The controversy surrounding a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) event aimed at Israel in February at Brooklyn College has prompted more criticism of the school, whose political department is co-sponsoring the event that will feature anti-Israel activists Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York released a statement that read in part:
“While we vigorously defend academic freedom, we believe that these freedoms do not extend to faculty and academic bodies exploiting their association with the university to enhance their biased and hateful agenda. At the very least, academic integrity requires a balanced forum representing diverse views. Since that is not the case, we call upon the Political Science Department to remove its name from this one-sided propaganda event.”
Tanger Hillel of Brooklyn College also released a statement echoing the JCRC’s belief in academic freedom but condemning the political science department’s role in the event.
“We believe in the right of free speech and that an academic institution should provide an appropriate venue for serious discussion of meaningful issues. However, we strongly condemn the decision of brooklyn college’s political science department to lend its name and support to an event featuring individuals who espouse extremist and hostile view,” the statement said.
Hillel also addressed calls for Brooklyn College President Karen Gould to resign.
“We do not agree with those who call for the resignation of President Gould. We do ask her to endorse the obvious: the college does not agree with these hateful speakers; the college intends to provide equal protection from hate speech for all our students; the college values Hillel’s constructive role on campus; the college values its relationship with israeli universities and colleges; the college abhors any anti Israel call for a boycott.”
StandWithUS, a non-profit organization “dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues,” released a statement that read in part:
“While student clubs are certainly entitled to put on whatever events they wish that conform to school guidelines, it is reprehensible that a school department is willing to officially dignify this event. This forum, entitled ‘Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti: BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights,’ will be an effort to promote bigotry, prejudice and hate against the Jewish state and its supporters. ”
It also released two videos (see below) one of which is about the hypocrisy and hate of the BDS movement, and the other which features Norman Finkelstein, a well known anti-Israel advocate, admit that the movement’s goal is the destruction of Israel.
The president of Brooklyn College’s Assembly (the undergraduate government), Abraham Esses, released a statement Wednesday as well.
“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. Far from being receptive to students’ concerns, I regret to inform you that they have repeatedly turned down students’ requests to meet and discuss the issue further.”
He added: “I find the administration’s slow, halfhearted response to the issue to be appalling. 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
In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, President Gould wrote that principles of academic freedom grant students and faculty the right to “engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree.” Gould emphasized that while the college endorses free speech, it does not endorse the views of speakers it brings to campus.
A spokesman for the college also noted that another student group, the Israel Club, will host its own event in February.
Watch a video about BDS below:
Watch a video of Norman Finkelstein talking about BDS below: