Open Letter to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein By Phil Orenstein
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
Office of the Chancellor
535 East 80th Street
New York, NY 10075
Open Letter to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein:
I write this letter calling for the resignation of Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould and Paisley Currah, chair of the political science department for their unscrupulous actions in violation of students’ First Amendments rights, sanctioning blatant viewpoint discrimination, and promoting biased political propaganda under the auspices of the City University of New York. As a former adjunct instructor in the CUNY system and a New Yorker concerned with how my tax dollars are spent in our publicly-funded City University system, I add my voice to the growing concern incurred by the college president and political science department chair over the irresponsible manner in which they handled the virulent anti-Semitic event on February 7 co-sponsored by Brooklyn College’s political science department, entitled “BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement Against Israel,” which serves to promote a global boycott of Israeli businesses, academics and institutions, and deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
The featured speakers at the BDS forum advocated boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel, and have praised the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews. One of the speakers, Omar Barghouti, founder and foremost advocate of BDS, has asserted that Israel is a racist apartheid state that has no right to exist, and he advocates for a Palestinian state to replace Israel. He is not only promoting a global campaign to boycott and financially harm the Jews, replete with activists carrying signs saying “Don’t buy Israeli apartheid goods,” but also sponsors an academic boycott campaign against Israeli academics and universities known as the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. This offshoot of the BDS movement flies in the face of the noble mission of academia as “free and open exchanges of ideas.”
Barghouti’s unscholarly crackpot theories, lies and deceptions have been well documented and Brooklyn College’s BDS forum was a medium for the dissemination of these crackpot anti-Semitic theories. The BDS movement is not a campaign for Palestinian rights as its spokesmen ostensibly claim, or to protest disagreeable Israeli policies, but it is in effect political and economic warfare against Israel, seeking to dismantle the Jewish state. For an academic department to sponsor such vicious propaganda is a breakdown of academic standards.
Propaganda and proselytism to students are forbidden according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) regulations set forth in 1916 that officially declared that students must be presented with both sides of an issue. The BDS forum was pure political propaganda and although Brooklyn College president and political science department chair were petitioned to allow pro-Israel speakers, they refused to permit diversity of intellectual opinion by authorizing a one-sided bigoted event where Jewish students were expelled and denied the opportunity to ask questions.
I am pleased to learn that you have asked CUNY’s Office of Legal Affairs to coordinate an investigation into allegations that Jewish students were deliberately barred, forcibly ejected from the event, and their rights of free speech were denied. But more unsettling questions remain, which should be the major focus of investigation and punitive action. The question of why overt viewpoint discrimination and one-sided anti-Semitic indoctrination under the guise of anti-Israelism is tolerated in any academic institution which should be “free and open exchanges of ideas,” needs to be investigated and appropriate action taken to remove the culpable faculty and administrators before unforeseen consequences materialize.
In order to clarify my concerns, let’s take a look back in history to 1933 when Hitler rose to power and became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis won a large number of seats in the German parliament. What followed was the notorious nationwide Nazi boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals directed by Nazi stormtroopers posting signs everywhere saying “Do not buy from Jews!” Widespread anti-Semitism mounted with the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 depriving Jews of their basic rights as citizens and banning them from all professional jobs in education, politics, academia and industry which escalated in severity ultimately concluding in the “Final Solution.”
In November 1933, Martin Heidegger, the 20th century’s leading intellectual idol issued a decree applying the Nazi racial policies to the students and faculty of Freiburg University where he was rector. Jewish professors were fired and ultimately expelled from all German universities. When Hitler came to power, the majority of professors and students fell all over themselves to demonstrate their allegiance and obediently turned their universities into indoctrination centers for the Third Reich. The notorious book burnings took place, and freedom of expression, free inquiry, independent research and all objectivity was crushed under the jackboot of the “Fuhrer Principle” and absolute allegiance to the Nazi Party. Universities became the training grounds for the intellectual troops dedicated to serving Hitler for the extermination of European Jewry.
Ideas have powerful consequences in the real world and the seductive but destructive ideological precursors of Nazism – German romanticism, Volkish ideology, anti-Semitic mythology, Hegelianism, racial nationalism, social Darwinism – were percolating in the German university decades before the emergence of the National Socialism. The renowned philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, was rector of Berlin University and his messianic ideology of nation-worship spread like wildfire. The Hegelian concept of Absolute Spirit culminated in the state as the “Divine Idea as it exists on Earth” and the Germans were the proud “chosen people” whom Spirit selected as its agent in human history, and the wretched wandering Jews must die out and be consigned to the scrap heap of human history. The human incarnation of Hegel’s Spirit walking on earth, to lead them out of the darkness to the promised Aryan land of true freedom, was the Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler. These 19th century academic ideological movements gave birth to the totalitarian political regimes of the 20th century and the mass murder of 100 million people.
My point is that when we look at the present day radical anti-Semitic ideological movements that are being given the imprimatur of respected universities and academic departments, this is remarkably similar to the malicious racialist ideologies that were incubating for decades in the eminent German universities that became the seedbed of the bloody atrocities of the past century. Thus the co-sponsorship of the BDS forum by Brooklyn College’s political science department gave legitimacy and an authoritative stamp of approval to the BDS movement, an extremist political propaganda tool for the destruction of the State of Israel. This is the critical turning-point where bad ideas start to become ugly realities. Now is the time to draw the line before anti-Semitic radicalism given legitimacy by Brooklyn College, escalates to its dreadful conclusion.
It is unacceptable for an academic department to sanction such extremist political indoctrination and to censor and prohibit opposing viewpoints. This corruption of AAUP standards must be investigated as well. President Karen Gould and Chairman Paisley Currah, need to be held accountable for permitting these academic violations under their watch, who like their rector forbears of Freiburg and Berlin Universities, have become the custodians of bourgeoning evil.
Cc: President Karen L. Gould
2129 Boylan Hall
Brooklyn, NY 11210
Provost William A. Tramontano
3137 Boylan Hall
Brooklyn, NY 11210
Political Science Dept Chairperson Paisley Currah
3413 James Hall
Brooklyn, NY 11210
NYC Council Member Dan Halloran
166-08 24th Road
Whitestone, NY 11357
NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
Chair, Higher Education Committee
618 W. 177th St Ground Floor
New York, NY 10033
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