Bloomberg, defending academic freedom, suggests other Israel supporters shut up about that Brooklyn College event
"If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning, siding with Brooklyn College in a debate over its decision to host an event featuring speakers from a pro-Palestinian group called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
Brooklyn College's descision to host a forum tomorrow featuring B.D.S. speakers has sparked protests from some members of the City Council and state legislature. Some, including Councilman Lew Fidler, have even threatened to withhold financial support from the college if it moves forward with the event.
Another, Assemblyman Alan Maisel, said, "We’re talking about the potential for a second Holocaust here."
Today, Bloomberg called those arguments a threat to academic freedom, and from the standpoint of a supporter of Israel, counterproductive, too.
"I couldn't disagree more violently with B.D.S., as they call it, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions," he said. "As you know I'm big supporter of Israel, as big a one as I think you can find in this city. But I also could not agree more strongly with an academic department's right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose."
"The last thing we need is for members of our City Council or state legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run and base funding decisions on the political views of professors," he continued. "I can't think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students. The freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system. And take that away, and higher education in this country would certainly die."
"If you want to promote the views that you find abhorrent, this is exactly the ways to do it. ... They just don't think before they open their mouths," he said, referring to the attention that the protestors of B.D.S. have brought to the group.
"If they just shut up, it would have gone away," he added.
A few years ago, when the controversy surrounding the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" was at its hottest, Bloomberg made a speech, against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, in defense of the mosque and of religious freedom.