New York - Bloomberg Defends Pro-Palestinian Group's Right To Free Speech
Last updated on: February 6, 2013 06:53 PM
New York - In a heated statement made to reporters at City Hall Wednesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his support for an anti-Israel group’s right to stage a planned event at Brooklyn College, despite staunch opposition from many elected officials.
According to the Daily News, (http://nydn.us/XoPyNL) Bloomberg criticized opponents of the event, saying that by turning the gathering into a controversy, they were only popularizing the event and further championed the group’s constitutional right to free speech.
“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kinds of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea,” Bloomberg told reporters.
Bloomberg went on to voice his staunch support for Israel saying, “I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS, as they call it – Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big of one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they chose.”
As previously reported on VIN News, the event, featuring speakers from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions whose mission is to use non-violent punitive measure against Israel to further Palestinian causes, was co-sponsored by the college, sparking the anger of many. While college president Karen Gould has officially announced that she does not share the group’s views she supports its right to speak at the school.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind expressed frustration with Mayor Bloomberg and questioned the origins of tomorrow’s event.
“I spoke with Karen Gould last Tuesday who explained to me that the political science department had voted to support this event,” Hikind told VIN News. “I asked her what the vote was, how many people were at the meeting to vote and she told me she had no clue. No one at the college seems to know what happened at that meeting and I do know that there were professors in the political science department who didn’t know anything at all about the meeting or the vote.”
A planned Borough Hall meeting this morning with elected officials to discuss tomorrow’s gathering was cancelled last night when the professor who spearheaded the event backed out, claiming exhaustion.
At the center of the controversy is Professor Paisley Currah, chairman of the political science department, who was invited to speak with elected officials about the upcoming event.
“I was very excited about this meeting,” explained Hikind. “I was finally getting a chance to ask questions about that vote, to have a real dialogue and then the professor cancels the event. The head of the department is afraid to show up and have an honest discussion?
Hikind and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, both former political science students at the college, have made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact Professor Currah, according to Hikind.
Attempts by VIN News to reach Professor Currah by both phone and email have also yielded no response.
Meanwhile, A press release was issued today by Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Councilman Brad Lander and numerous elected officials thanking college president Gould for her actions on the matter, praising her for upholding the right to free speech at the city college while making it clear that the college does not endorse the event, issuing a letter to the Brooklyn College Hillel stating the college does not endorse BDS and values its relationship with Israel and Israeli universities, asking the political science department to clearly define in writing its criteria for co-sponsoring student events and planning additional events, showcasing other viewpoints, to Brooklyn College.
Other local politicians who signed on the letter were 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 and Councilman Steve Levin.
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