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April 24, 2017 2:51 pm

An Open Letter to the Tufts Community on BDS and Israel

avatar by Jacob L. Freedman

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Tufts University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.To the students of Tufts University,

My name is Dr. Jacob Freedman, and I’m an assistant professor of psychiatry at Tufts’ School of Medicine.

Since 2013, I’ve had the honor of serving as a teacher and a mentor for medical students at your school in my capacity as an academic physician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. I’m proud to work with your fellow students, and I reached teaching awards from your school in 2014 and 2016.

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I’m writing to you because earlier this month, your Student Senate passed a resolution entitled, “A Resolution Calling for Tufts University to End Investments in the Israeli Occupation.” As a faculty member of the university, a scholar dedicated to supporting academic freedom, and a dual-citizen of both America and Israel, I cannot stand by and allow such an action to go unanswered.

Let us review the facts: Israel is the lone democracy in a sea of military, theocratic and monarchic dictatorships throughout the Middle East (for respective examples please see Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia). Israel is dedicated to protecting personal religious freedoms — for major religions and ethnic minorities such as Armenians, Druze and Assyrian Christians. Israel is also dedicated to preserving other tenets of democracy, such as freedom of the press, free enterprise and free expression. Israel’s profound ethical code extends to even hostile enemy combatants (including those from Hamas and Hezbollah) who receive free medical treatment at Israel’s world-renowned hospitals.

So why then would the Tufts University Student Senate choose to single out Israel? Is standing against war crimes in Darfur too passé? Have people forgotten about the Saudi government’s gender-apartheid laws that deprive women of almost all basic rights. Is there no one who cares about the thousands of “honor killings” that occur each year in Pakistan, where the government is frankly complicit?

I should be very clear that I don’t believe there is a sinister plot to target Israel amongst the members of the Student Senate at Tufts University. Rather, I see this action as tragic casualty of misinformation.

Therefore, I call upon the members of the Student Senate to come and visit Israel. Beyond the Dead Sea and other tourist traps, come and see the “Israeli Occupation” at its finest. Witness first-hand how modern ideas and new technology have improved the lives of millions of people, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion. Since 1967 — when Israel won a defensive war against six genocidal Arab armies — people of all faiths living in the West Bank have had access to running water, electricity, literacy programs, free healthcare and other basic necessities that much of the non-Western world still lacks.

Come and visit Ariel University, where students of all creeds can study anything their heart desires without the fear of governmental persecution. Come and visit the Psagot Winery, where Arab and Jewish farmers work side-by-side to craft world-famous wines. Come and visit ancient Shiloh, Hebron and Jerusalem (remember that Jerusalem is considered “occupied territory” by some), where the great figures of the Bible walked and where the future of the Jewish people continues to unfold.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.made zero reference to “occupation” and never once considered “boycott, divestment and sanctions” against the Jewish state. As he famously said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews…you’re talking antisemitism.” In the case of the recently-passed resolution, I’d still like to judge favorably and hope that there isn’t an issue of antisemitism, but rather one of misinformation. Therefore, I hope that students will come to see the Jewish homeland and learn about all of the amazing things happening here. And if it’s too big a shlep to come and visit, let me know and I’ll be happy to speak at Tufts.

In addition to a lot of anti-Israel rhetoric, the Student Senate’s resolution also calls for the university to screen its financial investments for human rights compliance. This is a fantastic idea, and I immediately urge the Senate to look into the human rights violations perpetrated by governments in countries such as China, Russia and Turkey, where the is no such thing as freedom of press, freedom of religion, or the rights to a fair trial for political dissidents. I further urge the Student Senate to use all of its resources to condemn the recent chemical weapon attacks in Syria — and the development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea — in the strongest possible terms.

I look forward to being in touch,

 Jacob L. Freedman

Dr. Freedman is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and a board-certified psychiatrist in both Boston, Massachusetts, and Jerusalem, Israel.  For more information regarding Dr. Freedman, please visit his website at drjacoblfreedman.com.

 

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