-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Political Science Department at Brooklyn College voted to co-sponsor a forum on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. The BDS movement claims to be a campaign “to stop Israel’s rapacious occupation, colonization, and apartheid against the Palestinian people.” The all-but-unknown BDS movement has gained no traction in the U.S., but thanks to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, it has achieved a new amount of publicity.
Dershowitz has written an editorial in the Daily News and blog post at HuffPo denouncing BDS and his alma mater. Dershowitz writes: “Freedom of speech, and academic freedom require equal access to both sides of a controversy.” However, it seems to be Dershowitz and the numerous NYC politicians that threaten free speech and academic freedom when they demand “Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department to withdraw their endorsement of this event.”
Brooklyn College president Karen L. Gould responds:
Unfortunately, some may believe that our steadfast commitment to free speech signals an institutional endorsement of a particular point of view. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brooklyn College does not endorse the views of the speakers visiting our campus next week, just as it has not endorsed those of previous visitors to our campus with opposing views.
A similar situation occurred when the University of Pennsylvania hosted a BDS conference last year. To counter the BDS conference, pro-Israel groups set up their own event that featured keynote speaker Alan Dershowitz. Penn’s Political Science department, which refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference, co-hosted Dershowitz’s lecture.
Dershowitz claimed that the “Brooklyn College political science department should get out of the business of sponsoring one-sided political propaganda.” It’s just a guess, but I’m assuming that Dershowitz’s concerns about Brooklyn College Political Science department’s co-sponsorship of their BDS conference where not present when Penn’s Political Science department co-hosted his “speech.”
Dershowitz’s claim that Israel is being “singled out” is quite bizarre. Implicit in this claim is a moral equivalence between Israel and other nations deserving the BDS treatment. While I agree that many nations have an appalling record regarding human rights and deserve the BDS treatment, it is unusual to find Dershowitz admit that Israel is one of them.
Criticism of Israel’s current occupation and its treatment of Palestinians has drawn claims of anti-Semitism, a classic ad hominem fallacy. Such claims have a, desired, chilling effect on political discourse. When criticizing Israeli policies, those making the fallacious argument of anti-Semitism demonstrate a fear that the criticism is valid.