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June 18, 2021 5:16 pm

Over 180 Columbia University Faculty Back Research Ties With Israel After Call for Boycott

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The statue Alma Mater in front of Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University. Photo: Nowhereman86 via Wikimedia Commons

Over 180 Columbia University faculty members wrote an open letter supporting the university’s academic ties with Israel, on the heels of a call from others at the school to end relationships with Israeli institutions.

Organized in early June by the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit supporting education about Israel, the letter encouraged Columbia to build on research and teaching missions in the Jewish state.

“As members of the faculty of Columbia University, we are deeply concerned by the recent war between Israel and Hamas,” the letter said. “In the wake of this sobering conflict, we write to express our commitment to the university’s ties with Israel.”

“As a democracy with constitutional protections for the individual rights of all citizens, and as the home to great universities, Israel shares values, interests, and aspirations with us. Columbia benefits from ties with Israeli faculty, students, research, and technology,” it continued.

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The letter was signed Columbia University affiliates including Ester Fuchs, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science; Nicholas Lemann, Pulitzer-Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus; David M. Schizer, Dean Emeritus & Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law. and Matthew Waxman, Liviu Librescu Professor of Law.

It followed a May 23 petition signed by faculty and students calling for the the university to “end [its] complicity with Israeli apartheid,” and cut Columbia’s ties with Israeli academic institutions.

The pro-Israel letter argued that preserving ties with Israel was integral to the mission of Columbia University.

“We are not writing this letter to endorse any one approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to stand up for a vision of the university,” it continued.  “To make all academic activities conditional on the policies of the government of any country when they take place would be severely limiting for the university. To apply the condition only to Israel … would represent an unacceptably selective application of this highly problematic principle.”

 Miriam Elman, Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, called the letter “heartening.”

“It’s a powerful statement in defense of academic values and principles, including open exchange and the university as a place where students should be able to air competing and diverse viewpoints on contentious and complex topics,” Elman told The Algemeiner.

“Incendiary rhetoric that demonizes Israel and its supporters has enabled heinous acts of anti-Jewish hatred and violence in New York City and across the country,” she said. “Jewish and Israeli students now know that in the face of this hostility there are hundreds of concerned Columbia University faculty who stand with them.”

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