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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Judith Butler’

B’klyn College Pro-Israel Students Deserve More than Late Apology

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

It’s been more than a year since four Jewish pro-Israel students (the JPI Students) were forcibly ejected from an anti-Israel talk given by two proponents of BDS, co-sponsored by and held at Brooklyn College. Finally, this past Friday, March 7, Brooklyn College president Karen Gould issued a public apology to the JPI Students. But that very-late apology should be only the very first step taken, according to the public interest law center representing those students.

First, a very quick recap of the events that led to this belated apology.

LEAD UP TO AND FEB. 7 BROOKLYN COLLEGE BDS EVENT

In January of 2013, it was announced that the Brooklyn College Political Science Department endorsed and co-sponsored with various Students for Justice in Palestine organizations a forum about the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement. The title of the forum was: “A lecture by Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti on the importance of BDS in helping END Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine.” The sub-title, just in case you hadn’t yet understood the point, was “BDS, a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.”

There was a great deal of concern and displeasure specifically that a school department would sponsor such a blatantly anti-Israel event, but the administration rejected the complaints. Of special note was Brooklyn College president Karen Gould’s statement that she approved the event solely on the basis of academic freedom, and she encouraged those who disagreed with the premise of BDS to attend the forum and engage in dialogue and debate.

The event went forward. Four pro-Israel Jewish students attended. They brought with them paper containing background information about BDS, which they intended to use during the Question and Answer session at the end of the talk.

Shortly after Judith Butler began speaking, an SJP official observed the papers and went over to the JPI Students, insisting they hand over the papers. The JPI Students refused. Then the SJP official brought over Brooklyn College security guards and the JPI Students were removed from the event. The Brooklyn College communications director later told the press that the JPI Students were ejected because “they created a disturbance” and “were disrespectful.”

THE AUDIOTAPE REVEALING NO WRONGDOING BY THE PRO-ISRAEL STUDENTS

That probably would have been the last anyone heard about the Feb. 7 event, except that later that week an audio recording of the entire event, made by someone in the audience the night of the BDS event, was discovered. The person who made the recording was seated one row in front of the students who were ejected.

Although the clicking of pens and even noise from outside the building could be heard on the audiotape, as well as the speaker’s voice, the tape revealed to a certainty that the JPI Students had not made any noise and certainly had not created a disturbance.

In fact, the first time a voice other than that of Judith Butler can be heard on the tape is when the SJP person told the JPI Students to hand over their papers. The only other discernible words from the audience occurs when the JPI Students were ejected, and one said out loud: “my free speech rights are being violated.”

Because there was irrefutable evidence that the JPI Students did nothing to warrant their expulsion, Brooklyn College was forced into, ultimately – painfully slowly and oh so reluctantly – apologizing to the those students whose rights had been violated.

While the wording issued by Gould on March 7, 2014, is clearly, finally, an apology, Brooklyn College has far to go before it has sufficiently rectified the wrong it did to those students.

Anti-Israel Blogger Defends His Racism Against Black Zionist

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The Jewish Press first featured Chloé Simone Valdary on our site over a year ago. She is the African American Christian Zionist student founder and president of the University of New Orleans’ Allies for Israel. She helped organize and also ran a major pro-Israel event there last spring.

Valdary has only become more sophisticated and deeply devoted to Israel over the past year.

She’s been to Israel several times, attended numerous pro-Israel events, written sophisticated op-eds, articles and prose about the Middle East.

In addition to being a junior at the University of New Orleans, Valdary is also the assistant director of special programs at the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel. She is also currently in the final stages of preparation for her second major pro-Israel event, Declare Your Freedom, to be held in New Orleans this spring.

This past week an outcry arose from New York Israel supporters when it was discovered that the Jewish Museum in New York City planned to provide a platform for Judith Butler, well-known member of the virulently anti-Israel crowd.

Butler last aroused an outcry when she spoke in favor of the BDS movement at Brooklyn College, almost a year ago. BDS is the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel, which promotes economic and legal warfare against the Jewish State.

Valdary wrote a letter to Brooklyn College students last year, urging them to rise up and speak out against that anti-Israel event.

