New York City Progressives Send a Letter

Try as you might you won't find any bill or act called the "Nadler" bill. He's not that kind of progressive. Here you see what he really does: supporting a group leaving JFK Airport to provide supplies to illegal Israeli settlers.

Try as you might you won’t find any bill or act called the “Nadler” bill. He’s not that kind of progressive. Here you see what he really does: supporting a group leaving JFK Airport to provide supplies to illegal Israeli settlers.

Those outside of New York City may not have heard the news of the big convocation of the group of politicians in New York City who arrogate to themselve the grandiose title of s “progressive elected officials from Brooklyn and city-wide leaders.” This is of course news of the utmost import, because “liberals,” “progressives” or “leftists” of the political party class in New York City rarely get together to do anything except to preen and demonstrate that their colleagues are insufficiently pure. Accomplishing any policy objective, is, of course, something that our elected leaders do not believe is in their job description, which mainly involves endless fund-raising and poking sharp elbows in the thicket of identity politics which is the professional substitute for getting something done.

I will here interject a side note that might explain their behavior and cause me some shame for berating these individuals. It is perhaps their view that nothing needs to be done in New York City in a political, and especially in a “progressive” way aside from keeping these individuals’ snout in the public trough. Some may think that New York City has achieved the pinnacle of social democratic perfection, with no problems; at least no problems other than those as trifling as poverty, education, housing and so forth. The ones that old-fashioned liberals used to concern themselves wth. Yes, there was a financial collapse, and the dearest constituents of our modern day Brooklyn progressives, the investment banks in lower Manhattan, have taken a hit. But these progressives, with the national progressive they wish to join the ranks of, have prevented anything untoward against them, like prosecutions, regulations, or even noteworthy tax increases. So maybe the subject of their recent, unique, get together, is not a trivial as appears on first glance. Maybe there is simply nothing else to be done.

Speaker Christine C. Quinn prepares herself for the job of running New York City. By going to Jerusalem. A Jewish non-profit accepted the tab for this junket together with 10 other New York City councilmen. Undoubtedly all progressive, being in the pocket of Israel first "charities."

Speaker Christine C. Quinn prepares herself for the job of running New York City. By going to Jerusalem. A Jewish non-profit accepted the tab for this junket together with 10 other New York City councilmen. Undoubtedly all progressive, being in the pocket of Israel first “charities.”

By this point you are probably completely exhausted with anticipation. So I will get right to it. Jerrold Nadler, insignificant Congressman from Brooklyn and lower Manhattan together with Councilman  Brad Lander, Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and a host of other progressives whose efforts have made New York City the progressive utopia it has become, have gotten together to  add their names to a letter evidently written by someone who the federal government pays to listen to orders from Jerrold Nadler.

A word about the names. Those of you old enough to remember that other great progressive party which held a political jurisdiction in thrall after it had achieved a progressive Utopia (I’m of course talking about the late Soviet Union) will remember that order of names, notation of titles, spellings, and so forth, were of critical importance for discovering the relative rank of politicians and to foretell whose view of policy and regard for self would last into the near future. I am not sure that the Congressional aide of Nadler’s who drafted the letter we will be looking at is old enough to understand this. Surely Nadler himself rd the thing before he signed it, if for no other reason than to make sure no regard for the Palestinian people would seep out, however unintentionally. If so, I wonder why the Speaker of the city council, who harbors ambitions to govern our metropolis, is listed after a mere council man. And who made the serious mistake, likely to show insufficient regard for Lander’s service to the ladies, by calling him a “man” rather than “Councilmember” which his political but not lexicographically correct website calls him? John Liu’s precedence over federal elected officials in this list is perhaps more understandable. John Liu’s most important achievement in his career (aside from his being Asian of course) is in avoiding federal indictment for so long. This achievement gives him street cred and allows his name some priority, at least until the grand ury returns the true bill.

So what is this letter, you say? Yes, you have waited long enough.

