Embracing Debate

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Jews for Racial & Economic Justice rejects accusations of anti-Semitism at Brooklyn College; stands in solidarity with President and Political Science Department

JFREJ condemns the baseless accusations of anti-Semitism and disgraceful threats against academic freedom made against Brooklyn College and the Political Science department following the political science department’s co-sponsorship of a panel on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). These have included threats to withhold funds and calls for the resignation of Brooklyn College President Karen Gould.  We reject the bullying of such self-appointed spokespeople for Jews and “guardians of academia” as Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Weisenfeld, Dov Hikind and Lewis Fidler.

Opponents of the panel imply that a forum on BDS constitutes both a form of anti-Semitism and an existential threat to the safety of Jewish residents of Brooklyn.  Nothing could be further from the truth: our collective safety and security depend upon open discussion and debate of the actions of states, militaries, and social movements.  Discussion of controversial issues is the heart and soul of academic departments and of the university. Further, there is a long and rich textual and cultural tradition of debate embraced throughout Jewish history. Therefore, we support and stand with Brooklyn College President Karen Gould and the Political Science Department for sponsoring a program that will further educational discussion and debate.

We are additionally appalled by the actions of otherwise progressive NYC elected officials who have demanded that the political science department withdraw co-sponsorship of a panel presentation organized by a student club.  A group of City Council members has even threatened to cut college funding if the event is not cancelled, or the political science department does not withdraw its sponsorship.  This abuse of power evokes the purges and repressions of the McCarthy era, now directed at those who discuss critical perspectives on Israel. We commend the council members who have withdrawn their names from this threatening letter, and urge all others to do the same. We as JFREJ position ourselves as watchdogs for justice here in New York City and we feel mandated to speak out against this attempt to silence political viewpoints.

JFREJ has not taken an organizational position regarding BDS because it falls outside our focus area. However, we have repeatedly stood up for the freedom of Jews and non-Jews to freely express their opinions on Israel/Palestine and other issues, and we will continue to do so.