Don’t Rely on College Presidents to Restrain Campus Anti-Semitism

March 26 2019

In three recent instances, the presidents of Pitzer College, Cornell University, and the University of Michigan separately stepped in to prevent, and in one case to punish, efforts by faculty and/or students to institute boycotts of Israel. While all three acted commendably, and two explicitly acknowledged the intrinsic bigotry of such boycotts, K.C. Johnson cautions against hoping their counterparts elsewhere will act similarly:

Relying on university leaders to do the right thing . . . is an inherently risky strategy. Administrators are notoriously disinclined to stand on principle. . . . In an environment where Democratic members of Congress are reviving anti-Semitic tropes or backing the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS)—even as applied to academic exchange programs—university leaders seem unlikely to continue to check passionate BDS advocates. That’s especially so given that the internal pressure on university administrators seems likely to intensify. . .

A sounder approach is more aggressive resistance to BDS efforts from other campus constituencies, for which some models exist. . . . [Last week], San Francisco State University settled a lawsuit filed by two Jewish students who alleged religious discrimination in one of the nation’s most virulently anti-Israel campus environments. The university agreed to spend $200,000 on “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints).” The school also released a statement reiterating “its commitment to equity and inclusion for all—including those who are Jewish,” and affirming “the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.”

The [successful faculty-led effort to combat a BDS resolution at the American Historical Association] and the experience at San Francisco State show how how faculty and students can successfully resist BDS efforts—albeit at considerable cost in terms of time and resources. But absent such efforts on behalf of the academic freedom of students and professors who want to engage with Israeli institutions, administrative opposition to BDS seems likely to give way—despite the recent, commendable trend.

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More about: Academic Boycotts, Anti-Semitism, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israel on campus, University

 

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations