Activism / November 22, 2023

A Response to The Nation’s Coverage of Protests at Brooklyn College

A Response to “The Nation” Magazine’s Coverage of Protests at Brooklyn College

Jeanne Theoharis and Brooklyn College students reply to David Brodsky.

Jeanne Theoharis and Ashera Schwartz
Students from Brooklyn College and supporters hold signs during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the entrance of the campus.

Students from Brooklyn College and supporters hold signs during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the entrance of the campus on October 12, 2023.

(Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

On October 30, The Nation published a piece by Brooklyn College Professor Jeanne Theoharis titled “One of New York’s Most Vital Colleges Is Targeting Muslim Students.” The piece, which accused the college’s leadership of suppressing Muslim student voices and pro-Palestinian protests amid the ongoing war in Gaza, drew a response from Theoharis’s colleague David Brodsky titled “Brooklyn College’s President Is Absolutely Not Targeting Muslim Students.”

Today, we are publishing the last word on this subject. Below, Jeanne Theoharis introduces a letter from Brooklyn College student Ashera Schwartz on behalf of a group of anti-Zionist Jewish students.

After Professor Brodsky’s piece was published, I learned that Brooklyn College had very strongly asked The Nation to be able to respond to my piece. The Nation’s editor in chief decided that it had that right, and this is the response Brooklyn College put forward. Regrettably, again, it smears students and doesn’t take seriously anti-Muslim racism at the college or in broader society.
Jeanne Theoharis

This is written by a collective of Jews fighting for Palestinian liberation at Brooklyn College in response to David Brodsky’s “Brooklyn College’s President Is Absolutely Not Targeting Muslim Students,” a piece that quotes not one Muslim student. Brodsky focuses on two events on campus—on October 10th and 12th—during which Israeli and Palestinian deaths were mourned, respectively. Brodsky asserts that his Jewish students felt unsafe after they were chanted at from across the BC quad by pro-Palestinian students on the 10th. While Brodsky refers to the October 10th rally as an apolitical vigil, it was explicitly organized in support of the Israeli state.

Brodsky ignores the fear felt by Muslim and pro-Palestinian students. In recent weeks, pro-Palestinians peacefully protesting have been threatened by a city councilor’s gun; pepper-sprayed on campus; and harassed by the NYPD. In this context, and especially when one in every 200 Gazans have been killed since October 7th, whose safety concerns Brodsky?

We know intimately the pain felt within Jewish communities following October 7th, but we also recognize the asymmetry in power that pervades institutions. Recently, New York Governor Kathy Hochul authorized an investigation of antisemitism in CUNY: No similar move was made for Islamophobia. In coverage of rising antisemitism throughout the US, Islamophobia is an afterthought unworthy of standalone discussion. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s censure illustrates support for Israel as unquestionably the de facto position within the US. Anything pro-Palestinian is deemed antisemitic or terroristic. Brodsky too associates BC’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter with “Hamas murderers” and “terrorists.” Following Columbia University banning its SJP and JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) chapters, Brodsky attacks our rights to free speech and assembly, as well as our identity as Jews beyond the state of Israel.

Brodsky claims that points in our speeches are from SJP’s national tool kit, not our own beliefs. Antisemitic conspiracy theories function similarly; these protesters aren’t from here, have a dual allegiance; they are being controlled. It is a wonder how comfortable Zionists have become with the tactics and tools of the most vitriolic antisemites in our country. Organizing is not dual allegiance; it is an act of love and care for the world. Pro-Palestinian messaging on campus echoes pro-Palestinian marches throughout NYC and the world. Millions of people—including significant Jewish contingents—stand with Palestine. As Jewish students, we reject Zionist framings pitting us against our Muslim siblings. Our true enemies are not one another, but the system of white supremacy which oppresses us all.
Ashera Schwartz

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply-reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish everyday at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.

Onwards,

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Jeanne Theoharis

Jeanne Theoharis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, is the author of the award-winning The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Ashera Schwartz

Ashera Schwartz is a student at Brooklyn College.

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