Those who stifle freedom in the name of Israel’s security also threaten democracy

Harvard law professor and opponent of academic freedom, Alan Dershowitz.

An editorial in the New York Times says: One dispiriting lesson from Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary is the extent to which the political space for discussing Israel forthrightly is shrinking. Republicans focused on Israel more than anything during his confirmation hearing, but they weren’t seeking to understand his views. All they cared about was bullying him into a rigid position on Israel policy. Enforcing that kind of orthodoxy is not in either America’s or Israel’s interest.

Brooklyn College is facing a similar trial for scheduling an event on Thursday night with two speakers who support an international boycott to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. While this page has criticized Israeli settlements, we do not advocate a boycott. We do, however, strongly defend the decision by the college’s president, Karen Gould, to proceed with the event, despite withering criticism by opponents and threats by at least 10 City Council members to cut financing for the college. Such intimidation chills debate and makes a mockery of the ideals of academic freedom.

Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator, has repeatedly declared support for Israel and cited 12 years of pro-Israel votes in the Senate. But that didn’t matter to his opponents, who attacked him as insufficiently pro-Israel and refused to accept any deviation on any vote. Mr. Hagel was even forced to defend past expressions of concern for Palestinian victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the Brooklyn College case, critics have used heated language to denigrate the speakers, Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, leaders of a movement called B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, that espouses “nonviolent punitive measures” to pressure Israel. Alan Dershowitz, a Brooklyn College graduate and Harvard law professor, has complained that the event is unbalanced and should not be co-sponsored by the college’s political science department. On Monday, Ms. Gould said other events offering alternative views are planned.

The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests. J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group that was formed as a counterpoint to conservative groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has argued for vibrant debate and said “criticism of Israeli policy does not threaten the health of the state of Israel.” In fact, it is essential.

Belen Fernandez writes: It comes as little surprise that Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, Brooklyn College alumnus and raving apologist for Israeli crimes, has appointed himself commanding general in the assault on the college’s Political Science department for co-sponsoring a February 7 panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

As the BDS website notes, the non-violent movement was launched by sectors of Palestinian civil society as a means of pressuring Israel “until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights”. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti and philosopher Judith Butler are scheduled presenters.

Among the opening salvoes of Dershowitz’s war was a January 30 Huffington Post article entitled “Brooklyn College Political Science Department’s Israel Problem“, in which his familiarity with the subject matter was underscored by his use of an incorrect acronym for the BDS movement – DBS – no less than 12 times. The error has since been rectified; the article’s more profound defects have not.

In the introductory paragraph, Dershowitz rails against “[t]he international campaign to delegitimate Israel by subjecting the Jewish state – and the Jewish State alone – to divestment, boycotts and sanctions”. No attention is paid to the possibility that Israel’s singling out in this case is perhaps a result of the fact that most other states in this world are not presently engaged in anachronistic colonial exploits, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “Those who stifle freedom in the name of Israel’s security also threaten democracy

  1. DE Teodoru

    Let us recall that Hitler was a little man who wanted to be noticed despite his puniness. I can’t say how much Dershowitz and he have in common but the little man thing (especially the little thing aspect) characterizes the anti-intellectual traits of aging neocons as Adolph wanna-bes who think that their menschood can be manifested only with their mouths . Somehow, standing around on the fringes of intellect, makes them think that they need not back up their bully-mouths with bully-brawn because they will be protected by the academic establishment in the name of “academic freedom” to bully others. It is in that context that the sense of suffocation expressed by the NY Times editorialist protesting Ziofascism should be viewed. People who culturally are used to endless Socratic debate where n+1 opinions are argued among n participants invariably come to see Ziofascism as a rather trying bad form annoyance that is very, very UN-Jewish. When such tin-horn bullies of the mouth deem themselves as both immune to reaction and unimpeded in their chutzpah by any possible consequences, it is the very n+1 debaters of true border-less intellect that first feel themselves suffocated by the constraints imposed by these bullies and can’t refrain from damning the tin-horn bullies who assert freedom of the mouth to bully just as they deem themselves entitled to open-ended tenure. The term “self-hating Jew,” so often used by Dershowitz and his ilk bespeaks their racist orientation as if all Jews should think alike lest they hate who they are.

    Schmuck, that’s un-Jewish and un-American so you lose on two counts; your attitude negates anything you may have to say. Has Dershowitz not noticed that behind his academic tile many would add: “PUTZ”? It is interesting that the NYTimes finds itself among those who’s had enough of this crap.

  2. jk

    I support allowing the Brooklyn College to co-sponsor the event. If a faculty member thinks a speaker is worthy of being heard (not endorsed), I am fine with a college co-sponsoring an event.

    With that said I don’t think you have heard Omar Barghouti give a talk or are that familiar with him. He openly states that he one state advocate. He isn’t just calling for a boycott against Israel the occupation of the Palestinian territories. He thinks all of Israel including Israel proper is occupied.

    He dresses up his talk with progressive buzz words like he supports democracy and equal rights. He may really believe in his uptopia but a one state solution where everyone has equal rights is not realistic and not something I support.

    I support the two state solution.

    He said in a talk I attended that even if the PA and the Israeli government reach an agreement that would not end his BDS campaign unless the agreement met his demands. The PA can never negotiate away his (or all of the individual refugees) inalienable individual right to return to Israel.

    That would be a problem if BDS really had much support. Aside from a few trade union groups, a couple of rock stars, a couple writers, and a couple fringe Jewish groups it does not have much support and is used more as a means to demonize Israel than anything.

    I really wish groups like J Street and American Task Force on Palestine would have more support on college campuses because guys like Omar Barghouti create division and do not lead to constructive dialogue.

    I support his right to speak. At the same time, I wish students would invite speakers that were serious about peace and that would promote alliances of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups to form.

  3. Paul Woodward

    The idea of equal rights will always appear utopian in some people’s eyes. One generation can regard something as unrealistic (abolishing slavery, letting women vote etc) and then the next generation acquires the opposite view.

    As for how much support BDS has, I imagine that anyone who genuinely thought it could exert little influence wouldn’t bother leaving a comment. Maybe in this case, it’s your desire to see J Street and ATFP having more influence on college campuses that is unrealistic.

  4. DE Teodoru

    My dear “jk,” we all wish invited speakers spoke with more authority and expertise. But in issues where everyone is in the dark and a peace that offers the best to all is not serviced by contending censors who deem a “good” speaker he who represents the biggest political force is not that. Republicans and Democrats have miserably failed at problems solving since the end of the Cold War. Does that mean, however, that we should limit ourselves to their clap-trap because on election day they dominate the vote? The result is endless self-serving and foul-smelling BS with no relief and no novel points of light. Thank God there are others who are less politically and more problem solving oriented. They belong on the platform too, particularly in panel debates by many. All this I was rigorously taught by my Jewish mentors who damned with rage my invoking revenge for the Holocaust on their behalf. They insisted that such thinking, over time, only alternates who will be the Holocauster and whom the Holocaustee in the future. I can’t believe all those anti-hate and anti-bully Holocaust survivors died and left no trace of their thinking behind, to be supplanted by the Likud Ziofascists only. It’s not your magnanimity in letting Barghouti speak that’s at issue; it is we all exploring ideas TOGETHER in hope of finding solutions other than Likud winner-gets-all– fed by the US arsenal– solution by which the Palestinians all disappear for the sake of a mythical “Greater Israel.” A smaller Israel is peace, leading the Middle East into modernity, is a lot more promissing than the current some 65 years old Likud bully-boy policy of extermination of a people as the “final solution.”

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