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NYU Groups Boycotting Trip to Israel for Student Leaders

NYU campus

A coalition of two dozen clubs at New York University (NYU) has boycotted a subsidized trip to Israel for student leaders, claiming it is a "propaganda" program that is "part of the right-wing strategy to combat the Palestinian movement for human rights and self-determination in the academy."

The coalition, led by the recently created NYU chapter of the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), made a "pledge to not participate in or apply" for the NYU Israel Experience, which will take approximately 25 students to the country in January to "promote intersectionality and inclusiveness" and introduce students to "Israel beyond the headlines," according to the application.

"Out of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for human rights and self-determination and their demand for Israeli adherence to international law, we refuse to go on a trip that includes a visit to illegally occupied land," the coalition’s boycott statement states.

The coalition includes the NYU College Democrats, NYU Against Fascism, NYU Freedom for North Korea, the Arab Student Union, Democratic Socialists of America at NYU, NYU Student for Justice in Palestine, and the Queer Union — NYU.

Another signee, NYU Disorientation, created an alternative 2017 student handbook focused on the "most destructive things NYU either perpetuates or is complicit with." A main focus was the university's ties with Israel.

Students who do participate in the trip might be suspected of having a "conflict of interest" in the event that a boycott, divestment, and sanctions resolution is introduced for a campus vote, wrote the coalition.

The coalition rips into one of the program's funders, the Maccabee Task Force (MTF), a Sheldon Adelson-backed pro-Israel campus advocacy organization.

"We refuse to go on a trip funded by a group as toxic and Islamophobic as Sheldon Adelson’s Maccabee Task Force," reads the letter, citing Adelson's conservative views and the organization's anti-boycott position.

The coalition also slammed MTF for funding "Islamophobic groups like the David Horowitz Freedom Center," which has a controversial campaign creating posters linking student activists to terror organizations.

David Brog, executive director of MTF, told the Washington Free Beacon that his group gave one grant to the Horowitz Center in 2015, but said they cut ties when the foundation made use of the money for the poster initiative.

"We didn't approve of it, and we made that known publicly. We haven't funded them since," Brog said.

He said MTF "is not a vehicle for its founder's political views, but was created to support the vast mainstream of the pro-Israel campus community."

"It is extremely, extremely troubling that the College Democrats have taken the side of extremists who want to prolong the conflict by insisting that one and only one side is to blame, Israel, instead of taking the side that promotes education, which will ultimately lead to peace," Brog said. "These groups have been duped by the same sort of misinformation campaign that spreads lies about Israel."

The NYU College Democrats defended their participation in the boycott.

"We decided to sign on [to the boycott] after deliberating with our executive board and agreeing that the source of funding for the highly subsidized trip from Sheldon Adelson and the Maccabee Task Force create a conflict of interest for student leaders," Jenny Neuman, secretary for the NYU College Democrats, said in an email. "We also feel that Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank since 1967 directly undermines our support of Palestinian dignity and sovereignty as outlined in our national party's official platform, and declining free or subsidized trips such as this one is key to standing in solidarity with the Palestinian cause."

"As far as enforcement goes, all of our executive board members have refused to apply for the trip," she wrote.

Neuman noted that she has participated in a program called Birthright, a free heritage trip to Israel for Jewish young adults that has received millions in funding from Adelson.

She did not reply to a question about what makes the Bronfman Center's Adelson-backed trip different.

Notably, NYU JVP has also launched an initiative to get Jewish students to boycott Birthright.

Jordana Meyer, communications director for the Zionist club Realize Israel and a Birthright alum, predicted such initiatives would not gain traction.

"JVP is a very new group on campus and has minimal influence over the Jewish community at NYU," Meyer wrote in an email. The club received official club status about a month ago, and held its first official meeting on Wednesday.

"It also doesn't help their message that several of their board members have already gone on Birthright and waited until after they received their free trip to boycott," Meyer added.

Ari Spitzer, who will be participating in the Israel Experience trip, said the boycott coalition is using "divisive, hurtful, dangerous rhetoric."

"They don't want conversation, they don't want a diverse range of political viewpoints coming together and discussing challenging issues," Spitzer said. "They want to maintain the status quo of a very hostile environment surrounding Israel."

NYU JVP did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The director of the Bronfman Center was unavailable for comment.