It’s over. The politicians have backed down. We won.

by Corey Robin on February 6, 2013

Hi everyone. Just a quick note because I’m completely exhausted. Long story, short: we won. This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out strongly in defense of my department’s position on the Brooklyn College/BDS controversy. Then the “progressive” politicians followed suit. I’ll just give you the links to my blog, in reverse chronological order, which you can read if you want to get caught up. Many thanks for all the support!

They All Fall Down: “Progressives” Back off From Their Demands to Poli Sci

Bloomberg to City Council: Back the F*ck Off!

A Sinking Ship? 2 politicians jump, there may be a 3rd.

One politician doubles down, one politician backs down, and one student stands up

The Tide Turns: Letitia James Backs Off From Threats to CUNY




Manta 02.06.13 at 7:09 pm

Congratulations: Lord Dark Helmet was wrong.


John Protevi 02.06.13 at 7:12 pm

Thanks, and admiration. Great work!


Uncle Kvetch 02.06.13 at 7:17 pm

Excellent news. God knows I don’t say this very often, but good for Bloomberg.


Steve LaBonne 02.06.13 at 7:19 pm

Heartiest congratulations. The good guys may not win often enough, but sometimes they do win.


christian_h 02.06.13 at 7:30 pm

Outstanding. Now go get some sleep :)


JW Mason 02.06.13 at 7:34 pm

This is great.

I think it’s really important that we remember this and learn from it. It seems to me that people on the left often pay more attention to our defeats than our victories. One clear lesson here, it seems to me, is that the distinct culture of the academy — the value placed on intellectual freedom; the sense of institutional autonomy; the institutions of collective decision-making — remain very powerful, despite all the efforts at corporatization.


Salient 02.06.13 at 7:35 pm

Soooo glad to see Bloomberg speak out on CUNY’s behalf (Although “I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS” contains an extremely poor choice of adverb, in context.) And hey, hopefully you local opponents of BDS out there use this as an opportunity.

Stage a protest at the event. (Finding out who the buildings and grounds manager is, and requesting formal approval to occupy a given stretch of land/walkway for the duration, is both classy and defensively prudent; it’s not necessary, and you can expect total boilerplate from their supervisor in response, but it doesn’t hurt and reflects well on you.) Carry a couple signs if you want, but for this event don’t take a loud/obnoxious “BDS is BS” route, your target audience won’t be as receptive. Mostly, stand around handing out carefully written, polite, formal one-page fliers/letters — unlike most handouts, people will actually read these, because they have nothing better to do while sitting in their seats waiting for the speaker to begin.

Have a few folks attend the event itself, and dutifully take notes on what is said via text messages, so that your allies can contemplate specific counterpoints and rebuttals to bring up during Q&A. (Preferably on a touch-screen phone. Holy crap do the nonstop little keyboard keytaps ever get loud.) Have enough people attend that they can ask one question apiece, maybe three to five questions total — it’s more effective than one person asking follow-ups until they wave you off and retract the mic. Bringing up noteworthy statements the speaker has made elsewhere can be very effective.

Be prepared with a few succinct messages to give the campus/local media, if they appear, and send them each a press release with your statement a day or two before the event. It’s pretty easy to get campus media to show up to just about anything, if you send a note to the student editor-in-chief, and local media will probably eat this up, given that it involves the City Council and exciting protest stuff.

(I would wish ’em good luck, if not for our nearly categorical ideological differences…)


JW Mason 02.06.13 at 7:36 pm

The other lesson of course is the power of good organizing and solidarity. I’d love to see a post from Corey talking about why/how this was won — after he’s gotten some rest, of course.


politicalfootball 02.06.13 at 8:30 pm

Then the “progressive” politicians followed suit.

I propose that we honor NYC’s less reactionary politicians by dropping the scare quotes from the word “progressive.” At least until the next outrage.


js. 02.06.13 at 8:50 pm

Heartfelt congratulations!


Pub Editor 02.06.13 at 8:53 pm

Great news for academic freedom and free speech in general. Congrats!


John Quiggin 02.07.13 at 12:06 am

Also, I think, this win may signal, and encourage, broader resistance to the idea that this particular topic is one on which normal rules about free speech don’t apply.


David Kaib 02.07.13 at 1:34 am

Wonderful news. And while Corey sleeps, I wonder – what’s next?


Onlooker 02.07.13 at 1:50 am

Does Alan Dershowitz have a blog? While as a rule one shouldn’t luxuriate in schadenfreude, there are exceptions to every rule.


Batocchio 02.07.13 at 6:53 am



Alan Johnson 02.07.13 at 10:51 am

There is a progressive critique of Judith Butler’s anti-Zionism. I make it here in the new issue of Fathom.


Chris Bertram 02.07.13 at 12:46 pm

Seasoned decent-watchers will be aware that Fathom is just the latest of Alan “not the minister” Johnson’s many many ventures. The editorial board of Fathom includes at least one person – Anthony Julius – who has co-written anti-boycott articles with Alan Dershowitz and other people from outfits like the neo-con Henry Jackson Society. (This isn’t an argument of course, just background information, but if Dershowitz did have a blog, it might well get hosted at Fathom.)


