Analysis

Brooklyn College battle reveals hidden agenda of “liberal Zionism”

As soon as it was clear that the pro-Israel forces opposed to the forum on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) held at Brooklyn College on 7 February had badly overreached, and that their crude invective and histrionic behavior was alienating broad sectors of mainstream intelligentsia, liberal Zionist writers and activists injected what seemed like a much more sensible narrative into the debate.

Presenting themselves as progressive advocates of academic freedom, the pro-Israel liberals pushed back against the zealots who demanded Brooklyn College’s political science department withdraw its sponsorship from the BDS forum. At the same time, however, they warned political fellow travelers against falling for the appeal of BDS, characterizing the movement as dangerously radical, and potentially destructive to Jewish life.

An editorial published in Tablet Magazine by the pro-Israel writer Yair Rosenberg typified the liberal line against BDS. After issuing his token support for the Brooklyn College political science department’s “right” to sponsor the BDS panel, Rosenberg lashed into the progressive MSNBC host Chris Hayes and The New York Times editorial board for supposedly “whitewashing the movement’s radicalism” (“New York Times, MSNBC whitewash BDS,” 6 February 2013).

Hayes and the Times had erred, Rosenberg argued, by failing to acknowledge that the BDS movement not only seeks to end Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land, but that it also calls for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to land forcibly expropriated from them by the State of Israel. According to Rosenberg, the right of return is a “radical goal” because it “denies the Jewish right to self-determination.”

Read the full article here.

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