Academic Freedom Threatened by 'Pro'-Israel Crowd

ByrnzieByrnzie Posts: 21,037
edited February 2013 in A Moving Train
This should be of interest to anyone concerned with freedom in America. Elected officials are now deciding what University students can, or can't, be exposed to with regards academic events. I.e, if your university decides to hold an academic event that is critical of Israel then they could have their funding withdrawn.

America is looking more and more like 1930's Germany.

Read it and weep: ... dershowitz

Brooklyn College's academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event

New York politicians join the Alan Dershowitz-led campaign to dictate to colleges what academic events they can hold

Glenn Greenwald, Saturday 2 February 2013

On Tuesday, I wrote about a brewing controversy that was threatening the academic freedom of Brooklyn College (see Item 7). The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school's Political Science department of an event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]. The event is being co-sponsored by numerous student and community groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the college's LGBT group, pro-Palestinian Jewish organizations, and an Occupy Wall Street group.

When I wrote about this earlier in the week, opposition to the event was confined to the usual suspects devoted to so-called "pro-Israel" advocacy, including many with a long history of trying to destroy anyone critical of the Israeli government. The controversy was largely fueled by BC alumnus Alan Dershowitz, who denounced the event in a New York York Daily News Op-Ed as a "hate orgy". Dershowitz - with whom I had a lengthy and contentious email exchange yesterday on this and other topics (see below) - previously led the successful campaign to pressure DePaul University into denying tenure to long-time Israel critic Norman Finkelstein (after his tenure had been approved by an academic committee), all but destroying Finkelstein's career as an academic.

Dershowitz has been joined in his current crusade by a cast of crazed and fanatical Israel-centric characters such as Brooklyn State Assembly member Dov Hikind. Ignoring the BDS movement's explicit non-violence stance, Hikind publicly (and falsely) claimed that the event speakers (to whom he referred as "Barghouti and…the lady") "think Hamas and Hezbollah are nice organizations, and they probably feel the same way about al-Qaida".

Hikind called on the college's President, Karen Gould, to resign, recklessly insinuating (needless to say) that she's an anti-Semite: "Perhaps President Gould wasn't bullied; maybe she secretly approves. . . . I can only speculate to what her motivation or lack of motivation is in allowing this irresponsible endorsement of this loathsome event by her College." In 2011, Hikind led the campaign to force Brooklyn College to fire the young adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton for the crime of writing a pro-Palestinian paper (after firing him, the college rehired him days later).

One of the key members of Brooklyn College's board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, is notorious for having led the 2011 effort to block CUNY from granting an honorary degree to Tony Kushner in light of Kushner's Israel criticisms ("My mother would call Tony Kushner a kapo," Wiesenfeld said of the Jewish playwright). When a New York Times reporter writing about the Kushner controversy asked Wiesenfeld whether one side of the Israel/Palestine debate should be suppressed, Wiesenfeld objected that "the comparison sets up a moral equivalence." When the Times reporter asked him: "equivalence between what and what?", Wiesenfeld replied: "between the Palestinians and Israelis. People who worship death for their children are not human."

Meanwhile, the neocon editorial page of the New York Daily News decreed that "Brooklyn College is no place for an Israel-bashing lecture". Some Jewish students demanded that the Department rescind its sponsorship by cynically conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, complaining that the event will "condone and legitimize anti-Jewish bigotry" and "contribute significantly to a hostile environment for Jewish students on our campus".

In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel. This is not news. Ask Chas Freeman. Or Ocatavia Nasr. Or Finkelstein. Or Juan Cole. Or Stephen Walt. Or Chuck Hagel.