Many active in the New York City area pro-Israel community met Valdary when the college student was recently in New York. She, along with this unofficial yet effective group, was part of the emailing, phone calling and tweeting against Butler that resulted in the Jewish Museum rescinding its offer of a platform for Judith Butler at the Jewish Museum.

In a blog entry Valdary penned at the Times of Israel, she called out Butler for her anti-Semitism, and included herself in the “we” of Zionists. Her article was published on Feb. 21. This is the final paragraph:

So in this endeavor for morality and justice, we, the proud Zionist community of America, rose up. We lit up the phone lines of the Jewish Museum in New York and demanded that this event be canceled. We organized on social media, we emailed, we protested. We, this people, with a history, and a creed, and a culture, and a cause,  which we intend to perpetuate with every fiber of our being, rose up and affected positive and meaningful change. And we have every intention to continue this fight for the right to be free.

Not surprisingly, those who support Butler’s view of the Middle East conflict, those who support the BDS movement and who are willing to “understand” what drives the terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, do not agree with Valdary.

Richard Silverstein, however, a fairly well-known, member of the Israel-is-always-wrong clan but who is generally considered to be too much of a crackpot to invite a response from Israel supporters, crossed a line that shocked many, even considering Silverstein’s inglorious history.

In a tweet sent at 8:48 ET, on Feb. 21, Silverstein suggested Valdary was manipulated by Zionists, referred to her as a “Negro,” and wrote that she would be making “Uncle Tom” dance with joy, presumably because he saw her pro-Israel activities as sucking up to white folks. This is the tweet:

Anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein uses racial slurs to attack an African American Zionist

Anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein uses racial slurs to attack an African American Zionist

NYC’s Jewish Museum Invites, then Uninvites, Major BDS Advocate

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Most of the New York City pro-Israel community was upset, but not shocked, when Brooklyn College invited two of the best known advocates for legal and economic warfare (the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) to be featured speakers at an event last year.

But this past week most of those same people were both upset and shocked when they learned that New York City’s Jewish Museum had invited and was going to feature one of those same speakers: Judith Butler, the Berkeley professor known primarily as a leader in the fields of “gender, power, sexuality and identity theory.”

Butler is not only a huge supporter of the BDS movement, she has also spoken sympathetically about the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

On March 6, Judith Butler was slated to give a “performance” of Franz Kafka, as one in a series of three programs entitled “Wish You Were Here.”  The series features “interviews” of Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, conducted by the museum’s deputy director Jens Hoffmann.

Although Butler has written about Kafka, it is not what she is known for. Queer theory? Yes. Gender identity? Yes. Power theory and subjugation? Sure. Franz Kafka? Not so much.

The focus of Butler’s recent work on Kafka is a labored effort to distance the man from the category labeled Zionist. That article, “Who Owns Kafka?” addresses the trial over who owned the rights to Kafka’s unpublished manuscripts,  after his death. The State of Israel was one of the parties seeking ownership, partially based on the claim that Kafka was an “asset” of the Jewish people.

Butler’s abiding distaste for Israel drove her to prove that Kafka was not a Zionist (based primarily on his not emigrating, although discriminatory quotas and Kafka’s own tuberculosis probably played a larger role) in order to prevent the Jewish people from claiming him as an asset, and his manuscripts from ending up in Israel.

Most non-literary theorist New Yorkers, however, were not aware of the Butler anti-Zionist Kafka connection. But her reputation as a leader of the BDS movement, and as sympathetic to terrorist groups committed to wiping out the Jewish state, were sufficient motivations for action.

The calls and outcries reached a crescendo on Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Jewish Museum could not hide behind the false, but frequently invoked, veil of “academic freedom” to hide behind, as had the Brooklyn College administration. And the Jewish Museum could not point fingers at students who insisted that a hater of Israel be invited in, and doted upon, by the people who run the Jewish Museum.

There was no getting around it, the Jewish Museum of New York City, an institution that was founded in, and remains under the auspices of  the Conservative movement of American Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary, deliberately chose to showcase a person whose animosity towards Israel was well known.

