NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Israel is at the center of a campus controversy at Brooklyn College.
A group calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel has been invited to speak next month, and as CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported Wednesday, some think the college itself has gone too far.
Brooklyn College, renowned for academic excellence and its beautiful campus, is the place where famous civil liberties attorney and professor Alan Dershowitz did his undergraduate work.
“I’m not in favor of banning the event, but I’m not in favor of the political science department sponsoring, endorsing the event,” said Dershowitz, now a Harvard law professor.
Brooklyn College is under fire for welcoming a lecture at its student center on Feb. 7 by a group called the BDS Movement, a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel group.
“The two people that are speaking are people who have actually called for the destruction of Israel. They are involved maliciously and viciously in organizing boycotts, divestment, with regards to the state of Israel,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) said.
The Anti-Defamation League also spoke out against the events, writing in a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould to follow through on her strong statement to the community that the college “does not endorse the views of the speakers visiting our campus next week.”
“We remain concerned that co-sponsorship of the event by a department of the College is not consistent with President Gould’s statement of non-endorsement and, in fact, the department’s participation directly contradicts that message,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. “While we are strongly committed to the principles of academic freedom and free speech, and fully understand and respect the right of individual faculty members to associate themselves with and to participate in this scheduled program, we remain troubled by its one sided, anti-Israel nature.”
The event also organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine.
“The conclusion that a Brooklyn College department’s co-sponsorship of an event does not represent implicit endorsement by the college is inescapable,” Meier wrote. “That is precisely what it reflects and we urge you to adhere to the message you sent to the Brooklyn College community and to make clear to the political science department that it should remove its co-sponsorship.”
Assemblyman Hikind is demanding Brooklyn College disassociate itself with the group’s appearance.
“I told the president if you would remove the participation of the political science department, just remove that, then I would have no problem. There would be no purpose in my criticizing or holding a press conference, but she doesn’t get it,” Hikind said.
Brooklyn College said co-sponsorship of the anti-Israel event by the political science department, which co-sponsors events regularly, does not imply any sympathy for the this group.
“The college doesn’t get in the business of telling the faculty or students what they can or cannot discuss,” said Brooklyn College’s Jeremy Thompson.
On campus, the mood appeared divided on Wednesday.
“I feel like if they hold this event it’ll be really hard to handle because I know I’m really pro-Israel,” one student said.
“People should be allowed to express themselves regardless of whether the college or department is sponsoring,” another said.
The student group presenting the lecture said it has a right to hold its anti-Israel event.
“Academic freedom is part of freedom of speech, which is part of the U.S. constitution. What they’re saying is not anti-Jewish, not promoting hate,” one person said.
Assemblyman Hikind and others were to hold a rally at Brooklyn College on Thursday morning.
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