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NYU Department Passes Resolution Against Tel Aviv Study Abroad Program

Jewish Journal

Aaron Bandler

May 2, 2019



New York University’s (NYU) Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) announced Thursday it had passed a resolution to boycott the university’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv.


The SCA stated on its website it passed the resolution because of Israel’s “longstanding practice of barring entry to persons of Palestinian descent” as well as the Israeli government’s policy barring boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement supporters from entering the country.


According to SCA’s statement, “Many members of the NYU community (including members of the department) are affected by these policies and are effectively unable to access NYU’s program in Tel Aviv. The resolution seeks to protect the department from complicity with these forms of racial, religious, and political profiling.”


The SCA’s statement also disputes university spokesman John Beckman’s October statement that Israel hasn’t barred any NYU students from entering the country, noting: “The administration fails to take into account the Palestinian members of the NYU community from the West Bank and [the Gaza Strip] who are unable to enter Israel, in addition to those with American citizenship who have been banned based on their Palestinian heritage and political activity. Participating in the program while members of our own department are barred entry to their homeland and sites of research serves to reproduce the racial inequalities of Israel’s policies in our own workplace.”


In its statement, the SCA acknowledged it can’t prevent NYU students and faculty from taking part in the program, but it encourages “faculty and student members to act in the spirit of noncooperation.”


Adela Cojab, the NYU student who has filed a legal complaint against the university after it gave an award to NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “The fact that SCA pledged non-compliance with Tel Aviv when no student or faculty has ever been denied entry, while continuing partnership with NYU-Abu Dhabi after two professors have already been turned away because of their Shiite heritage is hypocritical as it is absurd. SCA does not care about equal opportunity or ethical conduct, they only care about demonizing the Jewish state.”


Cojab added that the resolution’s passage on Yom HaShoah “makes its effect all the more painful.”


Realize Israel, an NYU pro-Israel student group, wrote in a Facebook post, “We, and many Jewish students, feel not only baffled, but affronted by this decision. NYU students should be free to experience other countries and cultures firsthand to form their own opinions without the close-minded prejudices of some members of the NYU faculty. We believe this to be the foundation of higher education learning and growth.”


The statement continued: “It is deeply disappointing that NYU continues to foster an environment that singles out and targets Jewish students based on their support for the State of Israel. Today is Yom HaShoah, a day when Jewish communities around the world remember the lives lost in the Holocaust and say, ‘never again.’ Never again will the Jewish community remain silent in the face of discrimination.”


Rena Nasar, StandWithUs’ Tri-State campus director and managing director of Campus Affairs, condemned the resolution in a statement to the Journal as “hypocritical and discriminatory. The resolution misrepresents Israeli law, as evidenced by the Israeli High Court’s decision in the case of Lara Alqasem,” Nasar said. “Furthermore, it conveniently ignores NYU’s program in the United Arab Emirates, where Israelis are prohibited from entering solely based on their national origin. We call on NYU to condemn this hateful resolution and demand that the department reverse it.”


Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Global Action Agenda, said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU President Andrew Hamilton has called academic boycotts of Israel “contrary to our core principles of academic freedom, antithetical to the free exchange of ideas, and at odds with NYU’s position. Really? Now is the time for him and NYU to put up or shut up as [the SCA] ends all ties with Israel.”


Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA and Daniel Pearl Foundation president who asked NYU to rescind his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award, told the Journal in an email, “This is perfect time for president Hamilton to defend the study abroad program on moral grounds and expose the hypocrisy of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis by saying: ‘A country whose existence is under daily threats cannot be expected to allow in people who openly seek its destruction. I [Hamilton] challenge any member of the SCA department to stand up and recognize Israel’s right to exist before criticizing her protective laws or policies.’”


Beckman told the Journal in an email, “The university’s position on the issue of academic boycotts of Israel is clear: they are at odds with university policy, and they are at odds with the tenets of academic freedom. With respect to this departmental vote: it’s a little puzzling as to what form it would take, as our Tel Aviv campus does not draw on the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for its academic program,” Beckman wrote. He also reiterated that “NYU has not had a student denied entry to Israel to study at our Tel Aviv campus.”


NYU Social and Cultural Analysis Professor Andrew Ross, who is also director of American Studies at the university, told the Journal in an email, “University policy on ethical conduct prohibits discrimination of all kinds and promotes equal opportunity. It should be clear that the resolution appeals directly to that policy.”


Ross also wrote that the resolution vote took place on Yom HaShoah because it was “the last department meeting of the academic year. There are many Jewish students in our department who introduced this initiative and supported it.”


UPDATE: Stephanie Merkrebs, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York and New Jersey director of Campus Affairs, said in a statement to the Journal, “We are concerned to see this kind of resolution pass within a New York University academic department. Discouraging students and faculty from studying in Israel and engaging with Israeli colleagues creates barriers to the free exchange of research and ideas, and to experiencing the complexities first hand. It also contradicts NYU’s statements against BDS."


Read the full article HERE

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