BDS, Brooklyn College, and Dismissing Dershowitz (For the Last Time)

Some more direct consideration of comments on my BDS at Brooklyn College and Dershowitz posts (here; here; and here). These are now settling into a familiar pattern of repetition of the same claims again and again and again, so rather than responding to each one of the comments directly, I will address them en masse here; my interlocutors will know who is being addressed. There is an accusation of ad-hominem argument (conveniently made, I suspect, to change the subject and to detract attention from Dershowitz’s bullying and thuggish tactics) and also the ludicrous suggestion that departments not sponsor ‘polarizing’ topics.

The problem, in general, seems to be that the commentators so concerned about logical fallacies, despite being folks apparently capable of writing voluminously, repetitiously and tediously, seem also to lack elementary reading skills. They do not seem to have read my responses to the accusation of ad-hominem argument and neither do they seem to have read Patrick S. O’Donnell’s responses. They seem unaware of the actual understanding, considerably more sophisticated and nuanced and I daresay, literate, than theirs, of fallacies that logicians, philosophers and rhetoricians of all stripes seem to possess. For instance, philosophers of argumentation such as Doug Walton (Toronto) writing on classical fallacies, including ad hominem, have described them as not always fallacious in the ways so quickly imagined. So, as already pointed out by Patrick, I seem rationally justified in being skeptical of claims made by a notorious liar on the ground that these are very likely to be a lie. (Despite my response, I’m heartened by the attention shown to logical fallacies by these commentators; despite their misunderstanding of the concept, the fact that it is even on their radar is a heartening thing.)

But there might be a far more fundamental problem at hand. Despite all the accusations of ad-hominem argumentation, an accusation onto which they have lacked desperately, lacking any point of their own to make in the case actually under consideration (a favored tactic of those unable to address an argument is to change the subject), they have yet to demonstrate that there is an ad-hominem argument at hand. The fact that I describe Dershowitz as a pro-torture plagiarist in the same passage of text where I argue that his characterization of the parameters of debate is a ludicrous one, and that he does not understand the concepts of freedom of speech and academic freedom, does not mean that characterization played any role dismissing his claims. (For instance: ‘You sir, are a knave! Your argument, to which I now turn, is false. Here is how etc…’) As they seem to be so enamored of the accusation, they should please demonstrate systematically, my argument in premise-conclusion form, and point me to the premise that does the ad-hominem work.

Lastly, I have already addressed the claim that the Political Science dept. needs to ensure ‘balance’ or not sponsor ‘polarizing events’ in my post yesterday, so I will not address those claims again. Please read the posts. If you repeat yourself, you are a troll, and I will not feed you.

Note: I’ve just noticed that Patrick S. O’Donnell has responded wonderfully well to the same points as I did above. Thank you.

43 comments on “BDS, Brooklyn College, and Dismissing Dershowitz (For the Last Time)

  1. Anna says:

    I have found, in general, that people who suspect, however dimly, that their side of the argument is somehow lacking (at least in evidentiary and/or philosophical rigor), will grab on to less significant, or wholly created, issues as a way to detract from the weakness of their own claims. An example of this is the obsessive focus of the pro-gun nuts on being exacting about the type/caliber/brand/size/etc. of a specific gun when the issue is background checks and the presence of military-style weapons (regardless of type) among the civilian populace. By muddling the issue in this way, they hope to gain advantage through sheer sophistry. I think that the problem here is pretty similar: Dershowitz is, if anything, a hypocrite who had no moral qualms about delivering the Political Science department-sponsored Konefsky Lecture at Brooklyn College without any “opposing” sides to “balance” his views out — and the republic stood! Those who are screaming about “ad hominems,” or “balance” now ostensibly have the ability to look that up and verify if for themselves. But, no — they would rather accuse without proving and complain without doing any background work. Par for course, I think….

  2. John Protevi says:

    Glenn Greenwald has an update to this post: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/02/brooklyn-college-bds-alan-dershowitz

    An emailer just brought to my attention what may be the most glaring and amazing inaccuracy in Dershowitz’s statements to me. Dershowitz repeatedly claimed – both the me and elsewhere – that academic departments should not sponsor one-sided events on controversial topics, and that he would not want any department to sponsor him for such an event. He wrote to me: “If and when I come to Brooklyn College to speak against BDS, I do not expect the event to be co-sponsored by the political science department. It will be sponsored by student and outside groups, as this event should be.”

