Brooklyn College Hosts BDS Panel
On February 7th, Brooklyn College hosted a panel of two speakers in favor of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the largest non-violent movement against the Israeli occupation. The two speakers, Jewish-American philosopher Judith Butler and leading Palestinian BDS activist Omar Barghouti, were invited to share why they support the movement.
The event spurred a week-long storm of controversy and outrage on campus and nationwide. Brooklyn College, located in a former Jewish community in the Midwood neighborhood, is known for its strong Jewish presence, with a fifth of its students identifying as Jewish.
Barghouti compared the hostility against the event to a “rise of new McCarthyism,” (video) after New York City council outrage threatened to cut funding. William C. Thompson Jr., former city comptroller, said that by hosting the event, the Students for Justice in Palestine group was “put[ting] the name of Brooklyn College on hate,” and Brooklyn College alumni Alan Dershowitz denounced the event as a “hate orgy” in a New York Times op-ed.
However, many voices on the campus argued that the resistance was an attack on free speech, and that hosting the event does not mean the college or the political science department supports the BDS movement.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomburg, who supports Israel, defended the event, saying that he couldn’t “think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students” than not permitting the college to host an event that features opposing viewpoints.
‘Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions’ is a movement initiated by Palestinian civil society, calls upon citizens worldwide to boycott and divest from Israeli companies, and demands that sanctions be placed on Israel, until the nation agrees to comply with international law. Campaigns around the United States in support of BDS focus on, most notably, boycotting and urging businesses to subvert from those companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.
The event featuring Barghouti and Butler was successful, but featured high security, including metal detectors at the entrance. Heckling from opponents of the event interrupted the speakers, but it ran smoothly otherwise. The controversy sparked by this event is not an isolated incident. Palestine solidarity groups and pro-Israel groups all over the country have found this topic to be among the most controversial and divisive debates today. But whatever one’s stance is on the issue, the extensive coverage of the Brooklyn College event will likely bring the BDS debate to the awareness of more Americans nationwide.
Image Credit: www.brooklyn.cuny.edu