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Brooklyn College’s anti-Israel hatefest
Brooklyn College’s anti-Israel hatefest

The campus of Brooklyn College, where a forum highly critical of Israel is to be held on Feb. 7.

By Alan Dershowitz
New York Daily News
January 30, 2013

The political science department engages in propaganda by co-sponsoring a BDS forum

Why is Brooklyn College’s political science department officially sponsoring a one-sided event that calls for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel?

On Feb. 7, the college will be hosting a “forum” at which speakers will call for Israel to be singled out among all the nations of the world for this form of delegitimation. There will be no one presenting any other position.

Among the sponsors of this propaganda hate orgy are the usual anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine. That is not surprising. What is shocking and wrong is that an academic department of a City University of New York senior college is also an official sponsor.

Does this mean that the political science department of Brooklyn College supports the extremist position that even the Palestinian Authority rejects?

I can’t find out — because half a dozen calls to the department’s chairman remain unanswered. His assistant told me she communicated to him my efforts to ask him some questions. He has refused to speak with me. (She also gave me his email and I have emailed him, but have gotten no reply.)

I was once a student at Brooklyn College, majoring in political science. Back in the day, departments did not take official positions on controversial political issues. They certainly didn’t sponsor the kind of hate speech that can be expected at this event, if the history of the speakers is any guide.

The president of the college says this is a matter of academic freedom. But whose academic freedom? Do “departments” — as distinguished from individual faculty members — really have the right of academic freedom?

How did it go about deciding to support this one-sided event? Did the chairman decide? Was a vote taken of the entire faculty? What about the academic freedom of faculty members who do not support the position?

There are other unanswered questions as well: Does the political science department also represent the students who major in or take courses in that subject? I know that as a student, I would not want to be associated with a department that officially supported divestment, boycott and sanctions against Israel.

My academic freedom would be compromised by such an association. I would worry that a department that was so anti-Israel would grade me down or refuse me recommendations if I were perceived to be pro-Israel, or even neutral. I would not feel comfortable expressing myself.

I’m sure there are many students at Brooklyn College who feel the same. What can they do to express their academic freedom? Should they fight fire with fire by advocating divestment, boycotts and sanctions against the political science department?

Academic freedom simply does not include the power to proselytize and propagandize captive students whose grades and futures depend on faculty evaluations.

I can understand the department of political science sponsoring a genuine debate over boycotts, divestment and sanctions in which all sides were equally represented. That might be an educational experience worthy of departmental sponsorship.

But the event in question is pure propaganda.

Would the political science department of Brooklyn College sponsor an anti-divestment evening? Would they sponsor me, a graduate of that department, to present my perspective to their students? Or would they sponsor a radical, pro-settler, Israeli extremist to propagandize their students?

The Brooklyn College political science department — whose salaries are subsidized by New York’s taxpayers — should get out of the business of sponsoring one-sided forums and stop trying to exercise undue influence over the free marketplace of ideas. That is the real violation of academic freedom.

Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard Law School.

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