The Conspiracy

News Roundup: BDS Explosions at Brooklyn and Harvard AAAAAAAA!

Brooklyn College Quad | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations are part of increasing opposition to a 2010 ruling by Hillel barring fraternization with pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] groups on campus. The 2010 ruling encouraged, but did not require, local Hillels to draft rules in line with the national policy that the organization would “not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers” that as a matter of policy or practice:

  • Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders;
  • Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel;
  • Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;
  • Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.

Local rules in line with the ban have mostly affected Jewish campus groups that faced the loss of Hillel funding because of their past and present dealings with pro-Palestinian groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine — an organization that supports the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions initiative.

Recent developments at Harvard represent a mobilization by Jewish opponents of the policy to pressure Hillel to change their rules:

The Harvard students’ campaign consists of two online petitions on a website built especially for their campaign. One, open to all signatories, opposes the guidelines on Israel discourse promulgated by Hillel’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.; another, for Harvard students, opposes Harvard Hillel’s implementation of those guidelines. [Forward]

At the same time, a New York City Council member threatened to withhold funding to Brooklyn College should they proceed with a planned event featuring pro-BDS speakers Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti. In a letter sent to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, Council Member Lewis Fidler said that the event might put future funding in doubt:

A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City – many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program – want their tax money to be spent on. [PDF]

While most pro-Israel campus groups have been slow to respond to the affair, the National Student Board of J Street U condemned both BDS and those pressuring Brooklyn College to ban the event:

While we disagree strongly with the aims and tactics of the BDS movement, our commitment to a safe and secure Israel goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to open debate and free discussion on contentious issues. Attempts to stifle free discussion on college campuses does a disservice to us and our peers, who are eager to hear a wide range of perspectives on this conflict. [J Street]

Lawyer and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowtiz jumped into the fray with a Huffington Post editorial slamming the administration of Brooklyn College and pushing back against critics who call his opinion an attack on academic freedom:

These invocations of free speech and academic freedoms are merely a smokescreen to cover the hypocrisy of those who claim that they are committed to open dialogue and the expression of all points of view. That is so much hooey. Of course, the event should go forward, but it should be sponsored by students and outside groups, not by a department of the college. The same should be true of pro-Israel events. [Huffington Post]

Now, what started as a self-contained conflict at Brooklyn College has morphed into a national issue, with the National Students for Justice in Palestine board releasing two statements of support penned by author Alice Walker and Pink Floyd front-man Roger Waters. Both artists are known for their pro-Palestine advocacy:

That you have come under attack from powerful political and media forces for trying to shed light on the predicament of the good peoples of Palestine and Israel is wrong. I stand with you. Sadly, none of us knows what lies behind the closed doors of government, even though we should for we have a right to know, to speak, discuss, still not your voice, be not afraid. [Brooklyn College SJP]

Not to be outdone, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg — an ardent supporter of Israel and free speech — held a press conference where he both expressed revulsion for the BDS movement and support for Brooklyn College:

Mr. Bloomberg said he ‘couldn’t disagree more violently’ with the movement, known as B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. But he said a university should be free to sponsor a forum on any topic, ‘including ideas that people find repugnant.’

‘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. [New York Times]


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

WordPress Backup
Read previous post:
Progressive Judaism and “Going Too Far”

In past blogs, I have talked about progressive Judaism at length. I've written about queering Jewish spaces. I've explored the...