[Editor’s Note: In March, CAMERA helped expose an offensive and factually inaccurate display on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was set up on the grounds of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). Some illustrative examples of just how poorly researched the display was:
- It claimed that the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 Mandate for Palestine were the same document;
- It suggested that there are still Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip; and
- It claimed Israel used self-defense as an excuse to “impose attacks on Palestinians” during Israel’s War of Independence (in which Israel was invaded by surrounding Arab armies immediately upon declaring independence).
The display, which was sponsored by the university’s “Social Justice and Equity Centers” (SJEC), was subsequently taken down, and reports indicate that the SJEC program is being shut down.
The following letter was written by CAMERA’s David M. Litman in response to a petition relating to these events, in which false accusations were made against CAMERA. The letter was sent to the leadership of BMCC as well as the signatories of the petition itself.]
To: BMCC President Anthony Munroe, Dean of Student Affairs Michael Hutmaker, and Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig
I’m writing today in response to the “Stop the Censorship: Save the SJEC!” petition. As a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, one of the organizations disapprovingly named in the petition, I wish to correct the record and to propose a constructive path forward.
The petition authors suggest that “complaints by Pro-Israel and Pro-Zionist” groups caused the shuttering of the BMCC Social Justice and Equity Center (SJEC) following an offensive and factually inaccurate display the center sponsored on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the petition, CAMERA has “regularly used [its] influence and intimidation tactics to shut down discussions and criticisms of Israel’s many crimes against the Palestinian people.”
To the contrary, CAMERA encouraged more discussion of the topic. The March 17 article I wrote on the display concluded with the words: “If BMCC and the SJEC are truly committed to supporting historically marginalized groups then they must ‘disavow this incendiary and defamatory rhetoric against Jewish students the SJEC propagated on campus,’ in the words of CAMERA on Campus, and work to correct the record.”
I continue to stand behind this call. In the famous words of Justice Louis Brandeis: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” The display contained deeply offensive descriptions of the Jewish state, including denying Jewish indigeneity, running contrary to the SJEC’s supposed mission of “supporting, empowering, and celebrating” historically marginalized groups. It also contained numerous basic factual errors and misleading claims. Unfortunately, despite my efforts to reach out and speak with the SJEC by phone to work together to address these errors and offensive descriptions, I received no response.
Nonetheless, I still resolutely believe that the most constructive way forward is to stimulate more conversation. I do not seek to interfere with any decisions regarding the fate of the SJEC, the shuttering of which I understand was motivated by financial considerations anyway. Rather, I urge you to enable an opportunity to correct the errors, to educate your students, and to stimulate open and informed conversations on the topic. This, I firmly believe, would be the best answer to addressing the falsehoods and fallacies the SJEC regretfully promoted.
As an organization with over four decades of experience correcting the record in the media and a long record of proudly working with Jewish and Zionist students on campus, CAMERA offers its assistance in providing for such an opportunity, the format of which would be further mutually developed, ensuring a fair presentation of a Zionist counter-perspective to that provided by the SJEC. Given the call to “stop the censorship” by the signatories of the aforementioned petition, we trust they would be amenable to an open, and informed conversation on the topic, as well.