It all started when I took out some info sheets. This was something you’d expect of any student opposed to the anti-Israel views being expressed at this Brooklyn College-sponsored event featuring the founder of the BDS movement. I planned to challenge the speakers’ views by taking notes as they spoke and asking questions during the Q&A period. However, I never got the chance to participate in the Q&A period. A member of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the primary event organizer, had other plans for my sheets and me. He had the view that this wasn’t the time or the place to voice opposition, so I should either hand over my sheets or be kicked out. When I refused, he had official CUNY security escort me and two other kippah-clad students out of the event, no questions asked.
This was February 2013, and a violation of our constitutional rights not only by SJP, but of every Brooklyn College department supporting that event, including the office of the president. After an internal investigation, and months of talks and mediation, I and the two others were vindicated, apologized to and promised that such a silencing would never happen again.
So mark our very surprised faces when we were informed of the following event to be held by our very own alma mater Brooklyn College, hosted by the very violators and co-sponsored by the same departments:
“Join Students for Justice in Palestine and allies for a conversation with Professors Steven Salaita and Katherine Franke, moderated by Professor Corey Robin, about Academic Freedom in the context of conversations about Palestine/Israel and the constant push by Zionists to silence academic discourse on the Palestinian struggle and criticisms of Israel.”
Somehow, someway, the very club that silenced the pro-Israel side not even two years ago is being allowed to proclaim that the anti-Israel side is the voice being silenced. Somehow, they have forgotten that they were the ones to blame for the one-sided rhetoric being spewed into the minds of impressionable college students, while explicitly preventing a balance, so that students could form their own opinions on the ever-complicated Arab-Israeli conflict. Somehow, someway, the “absolutely no-repercussions for SJP” approach Brooklyn College elected to take a little less than two years ago has perpetrated this falsification that the new generation of Brooklyn College students will be led to believe. This distortion should not stand in academia.
I call on the Brooklyn College administration, with the little dignity it has left, to put a stop to the blatant lie being portrayed at this event. And, if that’s too much, at the very least, push for dual discourse and let it be known to the general college community that the only ones ever silenced at Brooklyn College were the Jewish pro-Israel students by SJP themselves.