Did Brooklyn College's Political Science Department Violate the First Amendment?
The co-sponsorship by the Brooklyn College political science department of an anti-Israel hate fest, from which pro-Israel students were excluded, may have violated the First Amendment. Had the event been sponsored only by student and outside private groups, their decision to exclude pro-Israel students and to prevent the distribution of anti-BDS leaflets would have been a private matter, that at worst may have violated the rules of the college. But the official co-sponsorship of the event by an academic department may have turned their exclusionary decisions into illegal "state action."
For purposes of the First Amendment, the political science department is Brooklyn College, which is the City University of New York, which is the State of New York. It was the State of New York, therefore, that expelled pro-Israel students who wanted to distribute constitutionally protected leaflets and wanted to pose constitutionally protected political questions. Such state action violates the First Amendment and New York law.
Accordingly, the benighted action of the political science department in taking sides in the debate over boycotting Israeli academics and institutions, may now come back to haunt the City University of New York, which is taking this situation seriously. The Chancellor issued the following statement:
At last week's event at Brooklyn College, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the College's Department of Political Science, allegations were made by members of the college community who attended that they were impeded from expressing views either orally or in writing. There were reports that some said they were asked without cause to leave the event. If this were true, it was wrong and we need to understand exactly what the circumstances were. At the request of President Karen L. Gould, I have asked General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick P. Schaffer to quickly investigate these allegations. This investigation will be coordinated by CUNY's Office of Legal Affairs, working with an independent consultant, and charged with reporting directly back to me.
There is, apparently, strong evidence to corroborate the accounts that pro-Israel students, especially those wearing yarmulkes or "looking" Jewish, were deliberately excluded, even though they secured written permission to attend. There is also corroboration of the accusation that pro-Israel students who managed to get into the event were thrown out when they refused to turn over to the organizers anti-BDS leaflets they wished to distribute. When these students complained to an official of the college, he reportedly replied that the anti-Israel students who were running the event were "calling the shots" and he could therefore do nothing.
But once the political science department became involved as a co-sponsor, the students alone could not call the shots, when it comes to the First Amendment. The university assumed responsibility for assuring that the free speech of all students was equally protected. The First Amendment forbids the State of New York from discriminating against pro-Israel or anti-BDS speech, as it apparently did here.
What happened at Brooklyn College demonstrates the wisdom of keeping academic departments from sponsoring non-academic hate fests, such as the BDS event. When academic departments become selective sponsors, the constitutional rules change, because the imprimatur of the university—and thus the state—is placed on the event.
The radical anti-Israel students who arranged the BDS conference thought they had obtained a benefit from the political science department's co-sponsorship—and perhaps they did in the short term. But in the long term, they may rue the day they persuaded the department to become involved in what should have been a student event. Now there may be legal consequences. The sword of co-sponsorship may have become a shield to protect the First Amendment rights of the students who were prevented from handing out anti-BDS leaflets and asking anti-BDS questions. I wonder if we will hear from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Times editorial board about these violations of freedom of speech!
by Khaled Abu Toameh
A third reason Abbas still does not trust Hamas is the revelation this week that that the Islamist movement had planned to overthrow his regime in the West Bank. Even if the Palestinian Authority were to return to the Gaza Strip, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups would not disappear.
This is precisely what Hamas wants, a weak Palestinian authority that would manage the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinians and pay salaries to tens of thousands of employees, while the Islamist movement and its allies continue to smuggle weapons and prepare for the next war with Israel.
Such a scenario would only strengthen Hamas: it would absolve it of it responsibilities toward the residents of Gaza Strip by laying the burden on the Palestinian Authority.
by Shoshana Bryen
Both the president and Mr. Kerry took pains to sever ISIS from the religion of Islam. But ISIS speaks precisely in Islamic terms and holds itself out to be authentic Islam.
The goals of Hamas and the goals of ISIS, to create a society on its own principles -- "ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic and valueless evil," to quote Mr. Kerry -- are the same.
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by George Igler
"There is a direct link between politicians saying things and people being emboldened to go and attack Jews." — Jonathan Arkush, Vice-President, UK Board of Deputies.
It is never the person who commits these sorts of crimes that is held morally responsible by Britain's media or politicians. That honor is reserved for a nation over 2,000 miles away, Israel.
What if Christians objecting to the genocide being carried out by ISIS in Iraq, say, went around in mobs violently menacing Muslim businesses?
by Trevor Norwitz