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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.