BDS

Brooklyn College, City Council, Academic Freedom, and BDS Movement Against Isreal

Brooklyn College has been the center of controversy the last few days, and Greenpoint’s City Council Member Stephen Levin has been involved in at least two sides of the many-sided issue.

On January 29th, Lewis A. Fidler (Assistant Majority Leader of the New York City Council) sent a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould, opposing the upcoming February 7th student-sponsored event at Brooklyn College featuring academics Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler – who were to address the idea of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a response to the over four-decades long Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The letter stated: “We are asking you to either cancel this event or, if it should proceed, then to remove your school’s official support for it.”

The event, “BDS Movement Against Israel,” is sponsored by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine.

Fidler’s letter was signed by nine City Council Members, including Greenpoint’s own Stephen Levin. (Levin represents District 33, including Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, and parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope and Boerum Hill.) The letter stated that, “We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City … want their tax money to be spent on.” As Nation writer Katha Pollitt wrote, “Why do I think their position has more to do with election math than about their fears for the lofty mission of Brooklyn College?”

Fidler’s letter was consecutive to other opposition to the event, led by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. An email exchange/argument between Dershowitz – a Brooklyn College alum who wanted BC to cancel the event – and lawyer/journalist Glenn Greenwald – who insisted on academic freedom, including freedom from censorship by City Council – ensued and can be seen here.

Many, including this writer, contacted Steve Levin’s office to voice our opposition to seeing his signature on Fidler’s letter, which included the sentence “We believe in academic freedom” even as it sought to undermine it. As many residents of District 33 began to voice their dissent to Levin’s position, one Greenpoint resident, Billy Gray (@billymeltdown), tweeted: “I didn’t vote for @StephenLevin33 so he could tell students what events and opinions would be allowed.” Continue reading

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