    But last February, a major controversy erupted when the University of Pennsylvania held an event with pro-BDS speakers. To address the controversy, here is what the school did:

    “To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: ‘Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.’ Penn’s Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz’s lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most ‘immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.'”

    So that’s not only another example where the highly controversial Dershowitz appeared without opposition on a college campus while sponsored by a university department, but it’s an example where he did so on this very topic: BDS. And he was sponsored by the same Penn Political Science department to give his anti-BDS talk that refused to sponsor the event with pro-BDS speakers. Where was Dershowitz’s oh-so-principled objections then to university departments appearing to take sides in these debates?

    By itself, this proves that this Brooklyn College controversy has nothing to do with the stated principle that university department should not sponsor one-sided events on controversial topics. It instead has everything to do with finding such events objectionable only when they contain criticisms of Israel. That the leading opponent of the Brooklyn College event himself regularly speaks at universities on controversial without opposition, sponsored by university departments, conclusively demonstrates how dishonest this current crusade is.

  3. Certainly your use of ad hominem arguments, which extends to demonetization of Dershowitz and all BDS opponents, is problematic coming from a Brooklyn College professor of philosophy. But the larger problem is your effort to suppress academic free speech while pretending to defend free speech. If it is just one side, the BDS side, that qualifies to have its academic freedom of speech defended, as you apparently think, then it is not free speech at all. You have depicted the opponents of BDS as so vicious, and so deluded, that they are unworthy of serious consideration. The intent that demonizing argument is not academic freedom, but is a fanatical effort to suppress the opposing point of view. Claiming that only the BDS side of the dispute has virtue is far more troubling than the ad hominems.

  4. Anna says:

    Malcolm, please say how Professor Chopra is “suppressing academic free speech.” This accusation is not something you can just toss out, without proof — so, get to it. Otherwise, what you have to say is just another bunch of hot air and hyperbole.

    • It is an argument to exclude an opposing point of view, Anna. That is, of course, what Samir has accused Dershowitz of doing, although as far as I can tell Samir, and the other BDS advocates at Brooklyn College still have their academic freedom intact, to the extent it existed previous to this fiasco. In my view BDS is opposed to free speech, academic or otherwise, that is not their own speech. It is self contradictory to want that for BDS, while trying to block out the opposing views.

      There will be not be an additional speaker. I know that. If there were, my own preference would not be in favor of having Dershowitz speak, but someone more neutral and academically focused. A good choice would have been, I think, Martha Nussbaum. She is an excellent philosopher, who is also directly involved — in a positive way — in human rights issues. She has written a paper called ‘Against Academic Boycotts’ which can be found on JSTOR or EBSCO’s Academic Search Primer.

      • FreeSpeechinBrooklyn says:

        But Malcolm, you still haven’t answered the question: Why should any and every BDS event be required to have an opposing speaker? That doesn’t make any sense when Zionist speakers are able to present their perspective in so many forums without opposing speakers. You can organize an anti-BDS event, or many such events, and I guarantee there will be no moral or political pressure to have a pro-BDS speaker. Could it be because criticism of Israel MUST be immediately nullified in every possible way and every possible space? So that having anti-BDS audience members is not enough…we MUST also have balance on the panel and ideally we should only have an anti-BDS panel. It’s very difficult not to draw that conclusion from what one reads and hears.

  5. Malcolm, I’m not sure you understand the difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘academic freedom.’ Overlapping issues, yes, but they’re not the same. Once you figure out the distinction, you’ll have to completely reform your argument. Or admit that Chopra is correct.

    To be a pedant, plural of ad hominem would be ad homines.

  6. Karl, thanks for the comment, but I am not sure I understand your point. But there is nothing academic about BDS. Having two speakers present arguments in favor of BDS is just as political as it would be having two speakers present the Tea Party ideas on budget reform.

