On February 7th, the Department of Political Science of Brooklyn College and various student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) co-sponsored a Forum entitled "Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti: BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights." "BDS" stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. This movement advocates economic war against Israel. The supposed grounds are human rights violations, but even if these allegations were true, which they are not, no other state -- including incontestable rights violators like North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia or Egypt -- is targeted by the BDS movement. It is an anti-Israel movement, not a human rights movement. Since no dissenting speakers were invited, the February 7th event was not a forum.
In clear violation of academic freedom, the BDS movement advocates boycotting Israeli academics. In taking the unusual step of co-sponsoring this event, the B.C. Political Science Department claimed to support the free exchange of ideas. However, no opponent of BDS was represented at the event, and the Political Science Department has never sponsored any event whose purpose was to defend Israel against political attack. The Department's action thus clearly enlisted its faculty in the BDS attack on academic freedom. Even if a BDS proponent has a right to speak, he or she has no right to university sponsorship. Although Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has condemned the BDS movement, he has not condemned its sponsorship by an academic unit of the university over which he presides, and Brooklyn College's President Karen Gould has declined even to condemn BDS.
Barghouti is known for his BDS movement and Butler is notorious for her "understanding of Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive ... ." Progressive? The Hamas Charter, Article 13, says that, "so-called peaceful solutions ... are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas}." Article 6 of the Hamas charter says it "strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine ..." Palestine of course includes and replaces Israel. Article 7 cites approvingly this Koranic text: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when ... the stone and trees will say, O Muslim ... there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." And, lest there be any doubt about the antisemitic credo of Hamas, Articles 22 and 28 blame the Jews (not even Israeli Jews) for the Capitalist West, the Communist East, the drug trade, the First and Second World War, and so on. This is hate speech and a charter for genocide.
Those committed to academic responsibility and academic freedom should join in condemning this misuse of a university's public trust.
Abigail Martin is professor of philosophy emeritus at Brooklyn College.