But this controversy has now significantly escalated in seriousness because numerous New York City elected officials have insinuated themselves into this debate by trying to dictate to the school's professors what type of events they are and are not permitted to hold. Led by Manhattan's fanatical pro-Israel "liberal" Congressman Jerrold Nadler and two leading New York mayoral candidates - Council speaker Christine Quinn and former city comptroller William Thompson - close to two dozen prominent City officials have signed onto a letter to college President Gould pronouncing themselves "concerned that an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue" and "calling for Brooklyn College's Political Science Department to withdraw their endorsement of this event." As a result, the "scandal" has now landed in The New York Times, and - for obvious reasons - the pressure on school administrators is immense.

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. Does anyone have trouble seeing how inappropriate it is - how dangerous it is - to have politicians demanding that professors only sponsor events that are politically palatable to those officials? If you decide to pursue political power, you have no business trying to use your authority to pressure, cajole or manipulate college professors regarding what speakers they can invite to speak on campus.

These elected officials are cynically wrapping themselves in the banner of "academic freedom" as they wage war on that same concept. They thus argue in their letter: "by excluding alternative positions from an event they are sponsoring, the Political Science Department has actually stifled free speech by preventing honest, open debate." But if that term means anything, it means that academia is free of interference from the state when it comes to the ideas that are aired on campuses.

The danger posed by these politicians is manifest. Brooklyn College relies upon substantial grants and other forms of funding from the state. These politicians, by design, are making it mandatory for these college administrators to capitulate - to ensure that no campus events run afoul of the orthodoxies of state officials - because obtaining funding for Brooklyn College in the climate that has purposely been created is all but impossible.

There are undoubtedly numerous motives driving these politicians' campaign against this event. It is all but impossible to succeed in New York City politics - or US national politics - without faithfully embracing pro-Israel orthodoxies. That's the nature of politics in general: it requires subservience to empowered factions and majoritarian sentiment. That's what politicians do by their nature: they flatter and affirm convention. That's exactly the reason politicians have no legitimate role to play in influencing or dictating the content of academic events. It's because academia, at least in theory, has the exact opposite role: it is designed to challenge, question and subvert orthodoxies.

That value is utterly obliterated if school administrators live in fear of offending state officials. That is exactly what is happening here, by intent: making every college administrator petrified of alienating these same pro-Israel factions by making an example out of Brooklyn College. That's why anyone who values academic freedom and independence - regardless of one's views of the BDS movement - should be deeply offended and alarmed, as well as mobilized, by what is being done here.

The primary defense being offered by these would-be censors - we just want both sides of the issue to be included in this event - is patently disingenuous. In his lengthy email exchange with me yesterday - printed in full here - Dershowitz told me that his objections were not to the holding of the event itself, but to the sponsorship of it by the Political Science Department, especially given the lack of any BDS opponents. For those reasons, Dershowitz claims, "it is crystal clear that the political science department's co-sponsorship and endorsement of these extremist speakers does constitute an endorsement of BDS."

But nobody proves the disingenuousness of this excuse more than Dershowitz himself. Like the BDS movement, Dershowitz is a highly controversial and polarizing figure who inspires intense animosity around the world. That's due to many reasons, including his defense of virtually every Israeli attack, his advocacy of "torture warrants" whereby courts secretly authorize state torture, his grotesque attempt to dilute what a "civilian" is and replace it with "the continuum of civilianality" in order to justify Israeli aggression, and his chronic smearing of Israel critics such as author Alice Walker as "bigots".

Despite how controversial he is, Dershowitz routinely appears on college campuses to speak without opposition. Indeed, as the Gawker writer who writes under the pen name Mobutu Sese Seko first documented, Dershowitz himself has spoken at Brooklyn College on several occasions without opposition. That includes - as the college's Political Science Professor Corey Robin noted - when he was chosen by the school's Political Science department to deliver the Konefsky lecture in which he spoke at length - and without opposition. He also delivered a 2008 speech at Brooklyn College, alone, in which he discussed a wide variety of controversial views, including torture. As Professor Robin noted, when Dershowitz agreed to speak at the school, "he didn't insist that we invite someone to rebut him or to represent the opposing view."