  7. Anna says:

    Malcolm, you did not respond to my question. Do you think that it is simply prima facie obvious that any forum NECESSARILY requires an opposing view to be immediately presented? If so, then most forums are guilty of stifling speech.

    Also, you say “It is an argument to exclude an opposing point of view, Anna. That is, of course, what Samir has accused Dershowitz of doing, although as far as I can tell Samir, and the other BDS advocates at Brooklyn College still have their academic freedom intact, to the extent it existed previous to this fiasco.” The same can be said for Dershowitz, all the politicians involved, and anyone in the campus community who wants to air opposing views — or do you think that their rights to free speech evaporated, if by magic, simply because BDS is going to be on campus? Even if it were true that BDS is opposed to free speech, does that mean that we should be likewise oppose to their free expression? Because a white supremacist does not want to hear from the NAACP, does that mean that we should prevent that jerk from speaking? Questions of whether or not speech should be protected should not hinge on what opinions a given party has, even what opinions they have on the sanctity of free speech.

    Finally, you say “In my view BDS is opposed to free speech, academic or otherwise, that is not their own speech. It is self contradictory to want that for BDS, while trying to block out the opposing views.” How is it “opposed to free speech”? Do you have proof of that? I think that you are confusing the fact that they are saying what you do not like with the silencing of the opposition. But one of the main REASONS that we protect free speech is for unpopular speech to have its say, too, and in this case, the unpopular speech just might be what BDS has to say. Simply hearing someone say things that might upset you is not a suppression of your speech — thus the distinction between offense and harm. It is simply the marketplace of ideas, where you do not have to buy, or sample, every product.

    • Of course it is not obligatory, Anna. But such things have been done elsewhere. For instance, at ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ at the University of California San Diego in 2010 they invited David Horowitz to speak, and in his comments on this video he mentions speaking at other such university events also. Perhaps the University of California has guidelines for dealing with such controversies, but I do to know that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fSvyv0urTE

  8. Anna says:

    Malcolm, you are failing to make a case that anyone — Brooklyn College, or the Political Science Department, or Samir — is suppressing free speech. People can have differing opinions about the quality or the truthfulness or the value of speech, and that is fine. That is how is it supposed to be. But to make a claim that someone, or something, is actually suppressing speech is a much different thing altogether, and you seem to have given up in this regard.

    • I did not say that anyone at Brooklyn College is suppressing freespeech. I think things could have been done better by the school. I think BDS is essentially anti-freespeech, but they have a right to speak and I would defend that right if it was in actually question. I regret the ad hominems, and the demonetization of those who defend Israel; but BDS exists to demonize Israel, so although I thought the verbal attacks are deplorable, I did not think they were surprising. This discussion has been useful to me because it helped me clarify some aspects of my own thinking. I did not expect to convert BDS activists to my way of thinking. If I got even one person, even if silent in this discussion, to think about the issues in more depth, that would be good enough good. If not even one, that is okay too. Ci vediamo.

      • FreeSpeechinBrooklyn says:

        BDS does not demonize Israel. Israel demonizes Israel by practicing illegitimate occupation and oppression of non-Jewish peoples. BDS exists to remind people like you that there is a moral imperative in resisting land theft and violent occupation, something that (conveniently) gets forgotten in the way this becomes about pro this and anti that. Do you stand for land theft and violent occupation? Do you stand for non-violent resistance? Then I don’t know how you could oppose BDS.

  9. Anna says:

    You said: “But the larger problem is your effort to suppress academic free speech while pretending to defend free speech.” Was this aimed at nobody in particular — or at the author of this blog? When I asked you: “Malcolm, please say how Professor Chopra is “suppressing academic free speech.” You replied: “It is an argument to exclude an opposing point of view, Anna.” You should keep track of what you say.

    You also repeated: “I think BDS is essentially anti-freespeech, but they have a right to speak and I would defend that right if it was in actually question” without offering a shred of evidence. At this point, I will have to assume that you either think that the people with whom you are engaging cannot read….or, you are just a troll. And we are done.

