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May 1, 2016 / 23 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Omar Barghouti’

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.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

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.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

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

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