Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Mayor Bloomberg defends controversial anti-Israel event sponsored by Brooklyn College

 Mayor Bloomberg staunchly defended a controversial anti-Israel forum sponsored by Brooklyn College, saying pols opposing it should back off because they are just giving the group more attention.

State assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park), the leading critic of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) event, responded that Hizzoner “was out of his mind.”

Bloomberg maintains the CUNY college has a free speech right to host the gathering Thursday on the Flatbush campus.

“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," Hizzoner told reporters in City Hall Wednesday.

Critics charge the political science department’s sponsored forum will be one-sided, noting the only scheduled speakers are two group supporters. The opposition includes famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz, as well as the four Democratic mayoral candidates.

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould and CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein argue students and faculty have a free speech right to debate heated issues, even if many, including themselves and Bloomberg, vehemently oppose their views.

Bloomberg said the forum opponents should have just ignored it.

“They just don't think before they open their mouths,” he said. “And the best way to popularize an idea or book or movie is just to get someone to ban it. All you've got to do is take a look at the history of communism to see that.”

 Hikind disagreed.

“What the hell is he talking about? Only Mayor Bloomberg knows what's right and good for us,” the lawmaker said sarcastically.

A group of 10 City Council members threatened to withhold financing for the college unless the administration removed its support for the forum, in a letter to Gould earlier this week.

On Thursday, a group of 17 pols sent Gould a pared-back letter Thursday denying they had ever threatened to withhold funding. The note suggested the college clarify its policy to make it clear that “sponsorship does not imply endorsement.”

The heated battle on campus has attracted a lot of attention. Rodger Waters, the Pink Floyd lead singer, is also supporting the event, and he called the group of students behind it “the fresh air 'we the people’ need to breath.”

BDS calls for “nonviolent punitive measures" against Israel to push the Jewish state to change its policy toward Palestinians. The organization also opposes a two-state solution, demanding Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes.

The movement sparked controversy in Brooklyn last year when the Park Slope Food Coop voted against a proposal to boycott Israeli products.

Bloomberg, long been a vocal advocate of free speech, supported the 2010 proposed mosque and community center near the World Trade Center site.

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