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March 20, 2016 3:19 pm

Columbia Faculty Members Release Letter Supporting University’s Ties to Israel, Following Petition by Colleagues Backing BDS

avatar by Andrew Pessin

Columbia University.   Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Columbia University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Faculty members at Columbia on Sunday released a letter, bearing 235 signatures, supporting the University’s ties to Israel, The Algemeiner has learned.

The letter comes in response to a petition posted earlier this month that supported the Apartheid Divest movement launched at Columbia in February. That petition had 69 faculty signatures as of press time.

Judith Jacobson, a faculty member at the School of Public Health, told The Algemeiner that the letter was drafted by David Schizer, former dean of the Columbia Law School, and that she and others helped circulate it for signatures.

She said the letter was mailed to Columbia President Lee Bollinger and Board of Trustees Chair Jonathan Schiller. It was also posted on a website developed by Columbia undergraduates called InvestInPeace, that calls for a two-state solution and opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

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The letter began:

As members of the faculty of Columbia University, we write to express our commitment to the university’s ties with Israel. Israel is a thriving democracy. It has democratic elections, a free press, rule of law, and strong protections for the individual rights of all citizens, including Arabs as well as Jews. Israel also is the home of great universities, a vibrant culture, and an innovative high-tech sector. Given these shared values and interests, Columbia benefits from ties with Israeli faculty, students, research, and technology.

After providing a brief summary of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it continued:

It would not be just or principled to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by disengaging from Israel or from companies that do business with Israel. It would be unjust to blame only one side for this conflict, and unprincipled to single out Israel for this sanction, while maintaining ties with other nations that – unlike Israel – are undemocratic, repressive, and much less restrained in their use of force.

The Algemeiner reached out to President Bollinger for comment, but had not received a response by press time.

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