic comments made by the former German politician Jurgen Mullemann, who likened the Israel’s policies to those of the Nazis.” The proof offered up is White’s 2007 statement that “Palestinians…in the name of a social-democratic experiment, had to endure massacres, death marches and ethnic cleansing.”

In 2009, White explained that his 2006 piece on Ahmadinejad was “critiquing the mainstream analysis of some recent remarks by Ahmadinejad, and the politicised context in which they were being framed.” He went on to say, “I make no bones about it – Ahmadinejad is either a Holocaust denier himself, or cowardly encourages those who are (and probably both).”

Joining the campaign against White is state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sent a letter to the interim chancellor of the City University of New York, a system Brooklyn College is a part of. “Publicly funded institutions do not have the right to spew hatred without permitting an equal response,” he wrote, according to the website SheepsheadBites.com.

But it’s the claim that the college is “supporting” the event that is driving the story. Alan Dershowitz, the pro-Israel attorney, told the Daily News that “If these departments deny they are taking sides, I challenge them to ‘support’ a speech by me on the Mideast.” Dershowitz’s criticism that academic departments are “supporting” the speech is rooted in new guidelines disseminated by the college on student events, likely drawn up in response to last year’s torrent of criticism over an event on BDS.

Under the new draft guidelines–whether it is the official policy of the college is unclear–the word “supporter” takes the place of what used to be known as “co-sponsor.” A “supporter,” the new guidelines explain in a footnote, is the “preferred term that is used at Brooklyn College to describe the type of assistance provided in a manner that was previously described as a ‘co-sponsor,’ meaning the group lends its name only for the purpose of encouraging attendance at the event.” To a lay person, though, “supporter” means something much different.

The Brooklyn College Political Science Department released a statement clarifying that they “decided explicitly to co-sponsor these events; it is not a ‘supporter,’ advocate, champion, or endorser of these events and the views that will be expressed there.”

The college released a similar statement from Director of News and Information Keisha-Gaye Anderson, who also said, “Brooklyn College will continue to support the right of student clubs to host programs of interest to them, including those that may be controversial.” The statement also emphasized that “there are a number of scheduled and proposed events this semester hosted by the Israel Club.”

Those explanations, though, are unlikely to tamp down the furor over White’s talk.

Both Hikind and Dershowitz are no stranger to campaigns targeting those critical of Israel–especially at Brooklyn College. Last year, they led the charge against Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, who spoke at the college on BDS. The event went on as planned despite calls to cancel it and threats from a City Councilman to cut funding for the college.

But it was marred by controversy over the fact that four Jewish students were tossed out of the event. A report by a law firm and CUNY concluded that there was no anti-Semitism in the decision to toss them out–despite the claims from Israel advocates–though there was no justification for the tossing either.

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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27 Responses

  1. Cliff
    Cliff
    November 5, 2013, 8:36 pm

    afaik, the justification for tossing out the Zionist students – because that was their identifier, not being Jewish – was that they were being disruptive

    there were other Jewish students in attendance. it’s not like the organizers said no Jews allowed

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    November 5, 2013, 9:39 pm

    You know, if some students were to decry a future lecture — which proposed to propound the doctrine that the earth is spheroidal — on the grounds that they believe that the earth is flat (EVEN AS A RELIGIOUS BELIEF), they would be laughed off the campus. How is it any different to decry a lecture which proposes to describe Israel’s policies and practices and examine them in relation to the category of “apartheid” in international law and treaties? How can discussions of matters of fact and law make ANYONE uncomfortable — other than a wilful believer in (and perhaps loud proponent of) a theory that is counter-factual?

    Perhaps the Jewish students’ fear is that the proposed speaker is going to make claims of fact (as to Israeli policies and practices and history) which would be mistaken or lies; in that case, surely it is for the fearful students to identify the mistakes/lies they think will be spoken and explain exactly why they believe these will be spoken and why they believe they are mistaken or lies.

    But if their real fear is that the proposed speaker will make true statements of fact which will make them uncomfortable, then they should go into psychotherapy to attempt to deal with their discomfort at hearing the truth. I have never heard of any student, not even a Jewish student, who proposed that the Holocaust should NOT be discussed out of concern for the feelings of Germans generally (or German students).