Nor did any of the New York City politicians objecting to this BDS event as "one-sided" object to Dershowitz's speech given without opposition. Why is that?

In fact, it is incredibly common for academic departments to sponsor controversial speakers without opposition. I speak frequently at colleges and universities, and always express opinions which many people find highly objectionable. As but one example, I spoke at the University of Missouri School of Law last September, in an event sponsored by the law school itself. As this news account from the school's newspaper notes, I spoke at length about the highly controversial ideas in my last book, and that speech was followed by a panel discussion of like-minded civil liberties and civil rights advocates.

The way that happens is exactly how it happened here: a student group decides it wants to invite speakers or host an event and then seeks organizing support from one of the school's departments. That does not remotely connote departmental agreement with all or any of the ideas to be aired; it simply reflects a willingness to help students organize events they think will be beneficial. As Professor Robin told me about the BDS event: "The student group explicitly asked us if we would like to 'endorse' or 'co-sponsor' the event; we explicitly opted for 'co-sponsor.'"

Indeed, by extreme coincidence, the very same Brooklyn College Political Science department selected me to deliver this year's Konefsky lecture - the same lecture previously given by Dershowitz (alone). I'm going to express all sorts of views on civil liberties and other political conflicts that are vehemently rejected by large numbers of people. But nobody ever remotely thought that there was anything inappropriate about my appearing alone.

That's because it's extremely common for academic departments to sponsor events at which controversial speakers appear either alone or with generally like-minded speakers. As Robin told me about Dershowitz's absurd claim that departmental sponsorship of controversial speakers is unusual:

"When I was a grad student at Yale, I organized quite a few talks - the one I remember most was of Robert Meeropol defending the innocence of his parents the Rosenbergs. I got not only co-sponsorship but money from several academic departments to host this event. This is simply routine. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

There is value in a full-on debate. But there's also value in enabling an idea to be expressed and developed without having some cable-news-type "debate" with someone who rejects every premise of the argument. There's also value in having tactical and strategic debates among people devoted to the same political cause. As College of Saint Rose Political Science Professor Scott Lemieux noted about the Brooklyn event: "You know who else is at best skeptical of boycotting Israeli scholars? Judith Butler, which may suggest that the discussion will be more critical and complex than its critics assume."

(Dershowitz claimed to me that he "recently told someone who invited me to give a talk on Israel that the talk should not be sponsored by the school or a department." But when I asked him to identify where this happened so I could follow-up and write about it, he ignored my inquiry. But if this happened, the fact that he had to specify this shows how common such sponsorships are even of the most controversial speakers like Dershowitz.)

Manifestly, this controversy has nothing whatsoever to do with objecting to one-sided academic events sponsored by academic institutions. Such events occur constantly without anyone uttering a peep of protest. This has to do with one thing and one thing only: trying to create specially oppressive rules that govern only critics of Israel and criticisms of that nation's government. As Lemieux put it: "So, apparently, colleges have a moral obligation to have 'balanced' panels . . . in cases where the speakers might disagree with Alan Dershowitz."

It's fitting that this controversy erupted in the same week when Obama's nominee to lead the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel, has been subjected to an extremely ugly McCarthyite-like attack from the US Senate over very mild statements he has made in the past about Israel and the domestic Israel lobby. As Esquire's Charles Pierce observed, one GOP Senator, Ted Cruz, "took almost his entire opportunity to fit Hagel for a kaffiyeh" by all but accusing him of being a Terrorist based on his mild Israel criticisms.

In the ultimate irony, at the very same time that Hagel was forced to renounce his view that there is a powerful Israel Lobby that constricts debate and shapes government policy over Israel - there is no such thing! Perish the thought! - he has had to desperately run away from his past criticisms of Israel in order to have any hope of being confirmed. That ritual left a stammering mess of a nominee, petrified of affirming his own beliefs on Israel lest he be further smeared and rendered radioactive. Slate's Dave Weigel put it best when he wrote about the Hagel hearing:

"[GOP Senator] Lindsey Graham had wanted to know who had ever been spooked by The Lobby and what stupid things they'd done out of panic. The answer was right in front of him, at the witness table."

Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, the much-pilloried author of The Israel Lobby - the book documenting how that lobby stifles debate in the US and dictates Israeli policy to Congress - was right to claim vindication after watching the ugly Hagel debacle. Noting that the entire Hagel hearing focused overwhelmingly on Israel and Iran - rather than issues of US security for which Hagel will actually be responsible - Walt declared: "I want to thank the Emergency Committee for Israel, Sheldon Adelson, and the Senate Armed Service Committee for providing such a compelling vindication of our views."

The controversy over the BDS panel at Brooklyn College is nothing more than the latest manifestation of the attempt to squelch criticism of Israel and delegitimize its critics. It is intended to create special rules that apply to Israel critics but to nothing else: you can never allow them to speak without having someone there to attack them. It is designed to put into further fear any faculty members or school administrators who would dare run afoul of pro-Israel orthodoxies. The campaign devoted to stopping this event is so wildly disproportionate to the importance of the event itself because its objectives extend far beyond this BC event. That's why this campaign is a severe threat to academic freedom and free debate.

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.

The side that favors academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas does not remotely have the financial resources and political organizing clout as the side that tries to control political debates in the name of pro-Israel advocacy. But we can at least do what we can do in pursuit of these principles. Preserving the ability of academic institutions to host the events and invite the speakers they want - without having to heed the demands of "pro-Israel" advocates and the cowardly state officials who serve them - is of vital importance.

Other Dershowitz inaccuracies

According to Professor Robin, two of Dershowitz's other claims made to me are factually inaccurate. The first is Dershowitz's claim that the Konefsky family chose him as lecturer, not the Political Science department. Writes Robin:

"That is not at all how Konefsky lecturers are chosen; the political science department selects those speakers without any interference from the Konefsky family. (Can you imagine if we had to vet your lecture with the family?) In fact, I am shocked that he thinks private donors can choose speakers at an officially sponsored college event at all. That in fact betrays far more about his conception of academic freedom - not only that he thinks that is what happened but that he thinks it's acceptable and just a normal way of doing business - than anything else."

Also inaccurate, according to Robin, is Dershowitz's claim that "the best proof is that they have refused to endorse anti-BDS events or even pro-Israel speakers who advocate the two state solution and an end to the settlements." As Robin explains, "the chair went through all of his emails today and has not found a single request from a student or student group for us to host an anti-BDS event."


An emailer just brought to my attention what may be the most glaring and amazing inaccuracy in Dershowitz's statements to me. Dershowitz repeatedly claimed - both to me and elsewhere - that academic departments should not sponsor one-sided events on controversial topics, and that he would not want any department to sponsor him for such an event. He wrote to me: "If and when I come to Brooklyn College to speak against BDS, I do not expect the event to be co-sponsored by the political science department. It will be sponsored by student and outside groups, as this event should be." He also told me: "I would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department."

But last February, a major controversy erupted when the University of Pennsylvania held an event with pro-BDS speakers. To address the controversy, here is what the school did:

"To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: 'Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.' Penn's Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz's lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most 'immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.'"

So that's not only another example where the highly controversial Dershowitz appeared without opposition on a college campus while sponsored by a university department, but it's an example where he did so on this very topic: BDS. And he was sponsored by the same Penn Political Science department to give his anti-BDS talk that refused to sponsor the event with pro-BDS speakers. Where was Dershowitz's oh-so-principled objections then to university departments appearing to take sides in these debates? To depict his opposition to this BC event as principled rather than about squelching criticism of Israel, he claimed to me: "I would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department." So did he oppose this pro-Israel, department-sponsored event at UPenn at which he spoke?

By itself, this proves that this Brooklyn College controversy has nothing to do with the stated principle that university department should not sponsor one-sided events on controversial topics. It instead has everything to do with finding such events objectionable only when they contain criticisms of Israel. That the leading opponent of the Brooklyn College event himself regularly speaks at universities on controversial topics without opposition, sponsored by university departments, conclusively demonstrates how dishonest this current crusade is.
"It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." - Bruce Lee

"Don't ride on me man, ride with me" - Byrnzie on LSD

"Ed Vedder? He sounds like the song of the North West sung by Chief Broom in the body of R.P McMurphy." - Byrnzie
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  • ByrnzieByrnzie Posts: 21,037
    If it isn't enough that people like Norman Finkelstein, Chas Freeman, Ocatavia Nasr, Juan Cole, Stephen Walt, or Chuck Hagel, have had their reputations and/or careers as politicians or academics threatened, derailed, or destroyed, now we have this latest crusade from the 'pro-Israel' crowd as it seeks to muzzle free speech (as it pertains to criticism of Israel) within U.S academia. ... al-threats

    NYC officials threaten funding of Brooklyn College over Israel event

    In defense of Israel, liberal officials are copying Giuliani's 1999 termination of funding for a museum exhibiting "offensive" art

    Glenn Greenwald, Monday 4 February 2013

    (updated below)

    On Saturday, I wrote about the numerous New York City officials (including multiple members of the US House of Representatives) who have predictably signed onto the Alan-Derwshowitz-led attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College. This group of Israel advocates and elected officials is demanding that the college's Political Science department rescind its sponsorship of an event featuring two advocates of the BDS movement aimed at stopping Israeli occupation and settlements.

    The threat to academic freedom posed by this growing lynch mob is obvious: if universities are permitted to hold only those events which do not offend state officials and "pro-Israel" fanatics such as Alan Dershowitz, then "academic freedom" is illusory. But on Sunday, that threat significantly intensified, as a ranking member of the New York City Council explicitly threatened to cut off funding for the college if his extortionate demands regarding this event are not met. From a letter to BC President Karen Gould, issued by Council Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and signed by nine other members of the City Council (the full letter here): ... Lew-Fidler

    "Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive. . . .

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

    "We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."

    These officials are expressly stating that no college or university is permitted to hold events that contain views that are "offensive" or which these officials "find to be odious and wrong" without having their funding terminated. How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be.

    Few people in New York had trouble understanding this threat when it was posed by a loathed GOP Mayor. Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike. In particular, New York City liberals and others vehemently objected when conservative Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for art museums that exhibited works of art which Giuliani found offensive.

    Here is what then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said back in 1999 when he threatened, as the New York Times put it, "to cut off all city subsidies to the Brooklyn Museum of Art unless it cancels next week's opening of a British art exhibition that features, among other works, a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, a bust of a man made from his own frozen blood and a portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with a clump of elephant dung":

    "You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion. And therefore we will do everything that we can to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum until the director comes to his senses and realizes that if you are a government-subsidized enterprise, then you can't do things that desecrate the most personal and deeply held views of people in society. I mean, this is an outrageous thing to do."

    The modern-day successors to Giuliani are the New York City officials now threatening the funding of Brooklyn College for exactly the same reasons and based on exactly the same rationale. Back then, liberals were furious at the GOP Mayor's bullying tactics, correctly arguing that his threat to terminate funding was a serious threat to basic freedoms; as First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams put it at the time:

    "Punishing the Brooklyn Museum by seeking to remove its funding because the Mayor disapproves of what he perceives is the message of its art is at war with the First Amendment. The Mayor has every right to denounce the exhibition. He should understand, however, that the First Amendment limits what he can do to retaliate against art of which he disapproves."