    • Yes, Anna, I think it is a standard practice used by BDS advocates to attack critics by demonizing them, as with the sustained attack on Dershowitz for his criticism of this particular BDS event. So we see a range of vicious accusations that have nothing to do with the actual discussion and are just an attempt to drag the name of an opponent through the mud. As another person commenting on this issue has previously pointed out, that is called ‘Poisoning the Well.’ Examples, in this discussion, range from calling Dershowitz a “pro-torture plagiarist,” to calling me a “troll.” http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/poisoning-the-well.html

      Accusing Dershowitz, of trying to suppress free speech, is itself an effort to besmirch a critic by claiming his criticism is anti academic freedom and anti- freespeech, when it is actually just criticism of BDS in general, and this BDS event in particular. The right to criticize is essential for all to have, but the BDS advocates in this discussion want it for themselves only. I consider that attempt an anti-freespeech position, as I have explained several times.

      • Anna says:

        You know, citing Nizkor in this case takes some nerve. As far as your other claim goes, nobody is suppressing Dershowitz’s speech, are they? In fact, he is loud and clear — and everywhere! What he wants to do, however, is to only have free speech on his terms, and this is the point of contention here.

  10. adjunct says:

    Anna,
    I admire your troll spotting abilities, but I don’t think that the argument that BDS is essentially anti-freespeech is very difficult to make. An academic boycott of Israeli institutions basically calls for the denial of a platform for Israeli academic (or others) to speak out. Perhaps you could counterargue that this is not quite the same as denying Free Speech (because they’re not [yet?] calling for the criminalization of such speech – although what of those who violate the boycott and enable that speech?). Whether one would be right to make such a distinction is a good question, but I don’t think that it fails the standard of ‘offering a shred of evidence’ for that position. And that is before we even ask whether such a position, even were it not opposed to free speech, isn’t obviously profoundly opposed to any basic minimal academic ethos. BDS’ further ‘exception’ of allowing Israeli academics who denounce the occupation an exception to the boycott only makes matters far worse.
    I’m not going to put words in Malcolm’s mouth as to what he meant by this statement of course. I doubt Prof. Chopra is violating anyone’s free speech here. Acting like a bully, perhaps, but that’s not the same thing. Nor is it the same when done by Dershowitz.

    • David Lurie says:

      Agree. It is deeply absurd to call a “movement” devoted to boycotting the arts and culture of another nation anything less than an anti-free speech movement.

      It is distressing that this is where “left” academics find themselves today — defending blacklists.

      • http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/goldblog-vs-peter-beinart-part-ii/56934/
        Peter Beinart:
        “I’m not asking Israel to be Utopian. I’m not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I’m actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel’s security and for its status as a Jewish state. What I am asking is that Israel not do things that foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, because if it is does that it will become–and I’m quoting Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak here–an “apartheid state.”

        “I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state.”

        Once you understand that, then we can talk about the military occupation.

      • FreeSpeechinBrooklyn says:

        Sure. Would you say the same thing about apartheid South Africa? I leave you Judith Butler’s argument, which is more eloquent than anything I’ve read here?

        http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/judith-butler-responds-to-attack-i-affirm-a-judaism-that-is-not-associated-with-state-violence.html

      • Anna says:

        David, I suggest you unclutch your pearls and get off the fainting couch. The point of free speech is to allow even the most unpleasant, offensive speech. Protecting the good stuff is the easy part. Time to get that straight — right, center, or left.

    • FreeSpeechinBrooklyn says:

      These are essentially arguments to allow Zionists and Israel-apologists to have access to any forum they choose, while curtailing the speech rights of those who disagree with the construction of a discriminatory, ethnic-specific nation-state that continues to practice land theft and violent occupation. Let’s examine how BDS “curtails the right of Israel academics to express themselves.” BDS says: Let’s not invite academics and scholars who don’t take a strong stance against the occupation. It says: Let’s not go to Israeli universities who don’t take a stance against the occupation. It asks for a *conscious decision* for American people and institutions to review the facts and decide who they want to invite and not invite, where they want to go and not go. And that is a free speech, democratic right. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like it. You can vote within your institutions for or against it. But the big difference with what is happening in BC is that institutions and people get to decide based on dialogue and debate, and democratic process, as against the “shut all the dialogue down” approach that Zionists are utilizing to stifle, rather than open, debate and conversation, using all the naked political power they can muster.

    • Anna says:

      Adjunct, so your argument is that “this is bad speech, I don’t like it, it could lead to some really bad stuff happening, etc. — therefore, we should just silence it”? So you would then disagree with the Skokie case — and that was some SERIOUSLY bad speech! The point is this: the argument is NOT whether or not we agree with BDS — it is really beside the point, in fact, if we do or do not. The only question is whether we are going to allow only pleasing speech to be heard, or whether we are going to actually embrace what free speech actually means, and realize that there is a difference between endorsement and a formal respect for basic rights.

      • Anna, am I right in guessing that you are Anna Law from Brooklyn College’s Dept of Political Science? The same Anna Law who was a college of Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University, and later brought to Brooklyn College by Karen Gould when she was appointed President of the College?

      • adjunct says:

        Anna,
        My argument is no such thing. What I said was in response to your claim that Malcolm had no basis for his accusation of BDS’ being anti free speech. I said nothing in my comment about not allowing free speech to BDS.
        The funny thing about all this is that this argument never was about whether BDS has a right to assemble and say whatever nonsense they like. This was a debate about official sponsorship by the political science department. Nobody, as far as I can tell, even now, is calling for censoring the event. Bear in mind, by the way, that even if people were protesting the actual presence of the event, that too would be their right to free speech. One would of course be correct in telling such hypothetical protesters that their right to free speech doesn’t extend to actually realizing their objectives (since that would violate free speech), but the same extends to the BDS folks themselves who are asking for free speech in support of a cause that violates it. So why criticize one set of critics over the other?

  11. Seth, I thought this discussion was over the BDS fiasco at Brooklyn College.

    But, in short, The Palestinians were given two offers that would have resulted in a two state solution. One was from Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David Summit, and the other was from Ehud Olmert between 2006 and 2008 (at a time when there was a freeze in building settlements). Arafat declined to respond to the first and Abbas declined to respond to the second.

    • diegovela says:

      There is no fiasco at Brooklyn college; the only fiasco is the response. Dershowitz has spoken there in the past, when he was going around defending torture. No one else was on the stage at the time. My annoyance with the language this sort of post is that refers to academic freedom as if it was the defense of free speech. I defend both, but college professors have jumped through all sorts of hoops to get where they are, and they spend their careers jumping through more. You can’t separate scholarship from normative politics. But as far as that goes, Omar Barghouti is getting his MA in Tel Aviv. As far as Barak and Camp David I’ll follow Corey Robin and link only to Jews talking about Palestine. Gush Shalom:
      http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/downloads/baraks_offers/barak_eng.swf

      Of course there was no freeze between 2006 and 2008.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/world/middleeast/15settlements.html

      This issue is too important to be sidetracked into academic discussion. Brooklyn college should get a bigger hall and invite Dershowitz to share the stage. I find David Lurie and others like him far more offensive than I find you; you’re fighting for your cause. I doubt you’d deny being a bigot. I think you’d say you’ve earned the right. A well known European Jewish philosophy professor admitted to be that he supports the Jewish state because Europe still scares him. He wants Jews like him to have some place to escape to. You understand that and so do I.
      How many people reading this understand that? Not enough.
      I’m an anti Zionist, but I have more sympathy for Arabs and Jews than I do for Europeans.

    • Malcolm,

      Not surprisingly, your brief description of the peace process in these two instances is inaccurate and misleading, although this tendentious perception remains popular, in no small part owing to the New York Times. A more accurate rendering is provided by, among others, Jerome Slater in “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 116, No. 2 (Summer 2001) and the relevant sections in Zeev Maoz’s invaluable Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006). I suspect you might likewise benefit from Slater’s wonderful essay, “Muting the Alarm over the Palestinian Conflict: The New York Times v. Haaretz, 2000-2006,” in National Security, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Fall 2007): 88-120.

