Brooklyn College President Won't Cancel Boycott Israel Panel

Hits Back Against Lawmakers Who Threaten To Cut Funds

By Ari Paul

Published February 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The president of Brooklyn College hit back against New York City Council members who threatened to withhold funds to the school if it allows a panel discussion about the boycott Israel campaign to go forward later this week.

Karen Gould
Karen Gould

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould insisted the discussion would go ahead as planned and defended the decision as part of the school’s commitment to “academic freedom.”

“Providing an open forum to discuss important topics, even those many find highly objectionable, is a centuries-old practice on university campuses around the country,” Gould said. “Indeed, this spirit of inquiry and critical debate is a hallmark of the American education system.”

Gould spoke out after 10 City Councilmembers wrote her a letter objecting to the panel. Prominent pro-Israel voices including lawyer Alan Dershowitz also lambasted the panel that will include philosopher Judith Butler and Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti.

“We don’t believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City, many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program, want their tax money to be spent on,” the lawmakers said.

Supporters of the event praised Gould for standing up to the pressure.

“We knew this would be controversial. We’re not scared of controversy,” said Corey Robin, who has taught political science at Brooklyn College for 15 years. “The fact that government officials have chosen to threaten us … I thought we had moved beyond that.”

Defenders of the panel have likened the move by these City Council members to an incident involving then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani who in 1999 threatened to slash funding to the Brooklyn Museum for showing an image of the Virgin Mary mired in elephant dung.

This prompted Robin to look to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who very publically and passionately stood up to critics of the lower Manhattan Islamic center, invoking freedom of speech and religion.

“In some ways, this fight has really just begun,” he said. “It’s very clear, the terms of the confrontation: the entire academic community against the power of the state.”

Gould also strongly stated that support for the panel should not be seen as the college’s endorsement of the divestment movement.

In addition to Thursday evening’s event, at which I encourage those with opposing views to participate in the discussion and ask tough questions, other forums will present alternative perspectives for consideration,” she said.

“The college welcomes participation from any groups on our campus that may wish to help broaden the dialogue,” she said. “At each of these events, please keep in mind that students, faculty, staff, and guests are expected to treat one another with respect at all times, even when they strongly disagree.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.