Readers may recall my earlier post on the efforts by the Israel lobby to interfere in the running of an event scheduled for today at Brooklyn College in New York City.
The lobby had tried to rile up public opinion against the event but the college president Karen Gould stood firm. The chair of the political science department Paisley Currah explains clearly what went on and why the effort to shut down the event is so disturbing. Currah also highlights Alan Dershowitz’s blatant hypocrisy on this issue.
But soon other members of the community such as mayor Michael Bloomberg chimed in and decried the efforts of outsiders and political figures to stifle academic freedom, saying, “I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”
Max Blumenthal reports that in the face of this backlash, seventeen of the nineteen politicians who originally signed the letter calling for the political science department to withdraw its sponsorship have now withdrawn their names. Glenn Greenwald says that the efforts to stifle the event have collapsed and it will go on as originally planned.
The censorship campaign began to unravel when two City Council members who originally signed onto the letter threatening the College’s funding renounced the letter and withdrew their support; one of them, Stephen Levin, began sending an apologetic email to constituents angry about his signing onto that letter.
Then, the political officials who signed the original letter demanding the withdrawal of the department’s sponsorship of the event completely reversed course and backed down, trying to save face by pronouncing themselves satisfied with the school’s stated willingness to host anti-BDS speakers in the future (something they were willing to do from the start).
This important and surprising victory demonstrates what principled leadership combined with public activism can achieve. It can defeat even the most monied and organized factions, as it did here. All of you who made yourselves heard should be proud of the role you played in this victory (I was on Democracy Now yesterday with one of the event speakers, Omar Barghouti, talking about this controversy; the transcript and video are here).
The Israel lobby does not seem to have quite cottoned on to the fact that it has over-reached and that, although still powerful, it does not have the same influence it once had. More and more people and institutions are refusing to be intimidated by it.