Hikind puts the squeeze on Brooklyn College

February 5, 2013 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Midwood/Borough Park), who recently led a protest against the Brooklyn College Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship of a lecture advocating a boycott of Israel, has reached out to major donors and trustees of the school in an effort to persuade the college to withdraw its sponsorship.

The lecture, scheduled for Feb. 7, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and a host of other organizations, will focus on “the importance of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in helping to end Israeli apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Yehudah Meth, a spokesman for Hikind, told the Eagle that the objective was not to get the donors to stop their donations to the college, but rather to have them convince the school’s administration that its support of the lecture is inappropriate. “The Political Science Department is the university, and the university is supported by tax dollars.” Meth elaborated recently.

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He added that while the student group has the right to hold the meeting, any university sponsorship is akin to the college sponsoring David Duke, or a speaker from the Ku Klux Klan. Hikind has called the meeting a “hatefest.”

Meanwhile, Karen Gould, president of the college, has said she would welcome more meetings expressing different points of view on this subject.

“Over the next two months, with the support of the Wolfe Institute for the Humanities and other campus units and community groups, we will provide multiple opportunities for discussion about the topics and related subject matter at the heart of this controversy,” she said in a statement.

The Wolfe Institute sponsors a wide variety of events, from arts and theater to political debates to literary readings presided over by radio host Leonard Lopate.

In addition, Paisley Currah, chair of the Political Science Department, wrote on the department’s web site, “We welcome–indeed encourage–requests to co-sponsor speakers and events from all student groups, departments, and programs.”

The movement against the school’s sponsorship of the BDS lecture, however, continued to pick up steam. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have all added their voices to the campaign against the college’s stance.

Turning out to support a Hikind-led protest rally last week were former Comptroller Bill Thompson; state Senators Eric Adams, John Sampson and Rhoda Jacobs; Assemblypersons Alan Maisel, Steven Cymbrowitz, Michael Simanowitz and Helene Weinstein; and Councilmen David Greenfield and Mike Nelson.

The BDS campaign, begun in 2005 by Palestinian intellectuals and non-governmental organizations, seeks to isolate Israel by boycotting not only Israeli businesses and government institutions, but, in many cases, also Israeli cultural groups and universities.

Ironically, a very large percentage of Israeli academics and artists are critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Omar Barghouti, one of the two speakers scheduled for Feb. 7, is one of the founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He has criticized those Palestinians who have taken part in intellectual debates or artistic collaborations with Israelis.

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