PHILADELPHIA, PA March 15, 2019 – Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) strongly condemns Pitzer’s College Council decision to suspend its study abroad with the University of Haifa which was motivated by the global BDS movement. What makes this vote more jarring is that Haifa University has a significantly large percentage of Arab faculty and students underscoring the disconnect between the reality on the ground and the architects of this vote.
However, we are extremely encouraged and commend Pitzer President Melvin Oliver who vetoed the suspension hours after the council’s 67-28 vote stating that, “I fully respect the actions of the College Council, thus I do not make this decision lightly…By singling out Israel, the recommendation itself is prejudiced. We do not solve one injustice by committing another. If implemented, the recommendation would unnecessarily alienate a large cross section of the College’s constituencies. The reputational harm to the College would be irreparable and as president of this institution, I cannot permit that to happen.”
As an academic organization, what is most troubling to SPME is that pro-BDS individuals within the College Council, engage with the topic of and Arab-Israeli conflict in a lopsided way, focusing exclusively on Israel. Critiquing only Israel among all the nations on earth—many countries where academics are denied even the ability to study, attend classes, or travel—is both counter-productive, since Israel guarantees individual and human rights of its own citizens and visitors, including its Arab citizens. BDS goes counter to any acceptable academic discourse and is contrary to the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Furthermore, academic boycotts are directly in opposition to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution, but only Israel has repeatedly made concessions for peace.
We hope other presidents and faculty will follow in President Oliver’s footsteps and have the courage to stand up to fallacies of the BDS movement.
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