Calling a scheduled anti-Israel Brooklyn College event “the antithesis of academic freedom,” a group of elected officials and community leaders sent a letter of protest Thursday to Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould, urging the Political Science Department to withdraw its endorsement of the February 7 program.
The event, organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, includes Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Campus Boycott of Israel, and UC Berkeley Professor Judith Butler, also a supporter of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement, or BDS.
The letter was signed by Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Councilman Brad Lander, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congressmembers Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez and Hakeem Jeffries, state senators Kevin Parker and Daniel Squadron, Assembly members Rhoda Jacobs, Karim Camara, James Brennan, Joan Millman and Walter Mosley, Council members Tish James and Steve Levin, and former comptroller Bill Thompson.
For Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department not to withdraw its endorsement, the letter continued, would “send the message to its students and to the world that the divisive perspective offered by the organizing groups is Brooklyn College’s official view.”
According to an Arutz Sheva report, President Gould asserted that Brooklyn College “does not endorse the views of the speakers visiting our campus next week.”
Said de Blasio in a statement, “The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel; that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms.”
Thursday morning on the campus itself, a large rally took place. Assembly members Dov Hikind and Steve Cymbrowitz, along with Bill Thompson, addressed gathered students, faculty and press.
“Let me tell you, it brings back a lot of memories,” Hikind said. “I stand here very, very disappointed. … Students and the organization [are] holding a lecture next week with two viciously anti-Israel [speakers].”
Mr. Hikind and his fellow elected officials were not calling for the forum itself to be canceled; their issue was that the school, part of the publicly funded CUNY system, is sponsoring the event.
Though college representatives have denied the school’s sponsorship indicates an endorsement of the forum’s views, that argument was not accepted by the various officials at Thursday’s rally. Councilman David Greenfield labeled the forum part of a “hate-filled, anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist movement.”
Other elected officials attending the rally were state senators Eric Adams and John Sampson, Assembly members Rhoda Jacobs, Alan Meisel, Michael Simanowitz, and Helene Weinstein, and Council members David Greenfield and Mike Nelson. Community leaders included Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel; Ari Kagan, a leader in the Russian Jewish community; and Wolf Sender, district manager of CB-12.
Dr. Rina Yarmish, chairperson of mathematics and computer science at Kingsborough Community College, addressed the crowd and delivered comments from CUNY trustee Jeff Wiesenfeld. Joey Saban, a Brooklyn College sophomore, also spoke.