Brooklyn College Faculty Union Speaks Out in defense of BDS Event

The absurd events at Brooklyn College continue to roll along. The thought police, led by the great promoter of anti-Semitism (through his ceaseless efforts to dehumanize

Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, the speakers whose appearance at Brooklyn College has sparked controversy

Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, the speakers whose appearance at Brooklyn College has sparked controversy

Palestinians), Alan Dershowitz insist that any and all programs involving the Israel-Palestine conflict must present Israel’s point of view. One cannot miss the fact that they show no such concern when only the Israeli view is represented, as happens often on campuses and community centers across the country. And, to be sure, there is nothing wrong with that view being presented. But neither is the view of those who are working in support of the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel due to its 45-year old occupation.

That this issue even arises shows the absurdity of the debate on this issue in the United States. The fact that some New York City politicians are actually threatening to cut Brooklyn College’s funding should send a chill up anyone’s spine who believes in free speech and democracy, whatever their views of Israel, Palestine and BDS. But the university president is holding fast to the view that an institution of higher learning, whether privately or publicly funded, has a first duty to present a diversity of views and not every such presentation needs to be in a debate format. And she is being defended by her staff, in the form of their union.

Pasted below is the letter the union sent to a long list of cowardly, clueless or bigoted politicians who are trying to shut down a legitimate, non-violent Palestinian view from being heard. It doesn’t matter what you think of BDS, or which side, if any, your heart lies on with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is about free speech and academic freedom. And for that, a hearty BRAVO to Brooklyn College’s president, Karen Gould, and the union, as represented by Dr. Barbara Bowen.  Continue reading

Banned! AIPAC Bars AlterNet From Covering Its Big Conference

Adele Stan, Washington correspondent for AlterNet, who, along with AlterNet’s Alex Kane and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, shared my experience of being frozen out of the AIPAC conference, has written her own piece about the incident. Please check it out. Like me, she was given no reason for the ban, so she is left to speculate as to the reasons why, and she has some very interesting speculation.

The takeaway line from Stan: “The real casualty here is to AIPAC’s reputation. The organization insists it is bipartisan, and has gone to some lengths to include liberals such as Donna Brazile and Paul Begala on the roster of speakers for its policy conference. But when its leaders choose to freeze out a highly selective and tiny group of progressive writers because they have a colleague in common whose views contradict AIPAC’s, well, big, bad AIPAC just looks petty and small.”

AIPAC Bars Me From Media Access to Their Conference

This article also appears on Muzzlewatch, a Jewish Voice for Peace blog

It’s a little hard to imagine. The self-proclaimed “most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill,” an admittedly deserved sobriquet, is apparently afraid of what little old me might say about their conference.

Jew-haters like John Hagee get to address AIPAC conferences. Jews like me are barred from reporting it. Go figure...

It’s hard to interpret what has happened in any other way, after my approved media credentials for AIPAC’s annual policy conference were rescinded without explanation just a few days before the event.

I applied for media access to the conference back in January. Soon after, I received an email from AIPAC’s then-media relations officer, Ari Goldberg, confirming acceptance of my application to attend as a reporter.

I am hardly unknown in this arena, and a quick search on Google would certainly have revealed that I was a progressive blogger, but also that I had written numerous pieces of straight journalism for Inter Press Service, the agency for which I will still be reporting on the conference.

So, it was no surprise that AIPAC credentialed me. Just as a major event at, say, the Center for American Progress (a think tank with unabashed ties to the Democratic Party) would not think twice about credentialing someone from FOX News, it is standard practice that such large organizations credential a wide range of media.

More surprising was the revocation of those credentials with just a few days to go before the conference.

With the conference slated to start on Sunday, I got a curt note on Wednesday, simply stating: “Thank you for your interest in attending this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference as a member of the press.   However, press credentials for the conference will not be issued to you.  We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

It came from someone named Sarah Coopersmith at Scott Circle Communications, a firm AIPAC contracted with to handle the press logistics. The email wasn’t even signed.

Inquiries to both Coopersmith and AIPAC’s new press officer, Adam Harris brought no response. Ari Goldberg, despite having left AIPAC, did respond to me, expressing surprise and the hope that this was just a mistake.

To say this is highly unusual behavior would be an understatement. And I wasn’t the only one this happened to.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss, who had been credentialed the past three years without incident, and Adele Stan, the Washington Bureau Chief at AlterNet were also rejected without explanation. As I understand it, Phil and Adele were rejected outright. In my case, I was given media access and then had it revoked. Continue reading

Beating the Bullies

In this week’s piece for Souciant, I look at how the radical supporters of Israel’s worst policies, out of necessity, employ bullying tactics to silence others. I may not always agree with those others, but they have a right to be heard free of censorship and intimidation.

And, for the record, so do supporters of Israel’s worst policies. The only difference is that no one is able, or trying, to bully them into silence.

For Yom Kippur, Jewish Federation Tries To Muzzle Muzzlewatch

The Jewish Federation has been running a poll to recognize “Jewish heroes.” My friend and colleague, Cecilie Surasky, had been doing rather well in the voting. And then, suddenly, she was simply deleted.

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and Editor of Muzzlewatch

She disappeared without a word, without notice and without explanation. The deletion came the day after San Francisco’s major Jewish weekly, J, published an article remarking on Cecilie’s being in the running and in the top 10 in polling in her category. And then, in classic Orwellian fashion, Cecilie became an unperson in the poll.

Obviously as a former JVP staffer I’m outraged. But one can’t help laughing at the stupidity of the Fed here. I mean, on Yom Kippur eve, no less, they give the absolute definitive example of muzzling to none other than the founder and driving force behind Muzzlewatch, the blog which describes its purpose as “Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”

And they wonder why they’re losing the new generation of Jews?

On one level, it was of some interest that the Fed allowed Cecilie into the competition in the first place. But when she was demonstrating that she has significant support within the Jewish community, and was acknowledged in that by a mainstream Jewish newspaper, well, that just carries open debate and exchange of opinions too far for the Fed. Continue reading