How Brooklyn College Legitimized BDS

February 15, 2013 12:44 am 8 comments

Omar Barghouti. Photo: usacbi.org

The controversy over a “panel discussion” at Brooklyn College has little to do with free speech, and everything to do with politicization of the academia — in this case, by disingenuous anti-Israel ideologues.

Back in December, the political science department at Brooklyn College, a public institution partially supported by taxpayers’ dollars, formally voted to sign on to a talk that took place on February 7th. A student group had scheduled an address by University of California professor Judith Butler and graduate student Omar Barghouti to propagandize on behalf of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This movement seeks to isolate Israel from the world, ostensibly to punish the Jewish state for its security policies.

Though the political science department referred to the event as a “forum,” only one view – extreme anti-Israel activism – is represented. Professor Butler so despises Israel that she has unapologetically whitewashed Israel’s foes, labeling Hamas and Hezbollah “social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left.”

Barghouti, meanwhile, hypocritically urges Americans to boycott all Israeli professors, as he benefits from these same academics as a student at Tel Aviv University.

In fact, during the forum it was those who opposed BDS who were silenced when they were either denied access to the event or pushed out. As Brooklyn College senior Michael Ziegler stated, “I was escorted out for nothing more than the fact that I was holding a paper that would help me assess my decision on my feelings over BDS.”

The BDS double standard smacks of anti-Semitism: Targeting Israel and only Israel, advocates hold the world’s only Jewish state to a far different standard than other democracies, much less Islamic, African, or Latin American dictatorships. Amidst flowery anti-imperialist rhetoric, the movement misleadingly implies that ending specific Israeli policies, generally deemed “apartheid,” would satisfy its backers. In fact, BDS supporters envision the replacement of Israel as a Jewish state with a bi-national, majority Palestinian, entity.

Hollow core

The Brooklyn event is, in short, not an academic forum, but little more than agitprop designed to drum up hostility to Israel – just as similar BDS events at institutions such as Penn and Duke have done. What happened at Brooklyn could have occurred at virtually any university; few places in the United States are as hostile to Israel as the typical college campus.

And while the Brooklyn student group has every right to bring even vile speakers to campus, an academic department formally voting to endorse (or co-sponsor, as the political scientists subsequently, if disingenuously, described their tally) such drivel is a far different matter.

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has clearly and unequivocally expressed his personal opposition to the BDS cause, but Brooklyn’s president, Karen Gould, declined to do so. In two statements on the matter, she refused to condemn the BDS movement, while invoking “academic freedom” to defend her department’s actions.

On campus, though, any free exchange of ideas flows only in one direction: In response to media requests, the political science professors have refused to explain what so attracted them to these anti-Israel extremists that their department formally voted to get on board with the talk.

An optimist might hope that the faculty’s embarrassment for their actions explains this silence. A realist would understand otherwise. The forum is far from being the first problem with Brooklyn College’s flirtation with the BDS agenda. In 2010, as part of a “common reading” requirement, the college ordered all incoming freshman to read a book by yet another endorser of the BDS movement, Moustafa Bayoumi.

His volume asserted that between 1987 and 2001, the US government approach toward “Arab Americans” was “more often used to limit the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Bayoumi offered no evidence for his wild claim.

It’s no wonder that several pro-Israel students at Brooklyn recently admitted their fears of grade retaliation from pro-BDS professors down the road. Virtually abandoned on campus, these students’ cause has been championed by a group of politicians led by Jerry Nadler.

The congressman joined three House colleagues and every prominent New York City Democrat running for mayor in penning a public letter urging the department “to withdraw their endorsement of this event, rather than send the message to its students and to the world that the divisive perspective offered by the organizing groups is Brooklyn College’s official view.”

Those outside the academy who have witnessed an academic department’s exposing its hollow core on matters related to Israel should continue to ask hard questions about how on campuses around the country handle matters related to the Middle East. People of good faith need to continue to search for remedies that will restore a true diversity of ideas to American higher education.

KC Johnson is professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Asaf Romirowsky, is acting executive director for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This column was originally published by YNet.

8 Comments

  • This is the story of an Israeli factory which creates soda bottles to replace plastic bottles. BDS wants to close this factory which happens to employ hundreds of Palestinians from West Bank. BDS creates massive unemployment in the West Bank.
    This is Sodastream’s factory http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl85AL1l0H0

  • richard sherman

    BDS has supporters. So did the National Socialists…Sociopaths revere Muhammad because he personally decapitated 900 unarmed Jews at Quarayza…It is from this swamp of sociopaths that BDS has emerged from…

  • wow lets see who teaches their children to blow themselves up. By the way there is no such thing as a Palestinian that was a title Arafat co-oped. Anyone who lived in the area was called a Palestinian. I would bet that like jimmy carter Judith butler is funded by Arabs.

  • The arguments of this pro-Israel authors are totally weak. BDS is a non-violent movement with the aim to end the illegal settelment policy of the state of Israel which is illegal under international law, even in the judgement of every US-government since decades.
    Therefore the position of Butler and Bargouthi is main stream and the opposition of the politicians from New York are radical and extren and even violating free speech in a way that even the pro Israel hizzor of New York major Bloomberg told them to shut up.

    • Eva (Braun?)
      If advocating Genocide is non-violent than you are right. But, BDS advocates getting rid of Israel and replacing it with Palestine, where Jews will be privillaged to a second Holocaust. Genocide of Jews Main Stream? Eva you might be right at the rate things are going.

    • Saying that something is illegal under international law does not make it so. Real scholars of international law have repeatedly disputed this accusation, leaving this radical position a matter of propaganda, not law. Furthermore, even were this argument accurate – and I emphasize that it is not – the fact that BDS operates in support of numerous regimes which clearly & publicly state their intentions to wipe out Israel & kill all the Jews in the world would suggest that this is hardly the pacific & inspiring goal of BDS. If the Arabs wanted to solve the problem in the Middle East, they’ve had many decades to do so. Every other displaced person in the world during the 20′th Century has been resettled – that’s 100 million souls. Only the Arabs refuse to allow their brethren’s dislocated offspring to resettle. And they even, despite their enormous wealth, refuse to help support the same people they won’t allow to resettle, instead leaving that charity to the West.So we’ve been paying the tariff imposed by the Arabs for displacements caused by the repeated Arab attacks – and now we’re once again blaming the Jews. Some things don’t change.

  • My tax dollars well spent.
    Some citizens of NY support BDS and need to be represented in our taxpayer sponsored universites as well.
    Bravo BC!

    • There is a huge difference between intellectual examination of a topic and unfettered advocacy of that topic. Were this a real discussion of the issues, then anyone who tried to present other perspectives would not have been thrown out or denied entry. Such action isn’t academic, nor should there be any academic policy which holds firmly to only one side of any complex issue. I suppose you’d say that there should be university support for mass murders, since there are some citizens of our tax-paying populace who engage in such actions. Very, very insightful.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.