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Efforts to Shut Down Dissent at Anti-Israel Brooklyn College Event Reported

February 8, 2013 4:15 pm 17 comments

Karen L. Gould, the president of Brooklyn College. Photo: CUNY.

Despite protests and opposition to the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College co-sponsoring a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) event aimed at Israel on Thursday, it took place, in part justified as a matter of free speech and academic freedom. During the event, however,  multiple people were removed, according to student accounts, because they were presumed to be hostile to the intentions of the gathering.

Melanie Goldberg, an Israel Campus Coalition intern says she and three other students were escorted out by security because they would not relinquish BDS fact sheets that were in their possession.

“One of the SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine, which organized the event) members came over and got really close to my face and told me to give him the sheets, or he would call security. I told him I would not. We were simply taking notes so we could ask informed questions like we were encouraged to do by the school and Political Science Department,” Goldberg told The Algemeiner.

The SJP member, identified only as Carlos, alerted security who then made Goldberg and the other three students leave.

Brooklyn College Vice President Milga Morales was nearby during the incident, but when asked to intervene by Goldberg declined to do so.

“I told her this was a clear violation of academic freedom, she just looked at me and said ‘this is their event, they can do what they want,’ which is not true, the political science department co-sponsored it,” Goldberg recounted.

Goldberg initially was unable to gain entry to the event despite having signed up for it three weeks before, receiving two separate confirmations (posted below) and then having Morales put her name down the day of the event.  When she arrived she was told by organizers her name was not on the RSVP list. Ultimately it was  Milga Morales who had to escort her in.

“I was at the event to hear what all the controversy was about to try to understand the arguments the BDS movement makes, its aspirations, and the actions that it calls for,” Ari Ziegler, a CUNY graduate student studying experimental psychology, said. “I was sitting with the three other students holding the info- sheets on the BDS movement, and I was forcibly removed from my seat.”

“We were forced out of the meeting because we were reading informational material to ask informed questions,” Yvonne Juris, a CUNY graduate, added. “The silencing and removing of us students is a clear example of violation of academic freedom.”

In a statement last week Brooklyn College President Karen Gould defended the school’s decision to continue its sponsorship of the event by saying in part: “I expect all who attend or present at next week´s event to engage in civil discourse at all times, and I encourage those who do attend with opposing views to participate in the discussion, ask tough questions, and challenge any ideas with which they disagree,” she wrote.

Several students who objected to the event and let it be known among the political science professors, were told that if they had a problem with the department co-sponsoring the event they should show up and debate.

Hindy Poupko, director of Israel & International Affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, was in touch with Hillel on campus and was involved in protests outside the facility. She told The Algemeiner that she was aware of just one student who was able to get in a dissenting question during the event. “Judith Butler told him ‘you obviously didn’t listen to my speech’ then everyone laughed. It didn’t seem like a place open to dialogue or dissenting opinions,” she said.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a CUNY Trustee who opposed the event, said that he received emails about the treatment of pro-Israel students at the event. “There were complaints” he said, but wouldn’t go into detail saying that the incidents were merely symptomatic of anti-Israel sentiment on campuses across the country. “This problem can be mitigated and it must be mitigated, because if it’s not, I assure you that it will increase in frequency,” Wiesenfeld cautioned.

Jeremy Thompson, a Brooklyn College spokesman, told The Algemeiner that the school had a different understanding of what occurred. “My understanding is that these students were in the room along with the rest of the audience. From the first speaker they began to speak out, they were becoming vocal and disruptive to the members around them and one of the student organizers of the event went to them and said ‘you really need to be quiet you’re disrupting other people around you.’ They then did not comply and a couple of police officers asked them to come out into the lobby.” Thompson also claimed that school officials in attendance, including Morales, confirmed this account.

Below are screenshots of the emails sent to The Algemeiner which confirm Melanie Goldberg’s RSVP for the event, which was later denied by the organizers.

First event RSVP confirmation Melanie Goldberg received.

