by Mooneye & Garibaldi
A planned Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) forum at Brooklyn College on February, 7th has brought together an angry assortment of Zionists and Islamophobes, including influential New York lawmakers who are threatening to slash the funding of Brooklyn College for hosting and co-sponsoring the event–describing it as “anti-Semitic.”
Amongst those threatening Brooklyn College are: NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who called for the racial profiling of Arabs and South Asians in 2009 because they fit the “terrorist” description. Alan Dershowitz, a well known apologist for Israeli war crimes has a track record of advocating for the suppression of Israel critics, and has made such absurd claims as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan was,
“[I]n some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn’t recognize it at the time.”
Also advocating the suppression of the event is the Anti-Defamation League, an organization with a “very mixed” and troubling record on Islamophobia and which too often paints critics of Israel and Zionism as “anti-Semites.”
Glenn Greenwald who has covered the controversy in two extensive pieces over the past week in the Guardian described the efforts by Dershowitz and NY lawmakers this way,
Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.
Democracy Now which invited opponents to the BDS event, including the NY lawmakers (they all rejected the invitation) had a revealing report on the controversy, including interviews with one of tomorrow’s speakers, Omar Barghouti, as well as Glenn Greenwald:
In a break with the past, when such pressure would likely have led to the administration of such a college caving-in to the demands of Dershowitz and his allies, Brooklyn College has stood its ground,
The college administration has so far stood their ground. Brooklyn College spokespeople have said that the Political Science Department’s sponsorship of the event does not mean that it is endorsing the event, and that the college administration is “not going to tell members of our faculty what they can and cannot choose to support.”
In another unique development Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-described “big supporter of Israel” has come out strongly in support of academic freedom,
“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,” he said in a news conference at City Hall.
This may be a turning point in the public debate over the limits of criticizing Zionism and the state of Israel. In the past reflexive accusations of “anti-Semitism” drowned nuanced discussion on Zionism, Israel and Palestinian rights, now we are witnessing a hopeful sign of more balanced public discussion.
This also bodes well for those who are truly concerned about fighting anti-Semitism since it rescues it from the clutches of those who trivialize real anti-Semitism by conflating it with criticism of Zionism and Israel.
One can only imagine the Islamophobic repercussions that would have ensued if a lobby of Muslim organizations and lawmakers attempted a parallel attack on academic freedom. Hackles of Islamization and Islamic incompatibility with freedom would be endless.
Judith Miller & Omar Barghouti–BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights. Thursday, February 7, 2013, 6:30 EST. Brooklyn College E 27th St and Campus Road Brooklyn, NY 11210 Student Center Building PENTHOUSE
Update I: Our description of Dov Hikind’s extremism was not complete. Max Blumenthal has more on Hikind, including the fact that he was a member of the JDL and suspected of involvement in terrorism, (h/t: Dmitri)
Hikind gained his earliest experience in the early 1970s in local New York politics as an acolyte of Meir Kahane, the fanatical rabbi-turned-Israeli Member of Knesset who called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and establishment of a theocratic state of “Judea” in the West Bank. “I’m proud of every single moment, let me make that very clear. Rabbi Kahane had a great influence on me,” Hikind declared in 2008. Under Kahane’s guidance, Hikind became active in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a nationwide extremist network that attacked Arab-American and Soviet targets while rallying vigilante squads to “protect” working-class Jews living in African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods.
-Dershowitz fights academic freedom at Brooklyn College
-Alan Dershowitz to Brooklyn College: Academic Freedom For Me But Not For Thee