Glenn Greenwald writes writes about how a forthcoming event at Brooklyn College is being threatened by a campaign led by Alan Dershowitz and others who think that any event that promises to be critical of Israel in any way should be suppressed.
The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school’s Political Science department of an event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]. The event is being co-sponsored by numerous student and community groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the college’s LGBT group, pro-Palestinian Jewish organizations, and an Occupy Wall Street group.
He writes that this event has brought out the usual suspects who bristle at any criticism of the policies of Israel and will go to great lengths to intimidate those who do so. (His post has links to the evidence.)
In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel. This is not news. Ask Chas Freeman. Or Ocatavia Nasr. Or Finkelstein. Or Juan Cole. Or Stephen Walt. Or Chuck Hagel.
But this controversy has now significantly escalated in seriousness because numerous New York City elected officials have insinuated themselves into this debate by trying to dictate to the school’s professors what type of events they are and are not permitted to hold. Led by Manhattan’s fanatical pro-Israel “liberal” Congressman Jerrold Nadler and two leading New York mayoral candidates – Council speaker Christine Quinn and former city comptroller William Thompson – close to two dozen prominent City officials have signed onto a letter to college President Gould pronouncing themselves “concerned that an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue” and “calling for Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department to withdraw their endorsement of this event.” As a result, the “scandal” has now landed in The New York Times, and – for obvious reasons – the pressure on school administrators is immense.
Greenwald goes on to demonstrate quite clearly the hypocrisy of Dershowitz and others and shows that their claims that their objections are due to only one side of the issue being presented is absolutely bogus and that such a balancing rule is never invoked even when rabidly pro-Israel speakers like Dershowitz are invited.
The controversy over the BDS panel at Brooklyn College is nothing more than the latest manifestation of the attempt to squelch criticism of Israel and delegitimize its critics. It is intended to create special rules that apply to Israel critics but to nothing else: you can never allow them to speak without having someone there to attack them. It is designed to put into further fear any faculty members or school administrators who would dare run afoul of pro-Israel orthodoxies. The campaign devoted to stopping this event is so wildly disproportionate to the importance of the event itself because its objectives extend far beyond this BC event. That’s why this campaign is a severe threat to academic freedom and free debate.
Coincidentally, Greenwald is an invited speaker at a different Brooklyn College event in the near future and he says that if they cancel the BDS event as a result of pressure from the Israel lobby, then he will decline to go and urges others to do the same.