      So many folks confidently comment on this conflict without any evidence of having attempted to grasp at least some of the relevant scholarly literature on the subject.* In general, one should keep in mind a conclusion reached in Maoz’s remarkable tome: Israel’s “peace policy” is generally characterized by decision makers “reluctant and risk averse” when it comes to making peace, yet “daring and trigger happy when it comes to making war.” This is further confirmed and entrenched by the fact that these same decision makers typically have “not initiate[d] peace overtures,” instead, “most of the peace initiative in the Arab-Israeli conflict come either from the Arab world, from the international community, or from grass-roots and informal channels.” On the precious few occasions Israel has been willing to take risks for peace, they have paid off, however, “The Arabs generally showed a remarkable tendency for compliance with their treaty obligations. In quite a few cases, it was Israel—rather than the Arabs—that violated formal and informal agreements.” Israel’s foreign policy has been marked by a “profound sense of paranoia” that ritually invokes the refrain of “existential threats,” combining a volatile “siege mentality” with a “policy of arrogance” that “entails an expectation that when the Arabs are sufficiently weak” they will be willing to come to the negotiating and bargaining table on Israeli terms.

      * The bulk of which I cited here: http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2012/11/the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-a-reading-list.html (although I can send a much shorter list along to those interested of about 25 titles I think are fairly representative of the crème-de-la-crème on the subject).

    • There is no fiasco at Brooklyn college; the only fiasco is the response. Dershowitz has spoken there in the past, when he was going around defending torture. No one else was on the stage at the time. My annoyance with the language this sort of post is that refers to academic freedom as if it was the defense of free speech. I defend both, but college professors have jumped through all sorts of hoops to get where they are, and they spend their careers jumping through more. You can’t separate scholarship from normative politics. But as far as that goes, Omar Barghouti is getting his MA in Tel Aviv. As far as Barak and Camp David I’ll follow Corey Robin and link only to Jews talking about Palestine. Gush Shalom:
      http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/downloads/baraks_offers/barak_eng.swf

      Of course there was no freeze between 2006 and 2008.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/world/middleeast/15settlements.html

      This issue is too important to be sidetracked into academic discussion. Brooklyn college should get a bigger hall and invite Dershowitz to share the stage. I find David Lurie and others like him far more offensive than I find you; you’re fighting for your cause. I doubt you’d deny being a bigot. I think you’d say you’ve earned the right. A well known European Jewish philosophy professor admitted to be that he supports the Jewish state because Europe still scares him. He wants Jews like him to have some place to escape to. You understand that and so do I.
      How many people reading this understand that? Not enough.
      I’m an anti Zionist, but I have more sympathy for Arabs and Jews than I do for Europeans.

      • Seth,

        1. I consider the BDS movement, as a whole, to be an ethical fiasco.

        2. As far as I know, Dershowitz did not discuss the issue of torture in his talk at Brooklyn College, but if you can link me to a transcript of his speech that shows otherwise, I would certainly be interested in seeing it. In any case Dershowitz is opposed to the use of torture, although he did suggest that there might be emergency situations that might justify it. Moreover the groups you support do not just think torture is okay to obtain confessions that ended in executions. http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/palestinian-authority/report-2011

        3. You have a right to support Gush Shalom, and have a right to be biased. I would never argue over that.

        4. There was a freeze in new settlements at that time, although there was new building in existing settlements. If I had realized the qualification, I would have mentioned it.

        5. I do not know who David Lurie is. I do regret that opposing sides in the I/P disputes are so vicious in their accusations. I actually wish the Palestinians well, although I do not think their problems are all the fault of Israel. Corrupt leaders, high levels of social stratification, and refusal to resettle displaced populations in the countries where they are living, have made this mess what it is.

        6. I do deny being a bigot, although I suspect that you are. I think that you are doing more to harm the population you say you support than I am.

        7. I have no idea which European Jewish philosopher you are referring to. According to Edward Said: “I was told by Gilles Deleuze that he and Foucault, once the closest of friends, had fallen out over the question of Palestine, Foucault expressing support for Israel, Deleuze for the Palestinians.” Even in Europe, with all its history of virulent antisemitism, there are two sides to the issue.

