Supporting free speech at Brooklyn College

A lot has been written in the past few days about the attempts to shut down an event this coming February 7th, at which leading Palestinian rights activist Omar Barghouti and world-renowned scholar Judith Butler (who is also a member of JVP’s Advisory Board) are scheduled to give a talk about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on the campus of Brooklyn College.

We add below the remarks given by Donna Nevel from Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! at a February 5 press conference.
We also encourage you to go to www.firealandershowitz.org/ and sign our petition against this kind of bullying.

Remarks by Donna Nevel

I am Donna Nevel from Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say
No! I am pleased to be here today to have the opportunity
to speak out in support of Students for Justice in Palestine
and all those at Brooklyn College and across the city
concerned with ensuring that bullying and intimidation do
not succeed in denying students and others the right to
engage in critical examination and inquiry of important
political ideas.

What we have seen happening here is yet another example
of an attempt to suppress and vilify voices critical of Israel
and Israeli government policies, a pattern that has become
far too common in this city and nation-wide.

It’s bad enough that Alan Dershowitz and Dov Hikind have
engaged in a smear campaign. We’ve come to expect
that. But city council members who threaten to take away
city funding merely because they disagree with the views
expressed on a college campus should be ashamed of
themselves and should be held accountable for trying to
interfere in this way. And they must not prevail.

About the topic that has become so controversial and
caused so much condemnation- It needs to be made clear
that Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is a non-
violent response to the Israeli government’s violation of
basic principles of human rights and international law. It is,
in my view, those violations that should be condemned, not
strategies such as BDS that are designed to put an end to
those violations, and the injustices that they inflict on the
Palestinian people.

In the eight years since hundreds of Palestinian civil society
organizations called for BDS — similar to the boycott/
divestment movement against South African apartheid —
it has garnered strong international support. And for good
reason.

It is a common ploy to suggest that criticism of Israel is anti-
Semitic. It is a ploy that trivializes the long and ugly history
of anti-Semitism.

I want to mention that there were over 2,000 signatories to
the Jewish Voice for Peace petition supporting the event and
the President’s decision not to capitulate to those pressuring
the university.

We are heartened that Brooklyn College is resisting the
calls to abandon what higher education should be—a place
for learning, and challenging, and critical thinking, where
students are pushed to imagine and to envision how they
can participate in making the world a better place for all
peoples and for all communities.

With the pervasiveness of Islamophobia and anti-Arab
racism and the targeting of communities of color in NYC,
and with the attempt to silence those whose views on Israel
do not mirror Israeli government or US policy, colleges
standing strong against political opportunism and attempted
coercion are more important than ever.