Anti-Semitism, academic freedom and Brooklyn College

The CUNY school goes off the rails
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Does Brooklyn College have a Jewish problem?

For the second time this year, the university’s political science department has outraged the Jewish community by agreeing to co-sponsor events hosted by Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization whose sole mission is to engage in campus activities that demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

In February, the department co-sponsored a Students for Justice event advertised as “a lecture by Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti on the importance of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) in helping END Israeli apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Both Butler and Barghouti, who are major figures in the BDS movement, consider all of the State of Israel as part of the “illegal occupation of Palestine” and advocate for BDS as a nonviolent means of ending Israel as a Jewish state. In addition, virtually all of the 22 other organizations that joined the political science department in co-sponsoring the Students for Justice event actively promote BDS, many openly advocate elimination of the Jewish state and some — like Adalah-NY and Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition — condone terrorism against Israel.

Despite the outcry of Jewish students and community members over the highly offensive nature of this Students for Justice event and the political science department’s unwillingness to rescind its sponsorship, the department has once again decided to stick it to the members of its community who support Israel, most of them Jews, by co-sponsoring two more Students for Justice events. According to the department’s website:

 “The department of political science at Brooklyn College is pleased to announced that it is co-sponsoring two talks organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College. The first is by Josh Ruebner, whose talk — ‘Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace’ — will be on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m., on the sixth floor of the student center. The second is by Ben White, whose talk — ‘Israel: Apartheid, Not Democracy” — will be on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m., on the sixth floor of the student center.”

Not surprisingly, the speakers at these two Students for Justice events — Ruebner, the national advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, and White, a virulently anti-Israel journalist — are leaders in the BDS movement who both publicly advocate the elimination of the Jewish state and condone terrorism against Israel.

Let’s be clear: Advocating for and working toward the elimination of the Jewish state — whether by violent or non-violent means — is considered anti-Semitic by every contemporary scholar of anti-Semitism, as well as by official government bodies in the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

It is not hard to understand why. The elimination of the Jewish state poses an existential threat to the 6 million Jews who live there — nearly half of the worldwide Jewish population.

Furthermore, no other country on Earth has had its very existence challenged. The fact that only Jewish self-determination is open to such threats underscores the deeply hypocritical and anti-Semitic nature of calls for the elimination of the Jewish state.

Nevertheless, both Brooklyn College President Karen Gould and the political science department defend the anti-Semitic activities of a university-sanctioned student organization and the right of a university department to bestow academic legitimacy on implicit Jew-hatred, by wrapping them both in the mantle of “academic freedom.”

In an open letter to the Brooklyn College community last February, Gould suggested that calling for the economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state are part of the “critical debate” that is the “hallmark of the American education system.”

Sadly, that may be true. However, there is no doubt that giving academic legitimacy to rank anti-Semitism is the hallmark of Brooklyn College.

The Jewish community, New York taxpayers and decent people everywhere should be outraged.

Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish studies at University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.

Anti-Semitism, academic freedom and Brooklyn College

The CUNY school goes off the rails
  • 0

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a Hebrew lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz and has written articles about academic anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and lectured widely on these developments and on the growing threat to the safety of Jewish students on college campuses. In 2009, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, alleging a hostile environment for Jewish students on her campus, and in March 2011 a federal investigation of her complaint was launched. In 2011 she co-founded the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization devoted to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating campus anti-Semitism in America.

Read all stories by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin