Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Columbia University President Opposes Palestinian Solidarity Boycott

As the Stop The Wall website ( notes in its boycott section:

“The academic boycott calls upon universities, academic institutions, students, and scholars to stop cooperation with their Israeli counterparts. Israeli academic institutions and scholars are not only instrumental in perpetuating and teaching Israeli racist and colonial ideologies and repressing internal dissent, but these institutions are also places where the theories, plans, and projects of Israeli Occupation and Apartheid are elaborated and intellectually supported. The academic boycott asks the student movements and the international academic community to take up their responsibility as intellectual leaders to uphold and promote the ideals of justice, freedom, and equality and to oppose colonial apartheid policies such as those inflicted upon the Palestinian people. Academia can never be “neutral”; academics need to choose between supporting the status quo or being part of a movement to promote social change and justice.”

But on June 12, 2007, Washington Post Company board member and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said:

“…I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. …At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate….Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.”

Yet as the Stop The Wall website’s boycott section reveals:

“Noted Israeli historian and University of Haifa Professor Ilan Pappe has estimated that only 100 out of 9,000 Israeli academics have `raised their voice against the occupation,' and some of those 100 are in danger of losing their jobs because of their stated political positions. (Quotation from

“Over the last 50 years, during which Israel has committed incessant crimes against the Palestinian population, no clear opposition has come from Israeli universities…. Instead, Israeli academic institutions have continued to maintain their strong ties with the state’s political and military elite through close cooperation, developing research, strategies, and projects for the oppression of the Palestinian people…..

“The Palestinian population, as well as other political opponents of Israeli state ideology, cannot see these institutions as anything but instruments for perpetuating discrimination and apartheid rule…. Israeli academics who support the boycott understand and accept this as a temporary personal inconvenience that is incomparable with the systematic suffering of the Palestinian people.

“At this very moment, Israel is destroying the Palestinian academy and educational system as a whole through closures, the targeting of students and professors, and the denial of access to educational facilities through the construction of the Apartheid Wall and other forms of Bantustanization of the Palestinian people. At such a moment, safeguarding an Israeli academy that is supportive of these crimes is not supporting intellectual freedom, but rather supporting its destruction.”

Ironically, although Columbia University is still eager to “embrace Israeli scholars and universities,” it apparently hasn’t rushed to hire the U.S. scholar who was denied tenure at DePaul University for political reasons, Norman Finkelstein, to teach a course at Columbia on Zionism during the 2007-2008 academic year.

Next: Woody Guthrie’s FBI File Revisited