Despite weeks of protests, threats of financial consequences and big name defenses the "controversial" forum on Israel at Brooklyn College proceeded civilly last night. Yes, there were protesters. But also interesting lectures and reportedly some healthy debate.
While an estimated 40 people stood outside to complain, approximately 200 people attended the forum where, among other things, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel was discussed. "Your being here this evening confirms your right to form and communicate an autonomous judgment to determine why you think something is true or not. And you should be free to do this without coercion and fear" speaker, Judith Butler said (here are her full remarks). The forum itself was closed to the news media.
But the outside is open to the public, and out there protesters made clear their distaste for the whole thing—while swearing they weren't trying to stifle academic freedom. "The issue has never been the event itself," vocal opponent and State Assemblyman Dov Hikind tried to explain. "Students have the right to hold these kinds of events, as distasteful as it may be to me and many other people. The issue has been when the university gives its seal of approval and that's exactly what they've done."