Mao Cheng Ji 02.07.13 at 1:08 pm

Political Zionism (Us) is complex and multifaceted, and political Islam (Them), that emerged in response to it, is pure evil. How is this a *progressive* critique? And how is this a critique at all: something that (for the sake of argument) is complex can still be a Bad Idea.


Maria 02.07.13 at 3:42 pm

Well done Corey et al. JW Mason is right – it’s a good moment to savour victory.


bianca steele 02.07.13 at 6:13 pm

@16 from the linked article: “Judith Butler is an anti-racist, of course. . . . I believe charges that she is personally anti-Semitic are quite wrong. Nonetheless, . . .” is quite reassuring.

It’s entirely possible to deplore this kind of thing while not loving at all the way anti-Israel rhetoric pops up in practice.


bianca steele 02.07.13 at 6:14 pm

Which is why savoring victory and all that (hard to keep track of which thread is which at this point, not sure why @16 is on this thread anyway, really).


bjk 02.07.13 at 7:39 pm

Oh the irony.


bjk 02.07.13 at 7:40 pm

Wrong thread, sorry.


JW Mason 02.07.13 at 7:48 pm


Don’t worry, that works on any thread.


Phil 02.07.13 at 9:55 pm

Shorter A “NTFM” J: if anti-Zionism were anti-semitic, it would be anti-semitic. But is it? No, it isn’t, but it does have anti-semitic tendencies within it, and denying this fact simply will not do. In reality, people who say that anti-Zionism does not have anti-semitic tendencies within it are unwitting apologists for the anti-semitic tendencies which anti-Zionism has within it, and denying that those tendencies exist simply postpones the inevitable reckoning with the anti-semitic tendencies which anti-Zionism has within it. Judith Butler’s anti-Zionism is, of course, not anti-semitic, which makes it all the more tragic that Judith Butler’s anti-Zionism is inherently anti-semitic.

It’s like playing Whack-a-Mole with King Charles’s head.


Gabriel Brahm 02.08.13 at 1:08 am

Yes. You won. And you should be very proud. Because winning is all that matters,


Gabriel Brahm 02.08.13 at 1:20 am

Where Does Corey Robin Stand? Defining Prizewinning Blogsmanship Down: The Real Left vs. the Crypto-Fascist Post-Left of Today,


Onlooker 02.08.13 at 4:28 am

So, how was it?


Torquil Macneil 02.08.13 at 11:39 am

Anthony Julius – who has co-written anti-boycott articles with Alan Dershowitz and other people

Julius has also written a scholarly history of antisemitism in England, of course. Even seasoned ‘anti-Zionists’ may find things of interest in there (although not necessarily the things they are looking for).


Dick Gregory 02.08.13 at 12:33 pm

“Julius says that his approach to antisemitism is systematic. A more accurate description would be idio­syn­cratic.”


Steve LaBonne 02.08.13 at 1:20 pm

It’s amusing that our friends like Gabriel think they can intimidate anybody except some exceptionally chickenhearted politicians with their hysterical (in both senses) accusations of antisemitism. What do I care what names some random asshole on the intertubes calls me?


faustusnotes 02.08.13 at 2:23 pm

Steve, I think you’re confused. Gabriel is clearly a spam-bot. Every post one sentence and one link? That’s not a human running those comments.


faustusnotes 02.08.13 at 2:31 pm

Thanks to Allan Johnson for that link to Fathom. I hadn’t read Judith Butler’s opinions, but the article in Fathom makes them sound really interesting, and has piqued my interest in Butler’s views of the diaspora as a positive idea. I’ll investigate more of her work on this.



Torquil Macneil 02.08.13 at 3:02 pm

“has piqued my interest in Butler’s views of the diaspora as a positive idea”

Let us know the positives she finds for the Jews of Warsaw in the 40s (if she remembers them at all).


faustusnotes 02.08.13 at 3:15 pm

What’s this Torquil, you think that Judith is a N++i? Or are you just being a dickhead?


Kaveh 02.09.13 at 2:32 pm

@34 & 35, I think the Arabs (all the Arabs) should just confess to committing the Holocaust already, would simplify a lot of things.


christian_h 02.09.13 at 2:49 pm

Faustusnotes, I advise reading the brilliant “The returns of Zionism” by my UCLA colleague Gabi Piterberg as well for a discussion, among other issues, of how Zionism both needed a story of diaspora and had to assail it (cf. Torquil’s comment for a rather crude example).


Chicago Teamster 02.10.13 at 4:19 pm

@18, political Islam “emerged in response” to political Zionism? Palestinian nationalism emerged in response to political Zionism, but that’s not true of political Islam. A lovely example of the notion that without pesky Jews, the world would be so much….


Jason Weidner 02.10.13 at 6:25 pm

Sorry for posting on a different topic, but I wanted to call CT’s attention to another struggle deserving of attention–attempts by students at Sussex University to stop the administration’s plans to privatize 235 jobs. Here’s a link to the Sussex Against Privatization website: <a href=

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