The Forward has published a story on the tug of war inside the hearts of 20 university/college administrators who are Jewish when it comes to campus criticism of Israel. The piece is notable for its second headline: “College Leaders Balance Israel and Speech; Jewish Presidents Often Find They Must Leave Loyalty Behind.”
This frank statement appears at a time when the phrase “Israel Firster” has been politicized and some say it’s off limits. Well, as the Forward reports, many Jews feel “loyalty” to Israel and this at times conflicts with other duties/responsibilities. This is not true of me. And I bet it’s not true of many of those university presidents. Will any of them write letters?
Another thing. The article never directly addresses the issue of criticism of Israel on campus as it relates to fundraising. Naomi Zeveloff is a fine reporter, but why did she not ask these presidents what the cost is of campus boycott organizations and the like? What price did Hampshire pay for its pro-divestment resolution? Harvard was repeatedly threatened with withdrawal of gifts following the Walt and Mearsheimer paper and the untimely exit of Lawrence Summers.
Zeveloff touches on the donor issue here:
But for one college president, his commitment to open dialogue on campus trumped his desire to speak out against BDS. Former University of Vermont president Daniel Fogel, who served from 2002 until last July, said that his personal aversion to a divestment campaign on campus in spring 2011 was so strong that he would have stepped down if it had been implemented. “I think divestment from Israel would have been a travesty. To me it would have been an expression of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Had the university gone in that direction, I don’t think I would have continued as president.”
But Fogel said that his personal feelings on BDS should not have gotten in the way of the university’s procedures for dealing with thorny questions. When the BDS proposal made its way to UVM’s Socially Responsible Investing Working Group, Fogel began to field calls from Jewish alumni and donors who were concerned, he said, that the university was going to take an anti-Semitic position that “would have ended their relationship with the community and their support for it.” Fogel held his ground, privately reassuring donors that the university would give the BDS question a thorough review. The working group ended up tabling the proposal.