These eminent seekers of social and economic justice wrote a letter to the President of Brooklyn College, Karen L. Gould, because the political science department about the current state of affairs in Palestine! So what? you say. Isn’t that what political science departments of colleges do?  What business it of these supposedly enlightened guardians of our freedoms? Surely they are not some Rudy Giuliani poking his nose into an art exhibit in Brooklyn for pure political pandering? But here’s the problem: the speaker, Judith Butler, a philosophy teacher at Columbia University, supported the Palestinian people, and suggested divestment as a tool to prod Israel to negotiate. Oh, My, God! The entire fund-raising network of these progressive must have started violently vibrating when wind was first blown of this. How could this happen? In Brooklyn no less!

This had to be stopped, of course. Or something. This, tut, tut, is not a question of free speech. Certainly not! Thse are progressives. We don’t censor free speech no matter how irresponsible it is. After all, Alan Dershowitz spoke a Brooklyn College, and you don’t get much more irresponsible than Alan Dershowitz. And not a progressive eyebrow was raised. But this is something completely different! This is not the wholesale endorsement of the Likkud policies Israel pursues. So of course if a right-wing government in the Middle East needs help, our left-wing politicians are there to answer the call. And they will get themselves in the news.

You can read the letter in full below:

January 31, 2013

President Karen L. Gould
Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210

Dear President Gould:

As progressive elected officials from Brooklyn and city-wide leaders, we are writing about the upcoming event sponsored by the Brooklyn College Political Science Department entitled “BDS Movement Against Israel.”  We collectively believe that the BDS movement is a wrongheaded and destructive one, and an obstacle to our collective hope for a peaceful two-state solution.  These simplistic and one-sided approaches do a disservice to the cause of peace and stability by unfairly placing blame entirely on one side, and by attempting to delegitimize one party on the world stage, and will do nothing to bring either party back to earnest negotiations or enhance a better understand of complexity of this conflict.  It is our understanding that at this event, a strategy of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel will be encouraged, and there will be no counter-perspective offered.

That said, we of course believe that students and academics should have the opportunity to openly express their views – however much we may disagree with them – and that universities have the responsibility to protect this important First Amendment right and the values of academic freedom.  We are, however, concerned that  an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue,  and has rejected legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to simultaneously present an alternative view.  By excluding alternative positions from an event they are sponsoring, the Political Science Department has actually stifled free speech by preventing honest, open debate.  Brooklyn College must stand firmly against this thwarting of academic freedom.

While students and professors must remain free to express their views, and engage in open and vigorous debate, we believe that when the institution decides to take sides and refuses to permit all voices to be heard, that is the antithesis of academic freedom.

We are calling for Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department to withdraw their endorsement of this event, rather than send the message to its students and to the world that the divisive perspective offered by the organizing groups is Brooklyn College’s official view.  In addition, we ask that you remain vigilant in ensuring that events bearing the official imprimatur of the College provide adequate opportunity for diverse perspectives to be heard.  We believe that this is the very hallmark of academic freedom.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler
Councilman Brad Lander
Speaker Christine Quinn
Comptroller John Liu
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
Borough President Marty Markowitz
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Senator Kevin Parker
Senator Daniel Squadron
Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs
Assemblyman Karim Camara
Assemblyman James Brennan
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Assemblyman Walter Mosley
Councilwoman Tish James
Councilman Steve Levin
Former Comptroller Bill Thompson

You see, what is crucial here is that the political science department not “endorse” a view that these progressives don’t share. And so public business must stop so that these progressives can get together to send this letter. (Of course, we pointed out that these progressives don’t do much public business, so it is probably unfair to bash them for continuing not to do it.)

Why bring this up now, you ask? AFter all this is weeks old and the Republic has not fallen. Surely these progressive, their Likkud donors and Alan Dershowitz have this settled.