    • FreeSpeechinBrooklyn says:

      These are fabrications. They are not worthy of scholarly debate. Negotiations were ongoing when the Israeli government decide to stop negotiating. In a classic master-slave complex, your idea is that the Palestinians should accept what they were doled out. If Israel has the moral upper hand then it should stop occupying stolen land, instead of whining about Palestinians not accepting this or that. This is from Jewish Voices for Peace:

      Q: Did the PLO reject a “generous offer” for peace at Camp David in 2000?

      A: No. In fact, there was no Israeli “offer” at all, in the sense of a comprehensive plan to resolve all outstanding differences between the parties. To the extent that Israeli positions on discrete issues could be discerned, they were not “generous.” Finally, while Palestinian negotiators did not agree to Israeli demands, they did not “reject” them, but sought to continue negotiations, and offered solutions based on long-accepted principles of international law and justice.

    • Anna says:

      No, Malcolm, I am not. Sorry to disappoint you.

  12. David Lurie says:

    Malcolm, unfortunately, you don’t get it, this is not a discussion, it is — as Mr. Chopra said — a demand that opposing views be “dismissed.”

    Unfortunately, we are faced with an unintended, but disturbing, echo of the message of the BDS movement itself: Dismiss and silence your opponents in the name of justice.

    • Yes, David, BDS is really extreme in its ‘take no prisoners’ approach, to the point that even Norman Finkelstein has denounced BDS as a “cult.” Here is a link to the The Electronic Intifada trashing him for that: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/finkelstein-renews-attack-bds-cult-calls-palestinians-who-pursue-their-rights

      The way they go after him you would think Finkelstein had founded a Dershowitz fan club.

      • JT says:

        Malcolm… Who cares if BDS is a cult? You really seem to be missing the point. Do you recall when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University a few years back — at a University-sponsored event. The president, Lee Bollinger, played the role of counterpoint, but it was certainly not a “balanced” affair. I am assuming you would also condemn Columbia University for sponsoring such an event? Hearing the Iranian president speak had no value other than, what, proselytizing and whatever else you’d like to put on your list. Hmm?

  13. Jared Michaelson says:

    Samir,

    On Topics vs. Causes:

    For the last time, I agree no topic is too charged for a department-sponsored event. I think it’s only problematic when a department takes up a cause, or joins a movement, in conflicts like this. An example would be hosting a fundraiser for BDS, or an event titled : “What’s the Best Way to Combat Israel’s Evil?”

    And it is far from obvious that sponsorship of this event, unlike a mere forum for discussion, is not a case of embracing BDS’s cause. That turns on the following question: does the forum itself (NOT the speakers) – in its title and presentation – presuppose support for BDS, or is it neutral, leaving all side-taking to the speakers themselves? Check out the ad for some clues on this. http://www.brooklynsjp.com/

  14. Malcolm,
    You were right about Dershowitz in Brooklyn. But then there’s this in Philadelphia

    “To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: ‘Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.’ Penn’s Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz’s lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most ‘immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.”
    http://www.nationinstitute.org/featuredwork/fellows/2585/torture,_violence_advocate_to_keynote_anti-bds_event/

    You defend the settlements; they are not defensible in the language of law, and certainly not in the language of liberalism.

    You deny being a bigot I’d think only in the context of arguing with liberals. Settlers don’t deny their bigotry, and you shouldn’t deny the roots of your reaction. You have the anger of a black nationalist with the advantage of being almost white in a white world. I quoted the now scandalous Beinart, author of “The Crisis of Zionism”. The quote I posted is from 3 years ago. He hasn’t changed “I’m not even asking [Israel] to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I’m actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel’s security and for its status as a Jewish state.”
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/goldblog-vs-peter-beinart-part-ii/56934/
    That’s Le Pen, that’s the National Front, and yet he’s being attacked by the right.
    Don’t try to argue morality, argue necessity: the Jews need a state of their own with restrictions on outsiders, because we have to worry about the next time we’re attacked.

    I’m not writing any of this to argue with you, I’m arguing with you in front of an audience of people who don’t know how to argue with you, because they won’t engage Beinart’s words any more than you will. I’ll say what I posted elsewhere. It doesn’t quite fit, given our host’s name is Chopra, but he defends an ivory tower which in fact is made of bricks and mortar, and bricks are made of mud:

    “Slowly, vey slowly, European Jews and the ethnic Europeans (victims and perpetrators and their descendants), are beginning to accept what has always been logically and empirically obvious.
    All the above comments on this site and on others it links to, for all the verbiage, are one more iteration of a basic structure of historical change: “white” moderates are coming to terms with the “negro” problem. The negroes are elsewhere, but they’re getting closer. It’s progress.”