    After the Museum refused to withdraw the "offensive" exhibits and Giuliani made good on his threats, a federal judge ultimately ruled that the New York mayor "violated the First Amendment when he cut city financing and began eviction proceedings against the Brooklyn Museum of Art for mounting an exhibition that the mayor deemed offensive and sacrilegious." The judge, Nina Gershon of the US District Court in Brooklyn, wrote in her ruling ordering Giuliani to end his official attacks on the museum [emphasis added]:

    "There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy."

    The applicability of that rationale to the current controversy is obvious. Regardless of your views of BDS or Israel, the last thing anyone should want is for state officials to be able to dictate what academic events can and cannot be held on campuses. It's odious and threatening for exactly the same reason Giuliani's bullying tactics were. Some academics, such as Scott Lemieux and Kieran Healy have spoken out in defense of BC's academic freedom, but nowhere near as many as should given the threats this campaign poses to their own academic freedom. As is so often the case, when the issue is Israel, many advocates fall strangely mute.

    At least back then, Giuliani was honest: he wanted to cut off funds to museums exhibiting art that he personally found offensive to his religion. By contrast, what's so noxious about the campaign aimed at BC is the glaring pretense of it all. As corrupted and dangerous as the stated "principle" is - that colleges should have their public funding terminated if they sponsor events with offensive ideas - this would never be applied consistently. Indeed, it's inconceivable to imagine this level of official mobilization on any issue other than Israel. This is about using the power of the state to suppress criticisms of and activism against the Israeli government in academia - and nothing else.

    To see how true that is, just imagine if the BC Political Science department had sponsored an equally one-sided event on the BDS movement, but invited only BDS opponents and hard-core Israel defenders. Does anyone think that even a single one of these cowardly, dishonest political officials would have uttered a peep of protest on the ground that colleges shouldn't sponsor one-sided events concerning controversial issues or which air views that people in the City and the student body find "offensive"? Please. To ask the question is to mock it.

    Indeed, as I noted on Saturday, Alan Dershowitz himself - who offends large numbers of people - has spoken without opposition at this very same Brooklyn College at the invitation of the Political Science department and not one of these city officials spoke out against that or threatened the college's funding over it. Beyond that, when a controversy erupted last year at the University of Pennsylvania over a pro-BDS event sponsored by students, that university's Political Science department (which had pointedly refused to sponsor the pro-BDS event) formally sponsored an event for Dershowitz to speak without any opposition, and nobody raised these fabricated, disingenuous concerns over the need to only hold "balanced" events and for academic departments to avoid "controversial" stances. That includes Dershowitz, who claimed to me on Friday that he "would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department" but - needless to say - never objected, at least not publicly, when the UPenn Political Science department did exactly that by inviting him to speak about Israel without opposition.

    Plainly, this entire controversy has only one "principle" and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel. The claim that this is driven by the belief that colleges should avoid taking positions on controversial issues is a ridiculous joke. Yesterday, the besieged BC College President Gould wrote a letter to the school's Hillel organization about the controversy, and in it, she stated:

    "You have asked that I state unequivocally the college's position on the BDS movement, and I have no hesitation in doing so. As president of Brooklyn College, I can assure you that our college does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, nor do I personally."

    Do you think a single New York City official or Dershowitz or anyone else will object to her official opposition to BDS on behalf of herself and the college, by claiming that this makes BC students who support BDS feel unwelcome and that university officials shouldn't take sides in controversial political disputes? Of course not, because those "principles" are pure pretext. Nobody believes or cares about the notion that colleges and professors, in general, should avoid controversial issues or refrain from sponsoring one-sided academic events (which they do constantly: here's an article on a speech I gave last year at UPenn, speaking alone, expressing many controversial views, at an event formally sponsored by the school's Religious Studies Department; here's an article where I did the same at an event sponsored by the University of Missouri Law School last year). As Political Science Professor Scott Lemieux put it, this campaign poses "threats to academic freedom, based on 'principles' nobody believes."

