Brooklyn College’s political science department co-sponsored an event hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine that promoted boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel, a move which caused a political storm. The speakers included Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Judith Butler, who is another BDS supporter. Many Jewish students are outraged and fear that such co-sponsorships send the wrong message. Over 150 people showed up to protest outside of the pro-BDS event at Brooklyn College.

Indeed, it is critical to note that supporting BDS, in addition to being anti-semitic, is also contrary to supporting peace, for how can one promote civil human interactions between peoples and at the same time support boycotting interactions between Israeli and Palestinian doctors, academics, etc.? The two are indeed contradictory. One either supports peace or one supports BDS, not both. British jurist Anthony Julius has rightly described the BDS movement as “an act of violence, although of a paradoxical kind – one of recoil and exclusion rather than assault. The boycotted person is pushed away by the ‘general horror and common hate.’ It is a denial amongst other things, of the boycotted person’s freedom of expression….”

Indeed, both of the speakers whom the Students for Justice in Palestine invited to speak at Brooklyn College have taken problematic stances when it comes to achieving peace. Judith Butler has expressed partial support for Hezbollah and Hamas, claiming that they are part of the global left. Despite her proclamations that she is a feminist, she has not disavowed the gender discrimination promoted by these groups, not to mention their anti-semitism. Omar Barghouti has stated that he would support continued boycotts of Israel even if she withdraws to the 1967 borders and supports the right of foreign born Palestinians to return to Israel proper, a move that would result in the elimination of Israel.

The BDS movement behaves more like a group engaging in hate speech, for this reason New York City Democratic Mayor Candidate William Thomson declared, “You do not have the right and should not put the name of Brooklyn College on hate.” This event has similarly been condemned by Alan Dershowitz, the anti-Defamation League, and Stand With Us. Indeed, at the event itself, Omar Barghouti referred to those who were opposed to his hate speech as those who are engaging in “racist, hate-mongering, bullying attempts to shut down this event.” He furthermore falsely stated that Israel’s democratic government is similar to the apartheid regime in South Africa and wrongly compared the Palestinian cause to “colonially oppressed people throughout history” and urged his listeners to “fight the racism” that he claims exists in Israel, which he declared was similar to the anti-semitism that existed in Europe in the 1930’s.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the university claimed that they wanted to give opposing students the chance to ask difficult questions upon Barghouti making such proclamations, the Students for Justice in Palestine engaged in the very racism and free speech violations that Barghouti accused Israel and her supporters of doing by preventing Jewish students from entering the lecture and kicking out some Jewish students halfway through. According to Ari Ziegler, “I heard probably about half of what Judith Butler said when I got kicked out. CUNY police escorted us out and when we asked them what we did wrong they said, ‘we don´t have an answer.’ It’s disappointing because they had said that it was a forum for asking tough questions and trying to understand.” He claimed that he and other students who were kicked out of the lecture had anti-BDS material in their laps, which they were planning on utilizing during the Q&A session following the lecture. Evidently, Brooklyn College’s Vice President Milga Morales witnessed the incident, yet did nothing. Melanie Goldberg, an Israel Campus Coalition intern, was not even permitted to enter even though she had registered to attend way in advance.

As the President of the Brooklyn College’s Assembly, Abraham Esses, who is the representative for Brooklyn College’s undergraduate students, asserted, “The department’s approach to the issue is far from constructive; knowing well in advance that such sponsorship would insult and isolate a large portion of its students, it chose to express its own opinions through a venue that inhibits open dialogue and honest debate. […] Without any support or sympathy for students’ complaints, the administration seems complacent in a department’s clear abuse of its rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, the administration has failed to consult any student group before issuing its statement in support of the Political Science’s sponsorship decision. I believe this approach to be indicative of the respect, or lack thereof, which they have for students on campus. Whereas I understand its hesitation, the administration has clearly failed to represent and act for its own constituents.”

Please contact Brooklyn College’s President to complain:

President: Karen Gould
Phone: 718-951-5671

Dear President Karen Gould,

As a concerned citizen, I am writing to express how much I am outraged that Brooklyn College’s political science department decided to co-sponsor a pro-BDS event and refused to withdraw their sponsorship from the event. BDS is not just another expression in the marketplace of ideas, but rather is as British jurist Anthony Julius described “an act of violence, although of a paradoxical kind – one of recoil and exclusion rather than assault. The boycotted person is pushed away by the ‘general horror and common hate.’ It is a denial amongst other things, of the boycotted person’s freedom of expression….”

It is quite telling that Omar Barghouti supports BDS even if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders. It betrays that BDS is more concerned with promoting hatred than with promoting Palestinian self-determination. While BDS supporters view their right to espouse hatred against Jews as protected under freedom of speech and academic freedom, they are frequently the first to deny freedom of speech to others, as demonstrated by the fact that the Students for Justice in Palestine barred some Jewish students from entering the Omar Barghouti event, while kicking out others half-way through.

We are very disturbed to hear that Brooklyn College did nothing to stop this from happening, even though the college itself invited students from opposing viewpoints to attend and ask difficult questions, and Brooklyn College’s Vice President witnessed the incident. Thus, given all of this, I am greatly upset to learn that a university would officially co-sponsor such an event and use academic freedom as an excuse to co-sponsor such one-sided events. I furthermore expect for Brooklyn College to co-sponsor pro-Israel lectures in the future to make up for this.


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