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November 30, 2018


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More like Pischer College.

Dana Lubet, DDS

Evil exists when good people are silent, right? Speak out against bigotry and racism in all its forms. Resist the boycott.

Prof. Kevin Heller

Sure, the Israeli government detained a student for a week for absolutely no reason -- other than as part of its ongoing efforts to exclude from the country anyone who does not parrot the Israeli right's views on Palestine. But hey, the Israeli Supreme Court (unexpectedly) ordered the government to let her attend HUJ. So no harm, no foul.


The biggest problem with BDS (and not the only one) is it is intellectually dishonest. Many US academic institutions have campuses in Qatar and Saudi whose record on freedom and rights is abysmal. Why does Northwestern Law have a program with HBKU Law in Doha when in fact no one from Isreal can even visit let alone be employed at HBKU? Do they employ US Jewish professors? Huge discrmintory conduct. Yet only Isreal is singled out.

Steve L.

Prof. Heller: Like many other nations, including the US and the UK, Israel has some unfair and discriminatory immigration laws. Fortunately, Israel also has an independent judiciary that keeps in check some of the worst attributes of the Netanyahu government. Your apparent disdain for the Supreme Court ruling is hard to understand.

In any case, boycotting Haifa University over Israel's immigration law makes no more sense than boycotting Oxford and Cambridge over the UK's treatment of the "Windrush" generation and other discriminatory citizenship policies. Or boycotting Pitzer College itself over President Trump's Muslim ban.

Israel's universities have consistently stood up for civil liberties and academic freedom, in what has increasingly become a hostile political environment. Liberal academics should be supporting that effort, not boycotting it.

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of Lara Alqasem does not mean "no harm, no foul," but it requires irrational hostility to want to take it out on Haifa University.


Well, leftist anti-semites gotta anti-semite.

Anonymous 2

As Guest observes, the seeming inconsistency between boycotts of Israel and the non-boycotts of many worse offenders will raise for many the issue of whether the motivation is anti-Semitism or if Israel a soft target. I can understand no one bothering to boycott North Korea because nothing happens there to boycott. But why no action against Russia, which invades other countries, violates chemical weapons treaties, assassinates reporters? Or against China, which likewise does kidnappings and apparently is imprisoning millions of an ethnic minority for "re-education"? Or Saudi Arabia, engaged in other invasions killing tens of thousands of children?


Pitzer College study abroad programs include China, Cuba, and Bhutan. The Chinese discrimination and oppression of the Uigher Muslims is finally getting the publicity it deserves, and China is well-known for many other on-going human rights abuses, as is Cuba. Bhutan's oppression of its Nepalese minority has resulted in a refugee situation that has been categorised by Amnesty International as "one of the most protracted and neglected refugee crises in the world."

But Israel is the one program that the Pitzer students chose to suspend. I don't like throwing anti-semitism lightly - I think many in the BDS movement have good (although misguided) intentions. But I really struggle to understand any rationale, other than anti-semitism, for stigmatizing Israel while giving China a free pass.

Steve L.

r: It was the Pitzer faculty that voted to end the Haifa University program. The students actually seem to have objected to the proposed suspension. As I understand it, the college council (comprising faculty, students, and staff) will vote next month.


I do not support the BDS movement against Israel. However, a non-anti-Semitic rationale for a distinction between Israel and other countries which are, undeniably, more severe human rights violators, is that Israel's commitment to human rights and democracy makes it responsive to international pressure in a way that dictatorships and monarchies are not.


Steve L.: Thank you for the clarification - I wrote too quickly. Looking into this further, it appears that the student government has passed a resolution to show that it does not support suspending the Haifa University program.

Jack: The argument that Israel is a soft target that is amenable to international pressure is often used to distinguish Israel from much worse offenders. As Anonymous 2 states above, a boycott against North Korea is not going to have much effect. This rationale could be applied to Cuba and Bhutan. However, a large-scale boycott against China could certainly have a real impact - China's economy is very dependent on exports and foreign investment.

Being generous and assuming a non-biased rationale, I suppose you could argue that a China boycott is not being attempted because boycotting Chinese products, investments, and study abroad opportunities is just too difficult. Much easier to boycott a small country that doesn't manufacture so many of the shoes and phones that we can't stop buying. Maybe the BDS proponents are only willing to sacrifice so much, and certainly not their iPhones.