Well, I had waited this long, because I send letters to Congressman Nadler and Speaker Quinn to find out what exactly they were trying to accomplish. And busy progressives that they are, it took a while to respond. Of course, Nadler has not responded at all. But to mail these my leaders, I had to agree to receive their emails, so I guess he believes I will get answers to all my questions in du course. If, of course, I am entitle to an answer.

But Speaker Quinn did respond. It took a while to develop a form email that would not offend anyone, but here it is:

Dear Mr. Fennell ,

Thank you for con tacting [sic] me regarding my response to today’s “BDS Movement Against I srael” [sic] event  at Brooklyn College .

While I expressed concern over  the Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship of this student-o rganized [sic]event and encouraged them to  take  action to  help  make a more diverse range of views heard on this issue, I  didn’t demand that they cancel the event,  nor did I threaten the college’s funding in any way.

Although I think the BDS movement is deplorable and wrong,  Brooklyn College has every right to host and sponsor whatever events it chooses to.  Whatever programming they provide or don’t provide shouldn’t have any relevance on their funding, and I will continue to oppose efforts that would seek to undermine the free and open debate of critical issues.

Below is the full text of the follow-up letter that I and other elected officials sent to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould reiterating our opposition to the BDS movement but making  absolutely  clear  that we remain committed to  academic freedom.

Thanks again for sharing your views on this important matter with me .

Sincerely,

Christine C. Quinn
Speaker
NYC Council

So there you have it, nothing to see here. It’s all made clear in the second letter these august progresssives sent:

February 6, 2013

President Karen L. Gould

Brooklyn College

2900 Bedford Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11210

Dear President Gould:

We are writing to follow up on our letter to you of January 31, 2012, regarding the “BDS Movement Against Israel” event taking place tomorrow at Brooklyn College.   We want to thank you for your leadership on this issue.

In our letter, we expressed concern that the Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship of this student-organized event suggested that it was an official position of the college, and encouraged action to make a more diverse range of views heard on this issue.

Equally, although it has been obscured in some media accounts, in our letter, we stood strongly for academic freed om for students and academics.   We affirmed the right of  students to sponsor the event.   We did not request its cancellation.   We did not, and would not, threaten th e funding of Brooklyn College.   We will continue to oppose efforts that would seek to undermine the free and op en debate of critical issues.

We are grateful that the following steps have now been taken:

  • You affirmed the strong traditions of free expression at Brooklyn College, making clear that departmental co-sponsorship of a student-organized event does not imply endorsement of that event, and that “Brooklyn College does not endorse the views of the speakers visiting our campus next week, just as it has not endorsed those of previous visitors to o ur [sic] campus with opposing views.   We do, however, uphold their right to speak, and the rights of our students and faculty to atte nd, listen, and fully debate.”   At the same time, you encouraged “students and faculty to explore these issues from multiple viewpoints and in a variety of forums so that no single perspective serves as the sole source of informatio n [sic] or basis for consideration.”   This is the model of academic freedom and inclusive dialogue that we were seeking to encourage, and that fact been lost in too much of the media coverage on the issue.
  • In your letter to Brooklyn College Hillel, you made clear that Brooklyn College “does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel,” affirmed the college’s “proud history of engagement with Israel and Israeli universities,” and that you “deeply value our Israeli partners and would not endorse any action that would imperil the State of Israel or its citizens.”
  • The Political Science Department has put in writing its policy for considering co-sponsorship of student-organized events, making clear that requests from “any groups, departments or programs organizing lectures or events representing any point of view .. will  be given equal consideration.”   However, as has been clear in this instance, the departmental practice of co-sponsorship of specifically student-organized events has caused real confusion among students regarding intent and endorsement of views (as evidenced by Student Body (CLAS) President Abraham Esses’  “Open Letter” in this regard).   We, therefore, believe that the policy would be strengthened greatly by the explicit inclusion of language that you and the Department have used on this case – that sponsorship does not imply endorsement.
  • Planning has begun for additional event(s) at Brooklyn College’s Wolfe Institute on the Humanities that will bring a range of additional viewpoints on these issues to campus in the com ing months.   While these are not required as a matter of free expression, we believe that they will help contribute to the cause  of understanding and dialogue.   We hope the Political Science Department will follow its newly codified policy and co-sponsor these events as well.

