A Personal Account by Someone Who Was at the Brooklyn College BDS Event
|No. 9010||Times of Israel||February 14, 2013|
I was made aware of the SJP event, "Judith Butler & Omar Barghouti – BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights," in early January. I was appalled that Brooklyn College's Political Science Department was co-sponsoring the event, because I did not feel that a publicly funded academic institution should endorse such hateful and anti-Semitic views. However, since, I was away in England at the time, Kohanteb, me and the rest of the members of the Israel Clubs had agreed to keep this quiet, and address the matter directly with the Political Science department and the Brooklyn College administration when we returned from vacation.
I know that from January 28th on, Kohanteb had meeting with Brooklyn College's administration. I also know that the Political Science department did not return any of the calls and emails sent by the Israel Clubs, the Hillel, and Alan Dershowitz. That's when politicians, like Dov Hikind, started getting involved, and the media was brought in. This all happened within the first week of classes.
Despite the Israel Clubs', the Hillel's, Dershowitz's and many others' efforts to ensure that the Political Science department removed its co-sponsorship from the event, the event was still set to go forth sponsored by the school's administration for February 7th. I'd like to reiterate that the main reason we were opposed to such an event was because we felt the department was endorsing a one-sided view. They refused to acknowledge the Israel Clubs' concerns until the Monday before the event, and therefore, we didn't feel it would be an opportunity for open conversation.
Because I saw that registration was open, I decided to register early to ensure that I would be able to participate in any discussion that followed the event, as President Gould had promised. On January 31st, I received this email confirming my registration to attend the event:
We are emailing you to confirm your attendance to our event on Feb 7th. If for some reason you cannot make it, please let us know so we can allow more people to RSVP.
Thursday February 7th
E 27th St and Campus Road Brooklyn, NY 11210
Room: Student Center Building PENTHOUSE
To view the sign up, go to:
To prevent any issues I might have entering, I also signed up at the table outside Whitehead Hall on February 6th at around 12:40PM. I signed up with Katrina, a writer for The Excelsior, as she was interviewing me at the time. I was number 69 and Sundus Seif was manning the table. On February 6th, the night before the event, I received this email confirming that indeed I would be able to attend the event. It is unclear from which registration I was going to be able to attend, but the fact stands I was going to be able to go:
From: brooklyn collegesjp <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: brooklyn collegesjp <email@example.com>
Sent: Wed, Feb 6, 2013 11:48 pm
Subject: RSVP Confirmation *please read carefully*
We are looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow. This is an email to confirm that you are on the RSVP list. Doors open at 5:30pm and close at 6:30pm. We suggest you come early because there will be a very long line. Please don't be late or else you will lose your seat, because after 6:45pm we will start letting in the people on the waiting list. If your guest did not receive this email, they are on the waiting list. Also, any kind of recording ‘inside' the event is prohibited. Lastly, there will be a set of books for people to purchase.
DO NOT FORGET TO BRING A PHOTO ID.
Thursday February 7th
E 27th St and Campus Road Brooklyn, NY 11210
Room: Student Center Building GOLD ROOM
Refreshments will be served
On Thursday morning February 7th I arrived at the Brooklyn College Hillel and saw the director Nadya Drukker. She asked me if I had received confirmation that I could attend the event later that day, and I said I had. She then asked if I wanted her to add my name to a list she was making to send to VP Milga Morales, since she was told that Morales was going to allow those few names into the event for sure. I said yes, hoping this would prevent any possible problems I might encounter. I know Michael Ziegler and Ari Ziegler were also names on that list.
Throughout the day, preparations were made for a peaceful counter protest to the event outside SUBO. We created fact-sheets, questions to ask at the event, and picked up signs to use at the protest. At around 6:05PM, Ari, Michael and I went on line to get into the event. When we reached the front of the line, they couldn't find any of our names on the list. We argued with them saying we knew our names must be on it since Drukker had called Morales that day. Suddenly, they found Ari's name and let him in. Since they still did not allow Michael and I to enter, we called Drukker, who then called Morales, and she escorted us through the first two checkpoints. When we made it upstairs, the people manning the front doors did not allow us to enter since we weren't on their lists. So a member of the administration escorted a few others and us downstairs to sort this out. That's when we met Yvonne Juris, a girl I knew from a previous Journalism class I had taken.
After about fifteen minutes, VP Morales came back and escorted us back upstairs and through the doors to the event, adding our names to their list. The event had already started at this point. Michal and I book-ended Ari, who had saved us seats, and Juris sat next to me. Immediately, I took out my fact-sheets and questions sheets I had prepared. I had wanted to take notes on them. Michael asked for a few and so did Juris, so I gave them some. Ari asked for none, although I know he read what was on Michael's lap.
Ten minutes later, I was approached by Carlos, and asked to hand over all the sheets. I quietly offered him one, but refused to hand over the rest. Let me reiterate that I was quiet this entire time at the event, that I was not disruptive, nor was I disseminating the material. Audio and vide files from the event can prove that. Carlos then came very close to my face and threatened to have me forcibly removed if I did not hand all my documents over. I refused, turning to VP Morales for help. She was standing at the door to the event at the moment this was going on and I was sitting four seats in. She made eye contact with me but turned away, leaving my classmates and me to deal with security on our own. Juris got a bit rowdy when they asked her to leave, but only for a moment. None of us resisted security.
Upon exiting the room, I turned to VP Morales asking her why I was not allowed to have fact and question sheets on my lap, and I wanted an answer for why I was being evicted. Her answer shocked me, and therefore I remember it word for word. She said, "it's their event and they're calling the shots." Being that the event was presented to the student body and the media as one promoting open conversation, I was appalled at this answer and the misguidance of the administration. I was forced out by security at that time.
I would like to add that Michael, Ari and I were the only visibly orthodox Jewish students and that the SJP has told me to "shut up" at their past events. David Rosenberg, the speaker of the house, witnessed this and said he can vouch that I have never once been disruptive at any of their events and that there was no reason to assume I'd be disruptive here. He did acknowledge that I do ask hard-hitting questions, but that is something President Gould promoted and shouldn't have been silenced. I am in charge of Israel advocacy at Brooklyn College and it is my job to be present at such events and to ask these questions. It is my right to freedom of speech.
My experience documented here makes me lose faith in the Brooklyn College administration. I feel lied to, and violated since my own VP could not defend my right to freedom of speech, while she so carefully defended SJP's right in the media and otherwise. I do not feel safe any longer in my institution of choice, and feel a need for action to be taken against the SJP member who violated my right to freedom, as well as a clarification on behalf of the administration who stood and watched as they silenced me and my friends. I do not appreciate the lies they are disseminating to the media currently about my friends actions and mine. It's a disgrace that no one has contacted me from the college as of yet, and it's already three days later. The lies must be stopped.
I also am aware that there are witnesses to prove that my name was indeed removed deliberately from the RSVP list by SJP. That is prevention of a student to an open campus-sponsored event. And that is something illegal and must bear a consequence.
I call for:
1- Actions to ensure this never occurs again
2- A clear set of guidelines and criteria when a department sponsors an event
3- Consequences to the administration and the group who prevented freedom of speech and promoted hate and incitement
4- A clear reason for eviction, complete with proof. If none is provided, an apology must be publicized for the slander promoted by the college of mine and my classmates names