Lets look at Northwestern and its relationship with Qatar. Northwestern Law developed a JD program with HBKU Law in Doha, Qatar. Northwestern and HBKU are partners. HBKU is a Govt funded University (Qatar Foundation). HBKU is a state-owned Qatari academic institution.

The first Dean was Professor Clinton Francis from Northwestern Law.
So I took a look at the HBKU faculty - maybe I cant tell from names but doesnt look like any jews need apply. Certainly no Isrealis would be welcome. So Northwestern is partnering with an academic institution that boycotts Isreali academics and american jewish ones as well.


Prof. Kevin Heller

Prof Lubet: to be clear, I have always opposed -- vocally, even when I held the chair in criminal law at SOAS -- academic BDS. So I am not attacking Haifa or any other university. (With the exception of Ariel, which is built in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. It deserves any criticism it gets.) My problem with your posts on this subject is that you consistently downplay, if not ignore, the Israeli government's unremitting attacks on the academic freedom of (1) Palestinians, and (2) Jews both in Israel and outside of it who do not parrot the ultra-right line on Palestine. My "no harm, no foul" comment was responding to your failure to even offer a word of criticism for a government that thinks it's fine to detain a Jewish student on the basis of her political beliefs until the Supreme Court order it to release her.

The Israeli government's horrific treatment of Alqasem is not the universities' fault, and Israeli universities have consistently and admirably defended academic freedom. But non-Israeli academics cannot simply bury their heads in the sand and pretend that the Israeli government is not a bitter enemy of academic freedom, one that is committed to creating a situation in which entire categories of students are discriminated against in university education. That is why I found your posts on the letter of recommendation issue so problematic. Just as I would hope an American academic would not have written a letter of recommendation for a white student to attend a South African university during apartheid, given that none of her black students would ever have been permitted to attend the same university, I find it difficult to fathom how an American academic could be ethically obligated to write a letter of recommendation for a Jewish student that the Israeli government approves of (ie, have the "correct" political views), if she has other students -- Palestinian or pro-Palestinian Jewish -- whom the Israeli government would almost certainly prevent from entering the country if accepted. In other words: it is possible to be an anti-academic BDS and not pretend that the Israeli government's hostility to academic freedom doesn't matter.

PS for Prof Lubet's readers: no, I am not saying Israel is an apartheid state.

Guest: try getting out more. You might read about, say, the massive academic response in the UK and Europe to the UAE's recent conviction of a Durham university PhD student for "espionage." The entire Birmingham faculty voted not to work at the campus the university is currently building in Doha. Or you could educate yourself about the Yale faculty's bitter opposition to the university's campus in Singapore because of that county's hostility to academic freedom. The list is a long one. So implying that academics only care about academic freedom when it's being denied by Israel says far more about your own limited knowledge than about the academics you abhor.

All: not that the trolls on this website care, but I'm Jewish. Both sides. I even wrote a long book about US war-crimes prosecutions after WW II that focused on the Holocaust -- an event in which large numbers of my family, from Krakow and Minsk, were murdered. Amazingly, it is possible to Jewish and critical of Israel at the same time. In fact, I think we Jewish academics are ethically obligated to raise our voices in protest of the Israeli government's unconscionable treatment of Palestinians. And every time Netanyahu claims to speak for "the Jews," that ethical obligation only grows. He certainly doesn't speak for me.


There was a recent letter sent to DOE Office For Civil Right:


Last Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article in which it noted that one of the people pushing for Hill to be fired from Temple University was Leonard Barrack, who was described as a “Temple trustee and major donor to the university.” Barrack, who is also a Temple alumnus and former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), was quoted as saying that “He [Hill] called for the destruction of the State of Israel in code words. I am very upset about it. I think it was anti-Semitic.”

CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill for speech on Palestine Mint Press News_editedHowever, the article fails to note that Leonard Barrack is also former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which regularly hosts events in Philadelphia with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), arguably the most influential Israel lobby group in the U.S., and StandWithUs, an Israel lobby group whose activities on U.S. college campuses were exposed in a recently leaked documentary.

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