As we stated in our letter, w e are strongly opposed to BDS.   We continue to believe that “the BDS movement is a wrongheaded and destructive one, and an obstacle to our collective hope for  a peaceful two-state solution.   These simplistic and one-sided approaches do a disservice to the cause of peace and stability by unfairly placing blame entirely on one side, and by attempting to delegitimize one party on the world stage, and will do nothing to bring either party back to earnest negotiations or enhance a better understand of complexity of this conflict.”

Others disagree, of course, and we will f ight [sic]for their right to do so.   But we will also continue t o argue strongly against them.   We note, for example, that many advocates of the BDS movement have called for a boycott of Israeli scholars and institutions, which would, of course, deny them their academic and free speech rights.    This hypocritical position should not undermine our commitment to the fundamental values of a free society, but it speaks to the nature of the BDS movement.

In closing, we share your goal that Brooklyn College “should be a place free from hate; one where diverse points of view, on even the most controversial topics, may be debated without intimidation or fear of reprisal.”

Again, thank you for your leadership, dialogue, and action on this matter.

Sincerely,

Congressman Jerrold Nailer
Councilman Brad Lander
Speaker Christine Quinn
Comptroller John Liu
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
Borough President Marty Markowitz
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Senator Kevin Parker
Senator Daniel Squadron
Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs
Assemblyman Karim Camara
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Assemblyman Walter Mosley
Councilwoman Tish James
Councilman Steve Levin

So you see, Brooklyn College responded to other letters, not the one of the vaunted progressives, and that brings a great deal of relief to these politicians.

Progressives don't have to worry what Alan Dershowitz says. He has no agenda. Or maybe the fund-raising network didn't rattle when he spoke at Brooklyn College without "diversity" of opinion.

Progressives don’t have to worry what Alan Dershowitz says. He has no agenda. Or maybe the fund-raising network didn’t rattle when he spoke at Brooklyn College without “diversity” of opinion.

It was especially important for these advocates of academic freedom to understand that Brooklyn College did not “endorse” the speaker. I am quite sure a similar letter went out when Alan Dershowitz gave his speech.

And of course these advocates for diversity of opinion believe other viewpoints out to be heard. And thus I am quite confident that when Congressman Nadler was at JFK Airport bidding adieu to Operation Shield Torah II, the group who writes that

“I really enjoyed going to the front lines of this war, seeing the settlements,” said Sy Syms Junior Brad Cherney. “People don’t realize that the people there are real, every day people that simply want to live lives and not cause trouble. The Palestinians will not push settlers off their land, because it is Israel’s land, and the Arabs have no right to it, as the Torah clearly shows.”

I am confident of this because Congressman Nadler (or more likely his aide) describes his belief in diversity as the “hallmark of  academic freedom.” I have to assume this because I will never know. I have not had any response to my inquiry to my progressive representative, after all. They are probably busy working on the “Nadler bill.”

I am quite sure that diversity-of-opinion promoter Jerrold Nadler had a Palestinian and “Arab” on hand to give their views. And of course when Speaker Quinn went to Jerusalem, I am sure there was enough money in the junket to visit the Palestinian peoples to hear directly from them.

No? Well, it doesn’t matter. These people don’t intend to accomplish anything any way. If there is to be any real change in the Middle East or in New York City, these professional progressives will have to be swept from office. They will fight like Lukkudniks, however, to prevent that from happening.

  1. If you are interested in taking either course and would like information about them, such as the draft syllabi, please contact Prof. Ungar at MUngar@brooklyn.cuny.edu . To register for one of the courses, simply complete an e-permit through the portal, and your registration will be processed.

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