Ever since Brooklyn College’s political science department made the controversial decision to co-sponsor a forum promoting BDS–boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel–New York City’s elected officials have thoroughly condemned them and even hinted that the publicly-funded institution could suffer financial consequences as a result. At a press conference today on Hurricane Sandy relief, however, Mayor Michael Bloomberg passionately defended the university’s right to sponsor the event.
“I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel–as big of a one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. 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.”
Mr. Bloomberg further argued that any funding decision made based on this controversy would set a dangerous precedent, ultimately leading to the destruction of the public university system.
“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. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students,” he said. “The freedom to discuss ideas–including ideas that people find repugnant–lies really at the heart of the university system. Take that away and the higher education in this country would certainly die.”
Clearly on an argumentative roll, Mr. Bloomberg last claimed the pro-Israel advocates had actually undermined their own cause by giving so much attention to the forum.
“If you want to promote views that you find abhorrent, this is exactly the way to do it. What the protesters have done is given a lot of attention to the very idea they keep saying they don’t want people to talk about!” he exclaimed. “They just don’t think before they open their mouths. The best way to popularize an idea or book or a movie is just to get someone to ban it. All you have to do is take a look at the history of communism and see that. … If they just shut up, it would have gone away! It would be a bunch of kids on a campus. Nobody would have gone to listen to them and nobody [would have] seen it. Now they’ve created the very monster that they say they’re opposed to.”