  3. nils11
    nils11
    November 5, 2013, 11:12 pm

    This is pretty standard fare to try to keep a discussion hidden.

    They are losing the fight.

    Have a read of “Knowing too Much” to see how the truth and facts about Israel are getting out and why political zionists hate this.

  4. Krauss
    Krauss
    November 5, 2013, 11:59 pm

    This seems to become a yearly tradition.

    My guess is it has to do more with keeping Dershowitz and Hikind visible in the media than anything else. They still fail, and if anything they give Ben White free PR. Does anyone except old white Zionists like Dershowitz even believe those kind of charges anymore? Everyone know they are political charges. They give you a certain kind of street cred. “Yeah, he was attacked by the bigots Dershowitz and Hikind. It means he must be better than a lot of people”.

    Being attacked by supporters of Apartheid is a badge to be worn.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      November 6, 2013, 9:26 am

      krauss:

      My guess is it has to do more with keeping Dershowitz and Hikind visible in the media than anything else.

      dershowitz:

      “If these departments deny they are taking sides, I challenge them to ‘support’ a speech by me on the Mideast.”

      dershowitz’s life philosophy in a word: “me”. apparently he didn’t emotionally develop beyond the adolescent, self-centered victimhood of ‘me’, to the post-adolescent self-centeredness of ‘I’, never mind the maturity of empathy. he makes my skin crawl.

  5. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    November 6, 2013, 3:18 am

    I’ve heard Ben speak, and have read his writings. He’s a serious, consistent scholar of the (very modest) Palestine solidarity movement. And I’m glad Mondoweiss is showcasing the sick censorship attempts against him. Ben writes and speaks in favor of boycotts and sanctions against Israel, too. At Michigan, I had to prompt him to bring up the subject, but he was finally willing to speak up for it at the tail end of the meeting.

    So why am I uncomfortable reading Mondoweiss’s coverage? What’s wrong with this picture?

    What’s wrong is that Arab students are missing from the public discussion. Muslim students are missing. Certainly there is no public Palestinian face leading this movement. And it’s a movement for what? Boycotting Israel at Brooklyn College?

    No, it’s a much more modest movement. Too modest, after all these years of blood and ruin for Palestine. It’s only a movement to invite a white guy to give a scholarly presentation. And Mondoweiss is the only loud public coverage I have seen. Mondoweiss is the only Web site where you can find this (very modest) Movement for Palestine.

    And, as I say, it’s not a movement to boycott Israel, by and large. It’s a movement to whine and grumble, nothing more. It ought to be a movement to publicly defy, publicly boycott, publicly isolate Israel as the stinking racist state it is. You know, the way Apartheid South Africa was defied and boycotted.

    Even the existing movement (the modest grumble and whine movement) is not publicly led by Arab students. It’s led by Mondoweiss. Much credit goes to Mondoweiss for that, but damn it, is that the best we can do?

    Where are the Arab students? Will they ever speak up for boycott? They dearly wish that someone else will take on that job, but, guys, no one else will.

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      November 6, 2013, 7:28 am

      I agree. I think Arabs and Muslim Americans are trying to fit in here. There’s a minority who care about Palestine. But it’s not as easy to speak up as it is for Jewish Americans.

      Jewish Americans do not have to worry about their history or religion being attacked by mainstream culture.

      Factor in the ‘War on Terror’ and slandering of Palestinian identity by the MSM – and it’s not so difficult to see why people would be afraid to speak up.

      Ben White and other intellectuals like him are brave simply for choosing to publicly discuss this issue. Not because of the history.

      But because of how the organized Jewish community attacks and harasses their political opponents.

      Consider the recent anti-academic freedom/anti-freedom of expression stories we’ve seen. There was a college in Florida I think that forced Palestinian solidarity activists to be ‘re-educated’ by the ADL.

      Really weird and bizarre Orwellian crap going on. And it’s ONLY when it comes to Israel that this hysteria starts.

      We are individualists going up against a hive-mind.

      • Blaine Coleman
        Blaine Coleman
        November 6, 2013, 9:16 am

        The current Palestine “movement” is like a Civil Rights Movement where Martin, Malcolm, and Fred Hampton were never born, where the Montgomery Bus Boycott never happened, where the 1960-61 wave of lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides never happened, where there was no 1963 March on Detroit followed by a March on Washington.