Judith Butler is most often described as an “American philosopher” and a “gender, power, sexuality and identity theorist.” She is a professor at the University of California at Berkely, in the department of comparative literature.

Although, according to her Berkeley webpage, Butler has recently taught a course on Kafka, her overwhelming focus and interest is sexuality, queer theory and feminist theory. Of the more than a dozen books Butler authored, none are about Kafka or his writing.

“How ironic that a Museum which is a scion of one of the three American Jewish movements, in this case, the JTS; and how ironic that a Museum whose heritage begins with Jews of German origin, where boycotts preceded our extermination in Europe – how ironic that such a museum would feature a leading advocate of boycotts of the Jewish people,” Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a New York City businessman and leader of New York’s pro-Israel Jewish community told The Jewish Press.

Civil Rights Violations, Lies & Audiotape: B’klyn College Still in Spotlight

Monday, February 18th, 2013

The BDS event at Brooklyn College took place last week, but the fallout continues and what is coming may be far uglier than even the dueling charges of anti-Semitism and Zionist censorship that preceded the event.

As has been widely reported, an effort was made to bar four Jewish pro-Israel students who had pre-registered and received written confirmation of admission for getting into the building, and then again in the building, for getting into the room where the event took place.

Then, once those four were finally in the event room, they were forcibly ejected within 15 minutes of their arrival at the behest of Students for Justice for Palestine leadership, by Brooklyn College security, and with the tacit approval of at least one Brooklyn College administrator, Milga Morales, the Vice President for Student Affairs.

We are now in a situation where there seems to be no two ways about it – someone is lying, maybe several people.  And school officials, both administration representatives as well as faculty members were on the scene – so if the students were unfairly ejected, an apology will hardly suffice.

Perhaps the Jewish pro-Israel students who say they were tossed out of the anti-Israel event without cause aren’t telling the truth. Or perhaps it is the Brooklyn College administrators present at the event who confirmed and/or relied on students who claimed the pro-Israel students were being disruptive.  But there is admissible evidence available upon which a conclusion can be made.  So the next question becomes, what will the consequences be?

BACKGROUND As explained previously, the Brooklyn College division of Students for Justice in Palestine and the political science department of the college officially co-sponsored and endorsed an event at which two leaders of the virulently anti-Israel BDS movement – the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctioning of Israel – spoke on the Brooklyn College campus on February 7th.  The purpose of the event was to promote the BDS movement.

Critics charge that the BDS movement does not merely encourage the Israeli government to stop policies with which it disagrees, as some claim, but through its form of economic and political warfare, BDS seeks to cause the ultimate elimination of Israel, the Jewish State.

PRECEDING THE FEB. 7 EVENT Prior to the event there was much heated debate over whether it was appropriate for Brooklyn College, a publicly-funded university, to host the one-sided BDS event at all and whether the political science department should have endorsed and supported it.

The administration issued statements defending the department sponsorship on the basis of academic freedom and the marketplace of ideas. Admitting that the school-sponsored event only offered one side of an extremely controversial and divisive event, these statements claimed there was no suppression of ideas or speech because anyone would be able – and all were encouraged – to “attend, listen and fully debate.”  The BDS supporters got the green light from the school and the event took place.

THE CLAIM OF CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS Several pro-Israel students say attempts were made to intentionally block their attendance – some successfully – that non-conforming viewpoints were silenced and that Jewish pro-Israel students were rounded up and thrown out of a “public” event simply for having the “wrong” ideas.

WHO WAS EXPELLED The four Jewish students who were expelled from the event (the Expelled Four) are: Melanie Goldberg, 21, is one of the heads of the college’s Israel Club, is a Hasbara Fellowships Fellow and is a journalism student.  She said she has spoken up at other anti-Israel events in the past, but only to ask pointed questions, not in a disruptive way which others have confirmed.  The other female student who was ejected, Yvonne Juris, 22, is also a journalism student.  The other two are brothers,  Michael, 21 and Ari Ziegler, 23 – a Brooklyn College graduate student -  both of whom are members of the campus Hillel.

