Glenn Greenwald’s smears, distortions and lies about Brooklyn College BDS row

Over the course of several days the Guardian’s Glenn  Greenwald penned two long essays (and a short post), encompassing over 6,275 words, much of which attacked straw men, engaged in profound distortions, and included classic Greenwald vitriol and hyperbole.

GG_DNow_20101203 (1)The two full length pieces (which, not surprisingly, given that the topic is Israel, have already elicited nearly 2500 reader comments) are titled,  Brooklyn College’s academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event, Feb 2, and ‘NYC officials threaten funding of Brooklyn College over Israel event‘, Feb 4., and  a multi-topic post which included his first commentary on the Brooklyn College row, on Feb. 29.

Factual errors/errors of omission

A good example of a Greenwald distortion can seen early in this opening passage on Feb. 4:

“On Tuesday, I wrote about a brewing controversy that was threatening the academic freedom of Brooklyn College (see Item 7). The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school’s Political Science department of an event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]”

It is simply a lie to claim that Barghouti and Butler merely aim to stop the oppression, as they are both are on record supporting the use of BDS as part of their larger goal to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state. Further, Barghouti, when not studying at Tel Aviv University, supports an academic boycott of Israel –  a ban on professors due to their national origin which would certainly seem quite inconsistent with the spirit of academic freedom.

Second, despite Greenwald’s hysterical claims, there is no threat to academic freedom at Brooklyn College. Most critics have merely objected to the fact that the political science department endorsed the BDS event and that it was going to be a one-sided debate.

In fact, one of the most prominent activists criticizing the event, Alan Dershowitz, said quite clearly that “of course, the event should go forward.” 

Hysterical, unsupportable claims

His Jan. 29 piece includes this classic Greenwald scare quote:

“It doesn’t matter what you think of the BDS movement. This is all part of a pernicious trend to ban controversial ideas from the place they should be most freely discussed: colleges and universities

 Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike.”

Again, contrary to what Greenwald is claiming, the event at Brooklyn College is not going to be banned. Further, to suggest that there is some “pernicious trend” of banning controversial speakers on college campuses ( which evokes censorship by “authoritarians”) is simply absurd.

Smearing his critics: Imputing the motives and tactics of BDS critics:

His Feb. 4 piece includes this:

“Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.”

This is a classic Greenwald tick. When pro-Israel advocates who Greenwald dislikes engage in free speech, and participate in the political process, they are always characterized by Greenwald acting dishonorably: “threatening”, “bullying” and “intimidating”.  Also, note the misleading sentence at the end: falsely suggesting again that critics of the BDS event are trying to cancel the event. They clearly are not.

Martyrs: Defending antisemites and racists as victims:

Here, Greenwald trots out some of his favorite martyrs, victims of the coordinated campaign by pro-Israel advocates to ‘stifle debate about Israel’.

“In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel. This is not news. Ask Chas Freeman. Or Ocatavia Nasr. Or Finkelstein. Or Juan Cole. Or Stephen Walt. Or Chuck Hagel.”

Career’s ruined? Really?

  • Steven Walt enjoys a profitable speaking tour, and received a six figure advance from his publisher for the book he wrote with John Mearsheimer called ‘The Israel Lobby’.  (Walt and Mearsheimer achieved notoriety recently for defending and endorsing a book by a Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer named Gilad Atzmon.)
  • Juan Cole Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on TV and in print media. (See a sample of Cole’s hateful and racist comments, here.)
  • Octavia Nassr served as CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast affairs until her dismissal in July 2010 over her public statement of respect on Twitter for Hezbollah’s cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who she considered “one of Hezbollah‘s giants I respect a lot.” CNN fired her for violating standards of objectivity in its reporting, and it’s unclear how Greenwald, who frequently bemoans the failure of the media to be objective, can frame CNN’s decision as evidence of the power of the Israel lobby. (My guess is that she said something positive about al Qaeda, for instance, CNN would have similarly dismissed her.)
  • Norman Finkelstein is the author of eight books and seems to have a very lucrative speaking tour: Other than being denied tenure at DePaul University over quite legitimate question regarding the quality of his scholarship his career as an Israel critic seems to be thriving.  Though his most notorious book, “The Holocaust Industry”, was reviewed by The New York Times’ and described its premise as a “novel variation” of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, there is simply no evidence that Finkelstein has suffered any social and financial injury from the frequent criticism he faces.
  • Chas Freeman, who was in the US Foreign Service for 30 years, and, as we noted in a post yesterday, his ‘victimhood’ seems to consist of having to, in 2009, withdraw his name from consideration to be chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council after revelations emerged over past statements about Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel’s alleged role as a catalyst in the 9/11 attacks, which concerned many senators.  Additionally, Greenwald’s suggestion that Freeman is just “critical of Israel”, as we noted yesterday, is simply a lie.  Among Freeman’s ugly smears of American Jews, as such, is the vile, reactionary charge that Jewish supporters of Israel represent a “fifth column” in the US – that is, according to Freeman, such Jews are clandestinely seeking to undermine America from within due to their ethnic loyalties.
  • Chuck Hagel will likely be confirmed as Defense Secretary.

Finally, it’s not surprising that Greenwald would sympathize with Chas Freeman, as Greenwald himself has engaged in similar antisemitic narratives on his blog.  Here are just a few.

  • “Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”
  • So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
  • “Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”
  • “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

No doubt, Greenwald would accuse this Zionist blog of engaging in “McCarthyite smears and “stifling debate” by revealing accurate quotes demonstrating his decidedly illiberal, Judeophobic and borderline conspiratorial musings. 

16 replies »

  1. “It is simply a lie to claim that Barghouti and Butler merely aim to stop the occupation, as they are both are on record supporting the use of BDS as part of their larger goal to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state.”

    Dear Mr Levick, it is a lie to claim that Barghouti and Butler aim at “ridding the Middle East of the Jewish state” because they support BDS. Barghouti and Butler support BDS as a way of creating pressure and end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

      • Barghouti and Butler see the Palestinian territory as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. This is the definition used by the UN and by all governments in the world, Itsik.

  2. Greenwald:

    “Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike.””

    Well well well how the tables have turned.
    Someone forgot the noisy supporters of the PSC which suppress dialogue and a polite civic debate by chanting and displaying childish behaviour only to suppress debate or even a concert.

    These are the true authoritarians. Facism began in a similar way.

  3. Glenn Greenwald is a smear merchant. These debates which he defends are often more accurately described as political advocacy masquerading as “academic” inquiry, freedom, and debate. What Glenn and his cohorts really want is a soap box from which to spew their political leanings unopposed and without criticism. That’s it.

  4. And of course he holds up Norman Finkelstein as a victim, but conveniently leaves out Finkelstein’s all-out attack on BDS as a “cult.” Funny how that works, huh?

    Greenwald is a sensationalistic buffoon. And a lying, distorting smear-merchant. And he knows that sells.

    And let’s be perfectly clear, in 2005, when he started out as a blogger, one of his first targets were Mexican immigrants. Sounding much like a white-supremacist, this is one of the things he wrote (until he figured out this racist garbage wouldn’t get him the $$$):

    “Current illegal immigration – whereby unmanageably endless hordes of people pour over the border in numbers far too large to assimilate, and who consequently have no need, motivation or ability to assimilate – renders impossible the preservation of any national identity.”

    But to be fair, you’ve got one of his quotes wrong. Should be:

    “It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.”

    He didn’t say “the ones agitating.” I know it’s splitting hairs, and we all know what his motives are, but let’s not give him and his sycophantic army reasons to discount your valuable work.

  5. Having basically succeeded in Europe they now hope to turn US public opinion against Israel through lies and half-truths.

    They complain about stifling debate but want to end any pro-Israel activity and complain about banning ideas yet want to ban an entire country.

  6. I have read many of Greenwald’s comments. He is a self-hating Jew and an American communist. Not that he is a member of the communist party-I don’t know that he is and much doubt he would be stupid enough to be–just that he is simply a Marxist-Leninist. It is that simple-he adheres to Marxism-Leninism.

  7. It looks to me like the BDS is no different then Abbas who jails people who criticize him on Facebook and Hamas who draggs Gazan’s through the streets of Gaza behind a motorcycle for being rivals of Hamas.
    Pro-Israel Students Ousted from BDS Event
    Brooklyn College’s controversial event churns out more controversy
    By Natalie Schachar
    February 8, 2013

    Pro-Israel Students Gather Outside BDS Event at Brooklyn College (NYTimes)
    A panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College turned even more contentious last night after four students affiliated with Hillel were ousted from the event.

    “I heard probably about half of what Judith Butler said when I got kicked out,” said Ari Ziegler, a 23-year-old CUNY graduate student studying experimental psychology. “CUNY police escorted us out and when we asked them what we did wrong they said, ‘we don´t have an answer.’ It’s disappointing because they had said that it was a forum for asking tough questions and trying to understand.”

    According to Ziegler, the students had anti-BDS material in their laps and were planning on using the material to help inform their questions during the Q&A session following the panel discussion.

    Brooklyn College´s Vice President Milga Morales, who was standing nearby, saw the incident, but did not intercede.

    “I was escorted out for nothing more than the fact that I was holding a paper that would help me assess my decision on my feelings over BDS,” said Michael Ziegler, a senior at Brooklyn College.

    The panel had become a touchstone for heated debate about academic freedom and brought the controversial goals of the BDS movement into clearer focus. In a letter written to the Hillel Board last week, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould promised that the forum would promote academic freedom and free speech, and she encouraged attendees to speak up at the event.

    ¨I expect all who attend or present at next week´s event to engage in civil discourse at all times, and I encourage those who do attend with opposing views to participate in the discussion, ask tough questions, and challenge any ideas with which they disagree,¨ she wrote.

    The crowd largely seemed to consist of students in favor of the BDS movement though, and some pro-Israel supporters with some such opposing views were turned away. The Scroll continues to investigate, but the event may be at odds with a non-discrimination policy that states that students will not be excluded from participation in the programs of the college because of national or ethnic origin, or religion.

    Melanie Goldberg, an Israel Campus Coalition intern, said she had registered three weeks ago and received two emails confirming that she had a spot reserved, but then arrived and was turned away because her name was not on the list.

    “I knew I´d have problems getting in,” Goldberg said.

    Norma Chiabott, a 20-year-old undergraduate, had a similar story. “I signed up yesterday and was second on the wait list and still didn´t get in,” she said.

    Brooklyn College has been the target of fierce criticism since it announced that the event would be sponsored by the college´s Political Science department. Many pointed to the fact that CUNY was a taxpayer-supported institution that should have maintained political neutrality. A few prominent New York politicians had even threatened to cut the school’s funding.