Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, February 19.
The last refuge of anti-Israel activists
A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported Pro Palestinian speakers attract protests outside.
The event at Brooklyn college was a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
(BDS) event focused on delegitimizing Israel. To read the New York Times
account, one doesn't get a sense of what was controversial about the
Controversy had grown over the past week at the Midwood college,
where nearly a fifth of the undergraduate population is Jewish, over the
event organized by a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine.
The college’s political science department agreed to co-sponsor the
speakers along with more than two dozen other groups.
In support of the event there was a New York Times editorial, Litmus tests:
Jewish leaders on and off campus had criticized the college and its
president, Karen L. Gould, for sponsoring the talk, which they said
helped legitimize the B.D.S. movement, which refers to Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions. Its goal is to pressure Israel to restore
disputed territories and grant equal rights to Palestinians.
Throughout the week, the right to academic freedom served as the
backbone to arguments in favor of the college’s sponsorship of the
One dispiriting lesson from Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense
secretary is the extent to which the political space for discussing
Israel forthrightly is shrinking. Republicans focused on Israel more
than anything during his confirmation hearing, but they weren’t seeking
to understand his views. All they cared about was bullying him into a
rigid position on Israel policy. Enforcing that kind of orthodoxy is not
in either America’s or Israel’s interest.
Brooklyn College is facing a similar trial for scheduling an event on
Thursday night with two speakers who support an international boycott
to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
While this page has criticized Israeli settlements, we do not advocate a
boycott. We do, however, strongly defend the decision by the college’s
president, Karen Gould, to proceed with the event, despite withering
criticism by opponents and threats by at least 10 City Council members
to cut financing for the college. Such intimidation chills debate and
makes a mockery of the ideals of academic freedom.
Really now. There's no litmus test being demanded to show if someone is
pro-Israel or not. However someone who thinks that American governmental
institutions controlled by Israel or who thinks that Israel is
illegitimate to the point that it must be boycotted like South Africa
was, can safely be said not to be pro-Israel. Furthermore to argue that
the BDS movement is simply an anti occupation protest, ignores what BDS leaders really say.
Finally, to support the BDS event, the New York Times published an essay by Stanley Fish, Academic Freedom vindicated in Brooklyn:
Among the cultural institutions a boycott might target are those
Israeli universities that are judged to be either actively in league
with the government’s policies toward the Palestinians, or complicit
with those policies by virtue of remaining silent while they are being
implemented. To the charge that a boycott of academic institutions is a
violation of academic freedom, B.D.S. supporters reply that because the
state of Israel abrogates the academic freedom of Palestinian
professors and students (by denying them funding, access and mobility),
it is an affirmation, not a derogation, of academic freedom to refrain
from engaging in intellectual commerce with Israeli universities. You
can’t invoke academic freedom, they say, when you’re denying it to
others. So the lines of battle are set with both sides claiming to be
academic freedom’s champion, and it is easy to see why a college might
be thought to be an appropriate venue for a discussion of the matter.
But a number of New York city politicians didn’t see it that way, and
they proceeded to say the predictable wrong things. On Jan. 29, nine
members of the Council of the City of New York wrote in a letter to the
president of Brooklyn College, Karen L. Gould, to declare that, along
with others, they found it “offensive” that the college was giving
“official support and sponsorship to speakers who equate terrorists with
progressives and the Israeli people with Nazis.” Indeed so offended
were they that they reminded Gould, in a tone of unmistakable threat,
that as legislators they had many calls on the funds at their disposal,
and that by persisting in its plan to host the event, the college risked
financial loss: ‘We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers
of our city…want their tax money to be spent on.”
The answer to this is simple: taxpayers, through their representatives,
decide whether to support a college, but once that decision has been
made in the affirmative, taxpayers and their representatives must allow
the institution they have created to carry out its mission, which is not
to reflect or ratify the ideas the public favors, but to subject all
ideas, including those the public dislikes, to the scrutiny of rational
deliberation. It can’t be the case that a program or a course must be
approved by popular vote before a college can sponsor it or put it in
the catalog. What taxpayers have bought when they fund an institution of
higher education is the independent judgment of credentialed teachers
and scholars. If they wanted an echo chamber that sent their own views
back to them, they could have funded a talk-radio show.
Of course the real question whether this was about a free and open
exchange of ideas. Lori Lowenthal Marcus reports that pro-Israel
supporters were disinvited and expelled from the event.
PRECEDING THE FEB. 7 EVENT Prior to the event there was much heated
debate over whether it was appropriate for Brooklyn College, a
publicly-funded university, to host the one-sided BDS event at all and
whether the political science department should have endorsed and
The administration issued statements defending the department
sponsorship on the basis of academic freedom and the marketplace of
ideas. Admitting that the school-sponsored event only offered one side
of an extremely controversial and divisive event, these statements
claimed there was no suppression of ideas or speech because anyone would
be able – and all were encouraged – to “attend, listen and fully
debate.” The BDS supporters got the green light from the school and the
event took place.
A recording of the event, published by the Algemeiner Journal supports the claim that the pro-Israel students did nothing to disrupt the event.
THE CLAIM OF CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS Several pro-Israel students say
attempts were made to intentionally block their attendance – some
successfully – that non-conforming viewpoints were silenced and that
Jewish pro-Israel students were rounded up and thrown out of a “public”
event simply for having the “wrong” ideas.
It appears that those who claim a mantle of academic freedom to promote their anti-Israel agenda, are not so open about debate.
Asaf Romirowsky makes related observations:
Though the political science department referred to the event as a
"forum," only one view - extreme anti-Israel activism - is represented.
Professor Butler so despises Israel that she has unapologetically
whitewashed Israel's foes, labeling Hamas and Hezbollah "social
movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a
Barghouti, meanwhile, hypocritically urges Americans to boycott all
Israeli professors, as he benefits from these same academics as a
student at Tel Aviv University.
The BDS double standard smacks of anti-Semitism: Targeting Israel and
only Israel, advocates hold the world's only Jewish state to a far
different standard than other democracies, much less Islamic, African,
or Latin American dictatorships. Amidst flowery anti-imperialist
rhetoric, the movement misleadingly implies that ending specific Israeli
policies, generally deemed "apartheid," would satisfy its backers. In
fact, BDS supporters envision the replacement of Israel as a Jewish
state with a bi-national, majority Palestinian, entity.
Is calling terrorist organizations "social movements" really an exercise
of academic freedom? Recall that Fish readily accepted the view of BDS
that they were really promoting academic freedom by punishing Israel
when you read of Barghouti's academic background. Are Palestinians
really denied academic freedom by Israel?
Have we seen editorials in the New York Times condemning Abu Dhabi for its arrest of a professor or questioning whether Saudi influence in the sciences deserves scrutiny? Did the New York Times question the motives of Prince Alwaleed in financing academic institutions, such as Georgetown,
and the influence he may have? In these three cases at issue was the
academic integrity of different institutions. That's where issues of
academic freedom ought to be raised.
In the case of Brooklyn College at issue was an activist, non-academic
event supported by the faculty and administration of the institution.
Did they, in any way, taint their academic standards by sponsoring a
clearly partisan event? Or does the New York Times believe that the only
standard for "academic freedom" is if an academic institution supports
Labels: anti-Israel media bias, BDS, Middle East Media Sampler, New York Times, political correctness, Soccer Dad