        Its teeth are pulled and its voice is muted below a whisper in any public forum.

        It’s like a Civil Rights Movement where Black students are far, far in the background and the only visible leaders are old white guys who grumble that race prejudice is wrong, and that somebody ought to do something about it.

        Black America would still be living under Lynch Law if the civil rights movement had looked like that.

        Yet that is exactly where the Palestine Freedom Movement still is.

        Have you seen any marches on Washington, to demand that Washington “Cut All Ties” to Israel? No, you haven’t.

        Yet such marches and demands were common during the late 1970’s and early ’80’s when it came to Apartheid South Africa. There was nothing controversial about saying “Cut All Ties to the Apartheid State”.

        Phil and Annie and Alex are doing a very useful piece of journalism with Mondoweiss, sure. And a few hundred Arab students have revived enough to hold an annual Palestine conference (it has ceased to be called a “divestment conference”), just for the comfort of being around like-minded people in the same room for a weekend.

        But that is all there is, and it means a century of slavery for the Arab world, especially for Palestine. I still hope for more from the students, a nationwide campus movement demanding boycott against Israel.

        Look how easy it’s been to push resolutions to “divest from fossil fuels” or to boycott Adidas or Coke in order to defend mistreated labor union members 10,000 miles away. Don’t tell me that Israeli tanks will roll across Harvard Square if you push for a boycott-Israel resolution in the Harvard student government. There will be no resistance except for stupid insults from a handfull of powerless Zionist loudmouths.

        Yes, I said powerless. Idealistic Arab students with cardboard protest signs can easily overthrow the political dominance of 125 Zionist Federations, which are essentially old guys with checkbooks and a small paid staff that screams on cue for Israel.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        November 6, 2013, 9:59 am

        You made my point, better than I could have done, Cliff.

        Even the existing movement (the modest grumble and whine movement) is not publicly led by Arab students.

        This argument reminds me of a very old recurring meme from the pro-Israel hardcore camp here in earlier Mondoweiss times. Not verbatim but somewhat like: “everyone that supports Palestinian is a looser”. Only “grumbles and whines” feels somewhat close. Who exactly belong in the “grumble and whine” camp? …

        What’s wrong is that Arab students are missing from the public discussion. Muslim students are missing.

        He ignores the fact that Alex Kane which wrote the article he responds to here and which he applauds may well be the “Arab” or Palestinian American he his missing in the debate. Alex goes back a long time on Mondoweiss, at least at the time he surfaced here, he still was a student. Apart from being one of Phil’s interesting protégés I also seem to have created a synapse “Palestinian American”. But does it matter, really? Would it matter with which of the monotheist religion Alex was brought up? And why exactly?

        Somewhat mixed imagery. Applause for White, accompanied by a critique of Arabs and Arab students and Muslim, or more precisely a complaint about their assumed absense.

        How many “Arab” students or members do the groups supporting this event have? Rashid Khalidi’s Brooklyn talk to explore how the U.S. undermines Middle East peace Has Blaine checked? Could Rashid Khalidi serve as a Palestinian voice and does it matter he already finished his studies?

        Ben White a “white man”?

        It’s only a movement to invite a white guy to give a scholarly presentation.

        Somewhat contradicts this:

        I’ve heard Ben speak, and have read his writings. He’s a serious, consistent scholar of the (very modest) Palestine solidarity movement.

        A mixed message. I would like to grasp the emotional basis triggering the complaint. I do not.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 6, 2013, 6:24 pm

        “everyone that supports Palestinian is a looser”.

        But not a loser?

      • southernobserver
        southernobserver
        November 6, 2013, 8:54 pm

        I venture to suggest that there is no contradiction. It very much sounds like simple concern that the low key nature of current protests and advocacy is valuable but probably not enough to move a solution forwards.

        Nothing will happen until apologists for Israel have to start by saying, well, yes Israel is an unjustified, racist, war-mongering, apartheid state that violates all western expectation but nevertheless….

      • Blaine Coleman
        Blaine Coleman
        November 7, 2013, 10:34 am

        In reply to southernobserver:

        Yes, exactly.

      • pabelmont
        pabelmont
        November 6, 2013, 10:06 am

        Cliff: I agree and add: in the 1930s, American Jews were afraid to be Zionists or to oppose Hitler because they feared that entry into divisive politics would harm the Jewish-American communities. they were fearful. Antisemitism was alive and active, as I understand, in those days. Prof Dershowitz, speaking as such (and not as The Dersh ™) at a synagogue near Boston, 1980s, told about the struggle to get Jewish students into Harvard and Jewish professors into the Harvard faculty.

        I think that is where Arabs and Muslims are today in America, cautious and rightfully afraid. We Americans are (to a large extent) a racist people and we no longer have Blacks and Jews to kick around (due to political correctness to say nothing of overwhelming power in Jewish hands, particularly in media). So Arabs and Muslims keep their heads down.

        Also, recent immigrants may come from countries that lack traditions of public criticism of government policies. It takes time to learn how to be an effective American.

      • Blaine Coleman
        Blaine Coleman
        November 6, 2013, 10:46 am

        I have no disagreement with anything said here, about how Arab and Muslim students are rightfully afraid to be harmed for advocating a simple humanitarian boycott against Israel. Yes, they are rightfully fearful — but I say they are taking that fear to the point of paralysis, and paralysis is where the truly non-existent campus boycott movement is.

        Certainly I do not want to push any student to be publicly defiant against Israel if they genuinely fear that Zionists will harm them.

        And so there is no such thing as a publicly visible movement on any campus, on any campus, to demand a boycott resolution against Israel.

        When Arab students find their voice, they will be more starkly clear than anyone who has gone before them. Until then, we are reduced to reading the tea leaves with Phil, about what Beinart is writing and where he is writing it. At best, we get a scholarly talk from Ben White, a good man equipped with good footnotes, but unable or unwilling to lead any marches on a student government — possibly because no one would follow him.

        This is why, until Arab students find their voice, they will be led by Ben (who just wants to present some scholarship) and by Beinart (whose first interest is Israel always), and by their own subterranean campus groups who are paralyzed with fear and just want to comfort each other as Palestine is dissolved.

        There is a way out, but it involves loud, 1960’s-style demands, this time against Israel. Who will start that process, on any campus? Who?

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        November 6, 2013, 11:43 am

        pabelmont, you say:

        ” Prof Dershowitz, speaking as such (and not as The Dersh ™) at a synagogue near Boston, 1980s, told about the struggle to get Jewish students into Harvard and Jewish professors into the Harvard faculty.”

        The Dersh might tell that at a Synagogue, but the facts do not support that claim. (But we know about the credibility of Dersh and his so-called research.) Maybe Dershs meant to add “more.”

        After all, Felix Frankfurter, a graduate of Harvard sat on the Supreme Court Bench at that time. Louis Brandeis entered Harvard Law in 1875. It is not like these were the only two Jews of Harvard.

        By 1922, 25% of the students enrolled at Harvard were Jewish.

        By the late 18th century, Jews were studying at Harvard, the first graduating in 1720, well before the school became officially secular in 1805.

        The first Catholic (a South American) entered in 1877, almost 150 later.

  6. thankgodimatheist
    thankgodimatheist
    November 6, 2013, 4:25 am

    There should be a jail sentence for false accusation of anti-Semitism,.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield
      November 6, 2013, 5:33 am

      Victims of defamation can sue for libel. I’m surprised that none of those falsely accused of anti-Semitism have yet done so (or perhaps some have and we don’t know about it?).

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      November 6, 2013, 6:28 pm

      I disagree. All accusations of anti-Semitism should be met with contemptuous laughter or response like “Yeah, sure.”

  7. seafoid
    seafoid
    November 6, 2013, 8:27 am

    Dersh and his fake Jewish empire of hatred and vengeance

  8. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    November 6, 2013, 9:33 am

    The link to SheepheadBites.com reminds me of an exchange in the UK parliament thirty some odd years ago when one member described criticism from another as ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’.

  9. piotr
    piotr
    November 6, 2013, 9:50 am

    “Pity the Palestinians, who, in the name of a social-democratic experiment, had to endure massacres, death marches and ethnic cleansing,” White said.

