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May 6, 2019 5:52 pm

Head of NYU Tel Aviv Rejects ‘Inappropriate, Non-Collegial Attack’ After Department Votes to Boycott Israel Program

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The New York University campus. Photo: Cincin12, via Wiki Commons.

A pledge of non-cooperation with New York University’s Tel Aviv campus, announced last week by the school’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, has been condemned as “an inappropriate and non-collegial attack” by the head of the Israel-based program.

Faculty members and students who publicly spearheaded the move, all supporters of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, said it was a response to Israel’s entry restrictions, including its recent prohibition on “members of groups that are critical of government policies.”

A 2017 amendment to Israel’s entry law barred access to foreigners who are identified as key proponents of the BDS campaign, among them leaders of National Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, which both maintain chapters at NYU.

The resolution itself was not framed as an extension of the BDS campaign, though critics have described it as a surreptitious academic boycott.

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In a Friday statement, NYU’s leadership reiterated that the school “has not had a student denied entry to Israel to study at our Tel Aviv campus,” and said they “deplore this uncollegial and pointless effort to stigmatize the Tel Aviv program.”

Benjamin Hary, director of NYU-Tel Aviv and professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, likewise expressed that he and his colleagues were “baffled” by the vote against their program.

“Those who have been here know the excellent work that our faculty, students, and staff are undertaking, in every facet of our Academic Center, to promote the University’s shared values of academic freedom, diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion,” Hary said in a statement shared with The Algemeiner over the weekend. “I view the department’s vote as not only antithetical to our shared academic mission, but also as an inappropriate and non-collegial attack on their fellow faculty, as well as our students and staff.”

According to NYU Spokesman John Beckman, the Tel Aviv campus does not draw on faculty from the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, “so there does not seem to be a practical effect to the vote.”

A petition started against the department’s decision three days ago by Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, university chaplain at NYU and executive director of its Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, exceeded 3,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

“We, the faculty members of New York University, read with dismay the call for non-cooperation with NYU Tel Aviv by the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis,” read the petition by Sarna, who is also an adjunct assistant professor of public administration.

“This academic boycott, however termed, seeks to marginalize NYU Tel Aviv,” it continued. “Neither they nor any NYU faculty operating around the world should be held accountable for government policies or actions in the countries where they reside.”

NYU maintains a dozen study abroad centers internationally, including in Accra, London, Madrid, Paris, and Shanghai.

In a statement announcing the resolution against NYU-Tel Aviv, its backers said they did not target NYU-Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates because “the UAE has no publicly articulated policy that bars entry to population groups to which NYU faculty and students belong.”

The UAE does discriminate against Israeli passport holders, according to a travel advisory issued by NYU’s own administration.

Authors of the resolution did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

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