On February 7th, the Department of Political Science of Brooklyn College and various student organizations sympathetic to the Palestinian view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, such as the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), will sponsor a Forum entitled “Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti: BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights,” an event that will be an effort to promote bigotry, prejudice, and hate against the Jewish state and its supporters.
Although the word forum suggests a debate, the announcement for the event mentions no anti-BDS speakers, or even neutral commentators—only well-known BDS advocates and anti-Israel activists Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, who side with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups openly seeking Israel’s annihilation.
Judith Butler is a highly vociferous public critic of Israel. When asked about Hamas and Hezbollah’s place “in the global left,” she urged “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.” Therefore, she favors dismantling the Jewish state as we know it in favor of something she calls “multi-cultural co-habitation.” In her latest book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, she nods to the prodigious forces of hatred and intolerance militating against her solution: “It may be that binationalism is an impossibility, but that mere fact does not suffice as a reason to be against it.”
Omar Barghouti has managed to advocate for BDS while studying at an Israeli university by saying that his studies there are a “personal matter.” This is a privilege seemingly only to be enjoyed by him, while ordinary Jewish and Arab students and faculty have their personal academic studies politicized by him and his fellow extremists.
SPME, an international community of scholars committed to peaceful resolution of all of the Middle East’s many conflicts, contends that the BDS movement is both intellectually flawed and contrary to the very real needs of the people of that region. We are committed to a genuine, just, and enduring peace.
The BDS movement is mistaken in its focus on a single party, Israel, as the impediment to peace. Israel has repeatedly expressed its willingness to live peacefully alongside a Palestinian state. Since the rebirth of a Jewish state in 1948, Israel’s democratic governments from across the political spectrum have repeatedly demonstrated an intent to make painful compromises in the interest of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, including recognition of a Palestinian Arab homeland for those descended from Arabs
displaced during prior conflicts.
Pronouncements attempting to appeal to the conscience of academics supportive of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement often depict Israel as a Nazi-like state. Perhaps this is why CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein recently stated, “I personally abhor and am appalled by the aims of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Yet these pro-BDS views—once labeled extreme—have become increasingly mainstream, as academics call for Israel’s destruction, not by might or power but by demonization, delegitimization, and a call to weaken and destroy the Middle East’s only democracy.
BDS is contrary to the search for peace since it represents a form of misguided economic warfare. It is directly in opposition to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and committed to a two state solution. Yet in her only statement on the controversy, Brooklyn College’s president, Karen L. Gould, not only declined to condemn BDS, but appeared to list it as among the “issues of importance to our world.”
SPME urges those committed to peace and justice for the people of a region which has had too much war and violence to join with us in rejecting the politics of hatred that the BDS movement represents and urge Brooklyn College to ensure that none of its academic units sponsors this racist forum.
The Department of Political Science has issued a statement pointing out that BDS events have been held at other universities and colleges all over the country. That is true, but not reassuring. Almost all such events have been one-sided attempts to demonize and delegitimize Israel. Moreover, our understanding is that departmental sponsorship of such events is rare.
Therefore, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East denounces the Brooklyn College Department of Political Science’s abandonment of scholarly principles. The department’s faculty members have crossed a line and should be held to account in terms of CUNY faculty bylaws.
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.
The peace we seek in the Middle East is consistent both with Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders, and with the rights and legitimate aspirations of her neighbors.
Our mission is to inform, motivate, and encourage faculty to use their academic skills and disciplines on campus, in classrooms, and in academic publications to develop effective responses to the ideological distortions, including anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist slanders, that poison debate and work against peace. SPME welcomes scholars from all disciplines, faiths groups and nationalities who share our desire for peace and our commitment to academic integrity and honest debate.
For further information contact:
Asaf Romirowsky, PhD
Acting Executive Director
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