Monday, December 5, 2011

Political attack on study abroad in Israel

California State University is considering reestablishing its study abroad program in Israel, while a group of Cal State faculty and administrators has written an Open Letter to the administration calling for this attempt to be stopped, on the grounds of danger, possible discrimination against some CSU students, and of course the apartheid charge. They also think that it would be one-sided to establish a study abroad program in conjunction with Israeli universities without also establishing a similar program with Palestinian universities. It might be a good idea to establish a similar program with Palestinian universities (Bard College has established a joint program with Al-Quds University in Jerusalem), but the absence of such a program should not prevent the reestablishment of the Israel study abroad program.

The University of California restarted its formal study abroad program in partnership with the Hebrew University in 2009.

I certainly hope this attempt to cut off student opportunities to study in Israel is ignored. David Klein, who teaches at CSU Northridge, and was the main author of the letter, argues that "cutting off engagement with Israeli universities is an exercise of academic freedom, not an abridgement of it: 'We’re choosing not to have relationships with institutions that participate in apartheid, in the same way that in the lead-up to World War II, universities broke off relations with universities in Nazi Germany.'"

Notice the rhetorical slip here - from the evil of apartheid to the evil of Nazi Germany. Does Klein think that Israel is trying to exterminate the Palestinians?

Zeev Maoz, a UC Davis professor who has taught a summer study abroad course in Israel, "offered a different interpretation. 'They’re raising the notion of academic freedom, and what they’re advocating is putting limits on academic freedom,' he said. 'To me, this is the epitome of hypocrisy.'"

I agree with Maoz. Klein and his supporters are using their own academic freedom in order to prevent others to exercise their own academic freedom to study and teach in Israel. That is the epitome of the BDS campaign.


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