Brooklyn College, in the Midwood neighborhood, would seem an unlikely place for Jewish students to feel besieged. Nearly a fifth of the undergraduate population is Jewish, and the college, at the heart of a once predominantly Jewish area, has produced a long line of prominent Jewish graduates.
Enter B.D.S., an international lobbying movement that advocates Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories — a demand that caused a furor in another unlikely enclave of Brooklyn last year when members of the Park Slope Food Co-op rejected a motion to boycott Israeli products.
Next week, two leading voices of B.D.S., which stands for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” are scheduled to speak at the college at an event cosponsored by a student group and the college’s political science department, prompting a furious response from pro-Israel groups on campus and others who say the department’s sponsorship amounts to tacit endorsement.
“You do not have a right, and should not put the name of Brooklyn College on hate,” said William C. Thompson Jr., the former city comptroller, who is running for mayor, at a news conference with more than a dozen elected officials, students and B.D.S. opponents outside the campus on Thursday. “They should be heard, but not with the official stamp of this college.”
The department’s decision — made after a vote by its professors — has brought condemnation and praise.
Other speakers were even more strident: “We’re talking about the potential for a second Holocaust here,” said Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn.
The idea that a robust democracy can’t even have a public discussion, sponsored by a university, about the Middle East shows just how constipated America remains on the issue: