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. 

Written By
More from Adam Levick
0 replies on “Glenn Greenwald’s smears, distortions and lies about Brooklyn College BDS row”