Students at Brooklyn College in New York have issued a press statement rejecting the allegations that Israel-aligned groups and individuals — and some media — have made against incidents that occured during last week’s discussion on boycott, divestment and sanctions with Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler.
During the event, several students were asked to leave by security for disrupting Butler’s speech, but the coverage since the event has been misleading and distorted, according to a report by Alex Kane in Mondoweiss. For example, the New York Daily News, Kane wrote, “continues to add fuel to the fire” over the incident, which as the press release from Brooklyn College’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter explains, “was based solely on the fact that [those kicked out] were disturbing guests around them.”
Moreover, Dov Hikind, an ardent right-wing Zionist and Brooklyn Assemblyman — and also a former member of the Jewish Defense League, a designated terror group by the FBI — has filed a request for New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the removal of the four students who disrupted Butler’s speech.
Brooklyn College’s Students for Justice in Palestine’s entire press release is below.
Brooklyn College SJP Rejects Allegations Regarding Last Week’s Event on BDS
NEW YORK - Since last Thursday’s discussion at Brooklyn College of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, several complaints and unfounded accusations have been made against the event organizers, Students for Justice in Palestine – Brooklyn College.
These claims, some of which have attracted media attention and prompted a request for New York’s attorney general to open an investigation, follow an ugly attack campaign that preceded Thursday’s event, waged by local politicians and others who attempted to smear BC-SJP and BDS supporters as anti-Semites and pressure Brooklyn College into cancelling the event. Such efforts to conflate support for equal rights for Palestinians and an end to Israel’s occupation with anti-Semitism are outrageous and deplorable.
In response to these latest allegations, BC-SJP reiterates once again that our organization, like the BDS movement as a whole, categorically rejects any and all forms of racial, ethnic or religious prejudice and bigotry, including anti-Semitism, and issues the following clarifications regarding what happened on Thursday:
Problems with Registration and Entry
Due to logistical problems on the part of the organizers, some people who registered for Thursday’s event were reportedly unable to gain access. A small number of individuals have claimed they were denied entry because they were Jewish and/or supporters of Israel. This is patently false. In fact, many Jewish students and opponents of BDS were in attendance, including several who posed questions during the question and answer session.
Problems with registration and entry were inadvertent and a result of difficulties organizers had handling the unexpectedly large number of requests from people who wished to attend, which skyrocketed in the days immediately prior to the event as media attention and controversy increased. We apologize to anyone who tried to register in advance but could not get in because of the overwhelming process we as organizers were dealing with. Suggestions that only those with opposing viewpoints were denied entry are unfounded. Many who agreed with the speakers’ views were also unable to get in because their names could not be found in the RSVP list.
Media Unable to Cover Event Inside
Initially, BC-SJP decided not to allow the event to be videotaped by media, at the request of one of the speakers whose remarks were to be published online in The Nation magazine the same day. On the day of the event, when several journalists wished to gain entry because of the widespread media attention and controversy it was attracting, the organizers could not accommodate them because all available places were already taken, with many people on the wait-list, and the administration couldn’t allow any additional guests in the room, which was filled to capacity.
Nevertheless, some media were able to attend because they had registered just like everyone else, and they covered the event for outlets like The New York Times. Others were encouraged to attend a press conference outside immediately beforehand featuring one of the evening’s speakers, Palestinian human rights activist Omar Barghouti.
Students Asked to Leave for Disrupting Judith Butler’s Speech
During Judith Butler’s speech, four students were removed from the room by security for disturbing others sitting near them. The individuals in question were speaking loudly enough to prompt people sitting around them to ask them to be quiet. They were talking, shuffling papers, and moving noisily around in their seats for several minutes, while Dr. Butler was talking, prompting complaints from other attendees sitting nearby. Because the acoustics in the room were poor and Dr. Butler was speaking softly, their actions prevented those around them from hearing her well.
The decision to remove these individuals was made by organizers after consulting with security, after they failed to comply with requests to be quiet. Their removal was based solely on the fact that they were disturbing guests around them.
As with the accusation that some people were denied entry because of their religion or political viewpoint, claims that these four individuals were asked to leave because they were Jewish or opponents of BDS are entirely unfounded. There were many Jewish students and non-students in attendance, with varying viewpoints on the subject, some of whom asked challenging questions during the question and answer period.
In organizing and hosting this event, BC-SJP in no way discriminated against individuals because of their religion, ethnicity or political views. Allegations to the contrary ignore the facts that led to their removal. BC-SJP has always opposed all forms of racial, ethnic or religious prejudice and bigotry, including anti-Semitism, in theory and in practice, and will continue to do so. We will also continue our efforts to educate our fellow students and the general public about Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights, and the complicity of the United States in those abuses, despite the efforts of some who wish to intimidate and silence us.