Brooklyn College event threatened by members of the Israel lobby

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.


  1. Jared A says

    If he hasn’t opined on that matter, then it may have more to do with the fact that Mr. Greenwald chooses fights where the power disparity is stacked against the victim. In your example the Israeli ambassador seemed perfectly capable of defending himself. This seems to be a more reasonable explanation than “[to greenwald], israelis have no rights.”

  2. Nepenthe says

    There sure is no difference between students disrupting an event and university unaffiliated politicians attempting to pressure a university from hosting an event at all. I mean, those two groups really have the same amount of clout. Your insight is, as always, profound.

  3. slc1 says

    As I suspected, Mr. Greenwald greatly distorts what Prof. Dershowitz is complaining about. See attached link for another slant on the situation. Contrary to liar Greenwald’s assertion, Prof. Dershowitz is not contesting the right of the participants in this event to appear and speak. He is only asking that the Political Science Department of Brooklyn College (by the way, he is an alumnus of that institution) either withdraw its sponsorship of the event or invite him to also make a presentation. Seems reasonable to me.

    And Mr. kraut is a Nazi putz.

  4. says

    So Dershowitz insists on poisoning the well with his pro-Israel propaganda before anyone else gets to speak? That’s nonsense, and wouldn’t be expected on most other topics.

  5. kraut says

    You know, to being called a nazi putz by an arsehole who lacks any historical knowledge justifies my labeling of you not an ad hominem but as statement of fact.

    You bloody idiot make statements here that do not take into account that my grandfather – a communist and not a jew – was confined for one year at the KZ Berg am Moor in Germany, an Uncle of mine was beaten to pulp but survived by SS officers because he as a anti nazi unfortunately in an inebriated state insulted two SS officers in Frankfurt.
    Not all victims of Nazi atrocities were Jews, in your historical ignorance you are not even aware that the first victims of nazi raids were Union members, members of political parties opposing the Nazis, writers like Carl Ossietzky critical of the Nazi gang, long before anyone threw any Jew into a Konzentrations Lager.

    You Sir are just unbelievable arrogant in your ignorance, and I have to assume you are of the Jewish persuasion, as part of that makeup seems to be a constant victimhood and the playing upon that.

    Hundreds of thousand of Germans were murdered in the gas chambers, from political opponents to the handicapped to Gypsies, Russian and other prisoner of war slave labourers were killed by the hundreds of thousands – Jews were not the only ones to suffer, but seem to claim the holocaust as their own to justify any current atrocities and human rights violations committed in Israel against their own, Palestinians and Arab citizens, as you so amply demonstrate.

  6. Jared A says

    Hey, please continue to give slc1 both barrels; it’s well deserved.

    But don’t peddle shit like ” I have to assume you are of the Jewish persuasion, as part of that makeup seems to be a constant victimhood and the playing upon that.” lest you tar yourself with your own brush.

  7. Mano Singham says

    This is an important distinction worth re-iterating. As Walt and Mearsheimer point out in their book, substantial majorities of American Jews have little sympathy with the goals and tactics of the Israel lobby and there are many members of the lobby who are not Jews.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Did you actually read the Greenwald link I provided in my post? Because almost his entire post deals with Dershowitz’s calls for ‘balance’.

  9. kraut says

    I base my statement on the various responses to any criticism of Israeli politics I have observed, especially regarding the viciousness any such criticism receives in Germany.
    The first line of defense is usually a reference to the holocaust, as if what the German Nazis did to the Jews excuses how Jewish politics deals with Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Arab citizens, their non – peace politics, their treatment of Palestinians during so called “operations”, etc. etc.

    Jewish politicians and some in the Jewish diaspora and within Israel seem to want to solely own the holocaust as a defense against any justified critique of how Israel operates in the middle east and how it relates with its neighbours.

  10. slc1 says

    Mr. Kraut the schmuck compares the conduct of the Government of Israel to the conduct of Nazi Germany. that’s like comparing the individual who steals some silverware from a restaurant with someone who holds up a bank and blows away the tellers. But what else can one expect from a Kraut. Too bad Germany surrendered before the Fat Man and Little Boy were ready.

    By the way, compared with the Assad regime in Syria, the Government of Israel consists of angels. But, of coarse, the Greenwalds of the world are too busy bashing Israel to be bothered with the Assads of the world.

  11. slc1 says

    Of course, the Israel bashers who were invited wouldn’t think of poisoning the well. Not a bit of it, perish the thought.

  12. slc1 says

    I always like how the British referred to the Krauts. Called them the Huns. As Churchill once said, the Krauts are either at your feet or at your throat.

  13. Peter Henry says

    There’s tons of hatred, lots of heat and very little light.
    The issue isn’t about who got beaten up first by the Nazis. It’s about whether a student group can have their political event in peace.
    The student group applied for University department support, which was granted as a matter of course. Now Dershowitz and his big-shot political allies are attempting to go above the heads of the students and the Poli Sci department to get the University bureaucracy to shut down or modify the event, to the critics’ liking.

    This is purely a matter of academic freedom.

  14. Steve LaBonne says

    You know what OUGHT to be controversial? Tying this country’s foreign policy to the whims of an ‘ally” that routinely violates international law by running a neocolonial empire using brutal fascist methods.The shrillness of the likes of slc1 (and Dershowitz) tells you that deep down, they know they’re defending the indefensible.

  15. Ravi Venkataraman says


    Once again your pro-Israel bias shows through. If people tried to disrupt the proceedings, were they not exercising their first amendment rights? Did any of these Muslim organizations ever try to pressure the organization inviting Israeli speakers into withdrawing their invitation, or use political figures to try to browbeat an organization?

    It is strange that my browser warns me that the page you linked to contains malware. Not blaming you, of course, and I am surprised that a LA Times web page would contain malware. Hence, I can’t access the page you linked to.

  16. Ravi Venkataraman says


    That is a great contribution to the discussion, at par with your other comments. Keep it up, you are doing a great job!

  17. Ravi Venkataraman says


    On reading the replies to your comment, I noticed that it is you who first started the name calling by referring to kraut as a “Nazi putz.” kraut’s calling you an idiot was clearly prefaced by the statement that iit was a fallacy.

    If you start ad hominem attacks, please do not feign shock
    if others respond in kind.

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