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/anti-israel-scholar-support-brooklyn-college-article-1.1505542#ixzz2js7dgAsO

    Appalling and flabbergasting. Why pity Palestinians if they are fictional people? And what is wrong about massacres of such fictional people? Ahh — my head spins, if it was not wrong, than it is not much of an accusation, is it? And what does it have to do with Nazis, and this Juergen fellow? Perhaps what is vile in that sentence is the smear that the Israel experimented with social democracy, and it is a totalitarian regime like North Korea, for example having socialized medicine.

    I would like to self-identify myself as an anti-Semite, but before you believe me, I will explain my method. We have to find a person already found to be an anti-Semite by an authoritative body, approve the verdict and watch piotr belittling the charges, qubbling and defending.

    Like Ben White I will doubt the charges that Jürgen W. Möllemann, a politician in centrist German FDP party was an anti-Semite. Möllemann criticized government of Ariel Sharon for what he perceived to be massacres and indiscriminate destruction during Second Intifada, was criticized in turn by Michel Friedman, the vice chairman of the Central Jewish Council and in turn accused that the latter [citing WSWS] encouraged anti-Semitism in Germany with his “intolerant, spiteful manner” and “unbearable, aggressive and arrogant behaviour.”

    It is quite a leap from concluding that a particular Jewish public figure is intolerant, spiteful, unbearable, aggressive and arrogant to having a general prejudice against Jewish people, a leap that is not supported by the definition of anti-Semitism that was almost adopted by EU or actually adopted by the State Department. Was the request not to resort to tactics of indiscriminate slaughter directed exclusively at Israel and no other country?

    The guidelines actually say little about disparaging individual public figures for traits that are usually associated with all disliked public figures regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation etc. I do not know what was it that Michel Friedman wrote and said, but if he was in any way similar to Hikind and Derschowitz, I would disparage him as well.

    • pabelmont
      pabelmont
      November 6, 2013, 10:22 am

      piotr — always love to read your thoughts here.

      Someone suggested here (or nearby) that Jordan was a semi-Palestine, which I took to be a suggestion that the Palestinians didn’t need any of Mandatory Palestine for their State. After all, etc., etc., Jordan, blah, blah.

      I followed up with, well New York City is a sort of semi-Israel, meaning to suggest that, perhaps, Israelis do not need any of the land of Mandatory Palestine (aka Greater Israel) for their State, etc., etc. , New York City, blah, blah.

      But another thought becomes possible as we consider slurs of antisemitism (as to a Speaker) arising from his criticism of the doings of political bodies. If a Speaker criticizes Israel for massacres and slaughters, but does not also criticize New York City for the same, such a person is clearly not criticizing ALL Israelis, ALL Semites, ALL Jews, etc. so the Speaker cannot be considered a real antisemite.

      How does the non-EU standard definition (and the DoS def?) deal with all this? And what are the LEGAL functions of these definitions?

  10. bilal a
    bilal a
    November 6, 2013, 11:41 am

    Netanyahu:

    ‘They became a sovereign collective in their own territory. Our ability as a collective to determine our own destiny is what grants us the tools to shape our future – no longer as a ruled people, defeated and persecuted, but as a proud people with a magnificent country and one which always aspires to serve as ‘Light Unto the Nations’.
    ..
    The second project, also a modest project, was one that fired the imaginations of young Jews. It was Baron Rothschild’s project. He established villages at several sites after the Palestine Exploration Fund had been here, from Rosh Pina to Petah Tikva. These new communities revived the ancient land though not on a huge scale; there were only several thousand people living there. However, this action ignited a blaze. One of the people who was carried away by this blaze was a young Jew who came here in 1898 – Benjamin Zeev Herzl. He visited all these places and understood what was here, and much more. He dared to dream about what could be. These two blazes are what ignited the greatest empire to rule the world and the new prophet of the Jewish people and many other young Jews – these two blazes merged together and became Zionism.

    http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/pressroom/2010/pages/pm_netanyahu_herzliya_conference_3-feb-2010.aspx

    The Greatest Empire to Rule the World, two blazes, uniting Tel aviv and New York city, a Light Unto the Nations., surveillance of places of worship, occupational intimidation through anti defamation defamation, false flags, give war a chance, billionaires fining the poor who wont buy their flim flam insurance, divide and conquer ethnic gender identity politics, the western cultural body politic dismembered.,financialization, progressive…

    Bloombergism

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