    The theater of Jews and white people talking about Palestinians, is becoming the theater of Jews and white people and Palestinians talking to each other. That’s not the result of advances in political or moral philosophy. Change is happening the way it always does, through experience: interaction and adaptation. “Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.” Actually no. I’ve become more and more frustrated by white moderates who consider themselves somehow exceptional, as a result of graduate degrees and university titles.
    The fading of Zionism gives the lie to the pretensions of modern reason. The culture of reason failed in the same way more limited economic reason failed 3 years ago. Zionism flourished only as a bubble moral economy. And yet no one noticed. People are struggling now, again, one more time, to see what was always right in front of their eyes.

    Israel is the last of the great modernist utopias. It’s falling as the others have.
    I don’t give a damn about god. There is no god. All there is is history. History wins over reason.

    • You have done nothing to show that torture was a part of Dershowitz’s talk in Philadelphia either. Show me a source.

      Where have I said anything in favor of the settlements? It is my hope that an agreement will be reached and the settlements will be evacuated… if that is part of the agreement. That is what happened in Sinai (although it did seem rather like ethnic cleansing).

      Personally, I think it would help it you read what I actually wrote, instead of calling me a “bigot” without understanding what I am saying. Personally, I think you have acted like real schmuck in this exchange, but up to this point I kept that to myself.

      4. The Zionist movement came into being when Herzl noted the wave of antisemitism sweeping France while he was covering the Dreyfus Affair as a reporter. He also noted, at the same time, the extreme rise in the number, and viciousness, of pogroms in Russia, and the election of Karl Lueger as mayor of Vienna. His conclusion was that Jews had no future in Europe and needed to leave before a massive catastrophe occurred. How right he was. At present there is a new rising tide of hate against Jews in Europe, and the few who have remained would be well advised to leave.

  15. JT, comparing a BDS event to a talk given by the president of Iran seems silly. Of course, any good university would be interested in having him speak.

    So far I have not heard a convincing explanation why it would diminish freedom of speech, or academic freedom, by adding one more speaker to this BDS event.

    • diegovela says:

      Malcom, google “torture warrants”. But his one man show in the city of my birth was about BDS.

      There was much discussion among early Zionists of just where to go. The man who first used the phrase “a land without people for a people without land” to refer to the cause, thought Palestine was a bad idea: too many people.

      A Jewish state for a Jewish people iff a German state for a German people.
      I support equal rights for all under law. Zionists do not. But BDS is about 46 years of occupation of the West Bank and the open air prison of Gaza. Google “formaldehyde Israel Gaza” for a simple explanation of that one.
      I drink with a former. Soldier in the IDF. He says “I respect Hezbollah. They fight for their people”
      “You respect them like Eichmann respected Jewish leaders?”
      “Yes”
      I drink with him. I have more respect for him than I do for you.

      • So you also do not have a source to support your claim that Dershowitz said a single word in Philadelphia about torture. What a non-surprise. I am used to BDS supporters making claims that have nothing to support them.

        “A land without people for a people without land” was never a Zionist slogan. That claim, that it was a Zionist slogan, is another anti-Zionist accusation that has no reliable source to support it.

        Your comparison of Zionism with Nazism is also nonsense. The Germain’s at that unfortunate time adopted a ‘Blut und Boden’ argument as an excuse to eliminate Jews Germain soil. The Arabs in Palestine used (and continue) to use virtually the same Blood and Soil argument to justify their effort to exclude Jews from the soil they claim only they have a blood tie to. The whole concept of Blut und Boden (both the German and Arab versions) are racist nonsense. In fact no modern democracy would even suggest that racist argument might be used as a basis to exclude the arrivals from other lands who live there.

        As for your statement, “I have more respect for him than I do for you,” your judgments are your problem not mine. I really do not care what you think about me.

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