EVENTS AS CLAIMED BY EXPELLED FOUR According to two of the four Jewish students who were ejected, as reported by Ari Ziegler, in the New York Daily News, and Melanie Goldberg, in a Facebook posting, and in a blog at the Times of Israel:

• Goldberg explained that she and the other pro-Israel students had pre-registered for the event and received confirmation several times through several different sources, yet they were initially unable to enter the room or the building because their names had been removed from the “official” list.  It was only after the students were able to get a school administrator to intervene that they were able to enter the event room. How did that happen?  That should be part of the investigation.

Brooklyn College Poli-Sci Supporting Academic Boycotts of Israel

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE

The Brooklyn College political science department is officially and emphatically endorsing an on-campus Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel program at which Brooklyn College students and the public will be forcefully encouraged to endorse and promote BDS against the state of Israel.

BC BDS flyerThe featured speakers at the February 7 event will be Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the global BDS movement who falsely claims that Israel is an Apartheid State with a “separate legal system for non-Jewish citizens,” and Judith Butler, a virulently anti-Israel academic who speaks sympathetically of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

One focus of the BDS movement is the boycott of Israeli academics.  It seeks to bar Israeli academics from participation in journals, research, public lectures and teaching.  Yet Brooklyn College’s political science department is supporting this event without any qualifications.  In fact, other than BC’s Students for Justice in Palestine, the political science department is the only endorsing organization officially affiliated with Brooklyn College.

Ironically, given its promotion of an event that would silence academics, BC’s Poli-Sci department is defending its involvement in the event by invoking “academic freedom.”

There are two problems with this: first, the contradictory juxtaposition of academic freedom and a ban on professors because of their national origin; and second, a point repeatedly mentioned by the student leaders, the fact that the event has nothing to do with the free exchange of ideas.  Instead, it is a heavy-handed promotion of only one side of an extremely divisive issue.

According to Jeremy Thompson, the school’s official spokesperson, the Brooklyn College administration supports the political science department’s decision to engage in this event as it supports the right of “every department, faculty member and student group to choose what events they want to be associated with.” However, Thompson said, the school itself is not endorsing the event.  Thompson explained that the school’s official position is not to endorse the views of any speaker at a school event.  When pressed, Thompson agreed that even if President Obama were speaking at a BC event, the administration would not support or endorse that event.

In contrast, the political science department is not only sponsoring the event, it has publicly and officially endorsed the views of the speakers.  Thompson was quoted in the New York Post on Sunday, saying that just because the political science department is sponsoring the event, it does not necessarily mean it is endorsing the event.  But the day after that article aired, Thompson told The Jewish Press, all the flyers and notices for the event were changed to reflect those who had been previously listed as “sponsors” to being listed as “endorsers.”  Got it.

From the time the story of the Brooklyn College pro-BDS event broke, most of those quoted or publicly speaking out have been trustees or professors or pro-Israel professionals.  By and large, the focus of those outside of the student world is that the BDS event should not be held at Brooklyn College at all.  Most agree that the BDS movement, and in particular the two speakers, Barghouti and Butler, are not content with merely criticizing Israel, but rather want Israel to disappear as a Jewish State.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of the City Univerity of New York system, of which Brooklyn College is a part, penned a scorching opinion piece in the Algemeiner.  It’s headline: “Taxpayer Funded BDS at CUNY is Illegitimate, Racist and Anti-Semitic.”

And Carrie Idler — an adjunct professor in the BC speech and communications department, who attended Brooklyn College, as did her husband, three of her four siblings, as well as her children — took exception to the idea that hosting the event at Brooklyn College is appropriate because it embodies ‘freedom of speech.’”

Idler told The Jewish Press, “boycotting academics is the opposite of free speech.  It symbolizes the silencing of people based on their race and religion.”  What’s more, she added, “it smacks frightfully of the same intolerance that Jewish Academics met in the early to mid-nineteen thirties throughout Europe as the Nazis rose to power.  No one spoke up then, and we know how badly that turned out.  I, therefore, know that if I do not speak up now I will be complicit.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/brooklyn-college-supporting-academic-boycotts-of-israel/2013/01/30/

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