Last week, the council of Pitzer College—a liberal-arts school in Claremont, California—voted to end its study-abroad program with Haifa University. The college’s president has declared he will not abide by the resolution of the council, a body made up of representatives of the faculty, staff, and students. But the results, writes Jonathan Marks, are nonetheless disturbing:
Pitzer maintains programs in China and Rwanda, both uncommonly repressive regimes with no regard for academic freedom. And look! They’re embarking on a program with the University of Zimbabwe, “conditions permitting.” . . .
So, to square its rejection of Israel with its rejection of absolutely no other country, the council’s motion focuses wholly on the specifics of Israel’s visa policy. Among other things, that policy bars from the country certain supporters of boycotting it. There is, of course, no reason to make that the line a nation must not cross. . . .
[T]he reason for the Pitzer boycott is the same as it has ever been [for boycotts of Israel]: to strike a blow against the intolerable presence and strength of Jews in the Middle East. Yes, the motion suggests that there may be ways to permit students to travel to Israel without dirtying themselves through contact with Israel’s universities. And yes, the motion allows for the possibility that other countries may one day also be deemed too filthy to touch. The American Studies Association said much the same thing when it voted for a boycott [of Israel] in 2013. Somehow, it hasn’t gotten around to boycotting anyone else yet. . . .
This is the first time that the stakeholders of a college—not a student government association, but the faculty, staff, and students of a college—has voted to ignore the protests of those in their community who consider [the boycott-Israel movement] anti-Semitic and to ignore their own responsibility to protect scholarship and teaching from partisanship. And all to spit on a country most of them don’t know a blessed thing about.