Second confirmation email Melanie Goldberg received.

17 Comments

  • Though I wasn’t there, personally, and have no acquaintanceship with any of the people named or quoted in this article, I find the description by college spokesperson Jeremy Thompson to be a more plausible account of the events there than those of Ms. Goldberg or Mr. Ziegler. Excersizing ones free speech with the purpose of abridging or suppressing the free speech rights of others with whom you may disagree is not, in my opinion, a valid expression of the 1st Amendment. If the programs opponents were merely sitting listening quietly with “fact sheets” in their laps what behavior brought the attention of school security?

  • The confirmation email appears to forbid recording of the event. (The line is truncated.) I can only conclude that the anti-Semites know that their arguments can’t stand up to scrutiny.

    • I agree Bill, the Palestinian supported are clearly bipartisan. They argument are not standing.
      I fill sorry for all the Palestinians who are under dictatorship from a arm group. They are using they force to impose they fanatic idea.
      How they can ask for Israel to be destroy and at the same time crying that they are discriminate!
      the University is wrong to allowed the security to act in they favour, the one who was to be removed are the brain wash pro Palestinian. I not saying that the Israel policy is perfect but is much better in justice that Hamas and others extreme anti Israel force.

  • Jewish students there should boycott the graduation ceremony and political science majors should switch majors or transfer to other schools.

  • Jeremy Thompson is a wholly disgusting individual who routinely and habitually lied all throughout this appalling controversy o the press (for ex. jewishpress.com, but also others, too). He is clearly not to be trusted at all and should be fired for his desiformation, serially misleading behavior and occasionally lies. He is a sly PR-frontman sent out to lie for his institutionally racist, bigoted 4th rate college.

  • AS AN 88 YEAR HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WHO WHO EXPERIENCED THE WHOLE RAINBOW OF POSSIBLE HUMILIATIONS I CANNOT HELP BUT COMPARE THE BROOKLYN COLLEGE’S
    SUBSERVIENCE TO HATEMONGERS WITH THE HORRENDOUS ACTS OF FANATICISM TOWARDS ME PERSONALLY AND MY JEWISH COMMUNITY IN POLAND BY THE GERMAN BARBARIANS.

  • These students have clearly had their First Amendment civil rights violated with the knowledge and participation of the administration and security of Brooklyn College and they should file appropriate civil claims.

  • noel hershfield

    Nice try Jewish students. Not possible to attend one of their meetings and no point. THe BDS people are well schooled and financed by Saudi Arabia , and their professors are mere propagandists and have abrogated their responsibility as teachers-they are now merely propagandists for the Islamic cause , which is to destroy ISRAEL and all Jews.

    • Dear Baruch I fully agree with you. The incapacity of the leader of institution who are not acting against antisemitism and false misleading information are guilty of grossly misconduct and shall resign.
      Just I like to point out that for the Muslim is not consider immoral to lie and deceive to other’s for the advance of they progress!
      That is a problem, that Westerns country had not grab yet!

  • yonah fredman

    I tried to attend last night’s event and arrived at 5:20 and stood on line with people who were not on the waiting list. While on line I expressed some opinions to the people standing next to me and to people handing out leaflets. When the SJP people began letting people in, I was stopped. No reason was given. Carlos was the one who stopped me from going in.

  • The Fascists of the Left will soon turn my Alma Mater, Jüdenrein. “CUNY Madrassa at Brooklyn” has a ring to it…

  • Lawrence Kulak

    I have no doubt about the accounts of the students who were not permitted to dissent because I have an experience of my own to report. I had written up sheets describing why I believed BDS was no different from Al Qaueda and was giving some of them out to the people waiting on line to get into the BDS event. A cop from the fascist and uneducated NYPD came over and told me that I would have to go across the street because somebody on line complained about me. I was not allowed to stand on the street where the students were waiting in line to go in? Is that called Freedom of Speech? Clearly this entire event was an excercise in selective Freedom of Speech – that is, selective freedom of Hate Speech.

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