Rashida Tlaib Gets Behind Academic Boycott of Israel

Tlaib endorses California school's proposal to end study abroad program in Israel

Rep. Rashida Tlaib / Twitter
March 14, 2019

Democratic representative Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) has gotten behind a push from anti-Israel faculty members at a small private California university to end its study abroad partnership with an Israeli university.

The move by faculty members at Pitzer College aims to suspend its study abroad program to University of Haifa in Israel until their demands are met by the Israeli government. Leading the charge is Professor Daniel Segal, an anthropology and history professor, who announced through his Twitter account that Tlaib was his movement's newest backer.

"Tlaib is in with #SuspendPitzerHaifa," he wrote, along with a picture of Tlaib holding the group's information pamphlet.

The picture was also posted by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which said Tlaib supports the Pitzer faculty attempt to "suspend a study abroad program with Haifa University over Israel's discriminatory policies against Palestinians."

Tlaib, a Palestinian-American serving her first term in Congress, has endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), which aims to wage economic warfare against the Jewish state. She has also said she would vote against providing any aid to Israel and spoke out against her fellow freshman members for taking a bipartisan trip to Israel.

Pitzer's study abroad program to Israel is a small one—only 11 students have made the trip since 2007 and none have participated since 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Far-left members of the faculty nevertheless held a vote to suspend the program last November, and it passed. The next step will be a Thursday vote by the Pitzer College Council, which includes both faculty and students.

The University of Haifa criticized the push, pointing out its campus is the most diverse in the country, with 35 percent of the student body comprised of Arabs.

"We have Jews and Arab faculty and students coexisting and this seems to contradict the narrative about Israel as an apartheid state," university president Ron Robin said after the November vote. "We hope we're a crystal ball of what Israeli society could look like."

Tlaib's office did not respond to a request for comment on her support for the Pitzer boycott.

A website for the faculty push to suspend the Israel program details the group's demands of the Israeli government, which include that it "ends its restriction to entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech" and "adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities."

The website also reveals the push is endorsed by Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical anti-Israel group that leads the BDS push on college campuses across the country.

The boycott is opposed by Students for Academic Freedom, which is gathering signatures for a petition to oppose what it says "severely restricts academic freedom."

"Ending this academic opportunity for students violates the College's own stance that Pitzer College celebrates cultural diversity and intercultural understanding," the petition states. "Limiting student participation in any study abroad program makes it more challenging for students to deepen their 'appreciation of global diversity' and severely restricts academic freedom for the Pitzer College community."

The director of campus affairs for the American Jewish Committee also criticized the move, saying that faculty was letting "outside political influences" impact the academic life of students.

"At issue in the Pitzer vote is not only the study abroad program in Haifa, but the idea that a student should not have his or her academic pursuits hindered by outside political influences," Zev Hurwitz argued. "True academic freedom allows the free exchange of ideas regardless of circumstances in the host country."