    This is about only one controversial issue (Israel) and about suppressing only one side of that issue (criticisms of and activism against Israeli occupation and settlements). Just as it is extraordinary that a nominated Defense Secretary in the US has to take repeated vows of fealty to Israel and spend most of his confirmation hearing discussing not the US but that foreign country, it is truly extraordinary to watch "liberal" officials in the largest city in the US expressly threaten the funding of a college for the crime of holding an event that is critical of Israel (MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who admires - and has previously had on his show - several of the New York members of Congress who have joined this Dershowitz-led campaign, yesterday lambasted their conduct aimed at BC as "outrageous and genuinely chilling").

    BC students and groups are (and should be) free to host as many anti-BDS events as they want and invite all the speakers in the world who support Israeli occupations and settlement expansions, despite how uncomfortable that might make Palestinian and Muslim students (and the BC PoliSci Department has made clear they would likely sponsor such events if asked). That's what free speech and academic freedom are about: the right to freely air and advocate for any and all viewpoints, even ones that "offend" people. Few things threaten those critical values more than elected officials threatening to punish colleges for hosting such events. But that's exactly what is taking place right now in New York.


    Major kudos to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould who, at least for now, is standing firm in defense of academic freedom and refusing to capitulate to these bullying threats. President Gould this afternoon issued a statement defiantly proclaiming that the college's "commitment to the principles of academic freedom remains steadfast"; that "students and faculty, including academic departments, programs, and centers, have the right to invite speakers, engage in discussion, and present ideas to further educational discussion and debate"; and that "there is no obligation, as some have suggested, to present multiple perspectives at any one event." She indicated - again - that the school is also willing to host an anti-BDS event if students organize one, but that the school's right to proceed with this event unchanged is of vital importance: "this spirit of inquiry and critical debate is a hallmark of the American education system."

    Meanwhile, today in Time Magazine - of all places - US Iraq War veteran Brandon Friedman disapprovingly notes that the vast bulk of Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing was devoted to questions about Israeli security rather than US security, including security for American troops still deployed in Afghanistan. He writes under the headline: "Just Who Do They Represent: At Hagel Hearing, Concern for Israel Tops US Troops in Combat", and he writes

    "It's difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate Armed Services Committee — particularly its Republican membership — is more concerned with the apparent American defense secretary's relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate of US troops engaged in both locations."

    It really is extraordinary. It's a serious case of overplaying one's hand. They're not even trying to hide it any more. And that's the reason that Time Magazine - in which such a topic until recently was entirely taboo - now feels compelled to air this via a US veteran irritated that this foreign country and its troops seems to be of greater importance in US political circles than the country for which he risked his life to fight.
    "It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." - Bruce Lee

    "Don't ride on me man, ride with me" - Byrnzie on LSD

    "Ed Vedder? He sounds like the song of the North West sung by Chief Broom in the body of R.P McMurphy." - Byrnzie
  • badbrainsbadbrains Posts: 10,255
    Wow, that shits crazy.....I'm at a loss of words..... :shock:
  • polaris_xpolaris_x Posts: 13,551
    the land of the free!
  • bigdvsbigdvs Posts: 234
    what did you think the politicians were going to do? Did you think they would always be on your side? Better get to work with the side fighting for freedom and the rights of these people to say whatever they want about whoever they want (even when you disagree with them).
    "The really important thing is not to live, but to live well. And to live well meant, along with more enjoyable things in life, to live according to your principles."
    — Socrates

  • RW81233RW81233 Posts: 2,384
    Jesus that's a fucking mess. It's interesting how the once oppressed use very similar tactics that their oppressors once used. Also Brooklyn got Judith Butler to come out? Holy Crap!
  • Jason PJason P Posts: 16,834

    1/5 of the student body is Jewish. Of course there is going to be opposition.

    And they got to have their speech.
  • pjl44pjl44 Posts: 2,859
    I've been following Greenwald on this, too. Looks like (for now) logical heads have prevailed: ... -poli-sci/
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