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NYU department votes to not cooperate with study abroad program in Israel

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Editor’s Note: The following is a statement  from the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

By a majority vote, faculty in NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis have passed a resolution that pledges non-cooperation with the university’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv. Citing the obligation to uphold the university’s Policy of Ethical Conduct on non-discrimination and equal opportunity, the faculty declared non-cooperation with the program until the Israeli state both ends its restrictions on entry based on ancestry and political speech, as well as adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities. Members of the department as well as the NYU community at large have been impacted by these policies and so their right to academic freedom and movement has effectively been constrained.

The passage of the resolution comes after a year-long campaign initiated by undergraduates and graduate students within the department. The student campaign called on the department’s faculty to take action in response to the restrictions placed upon individuals of Palestinian descent or those speak critically of the Israeli state. Recent amendments to Israel’s Law on Entry single out several groups, among them Jewish Voice for Peace, which have chapters with large student memberships on NYU’s campus. The resolution, which prohibits the use of department resources for faculty teaching or exchanges at the Tel Aviv site, acknowledges that the operation of the program is in apparent violation of core university values. According to Andrew Ross, a professor who directs the department’s American Studies Program, “the faculty took this step in recognition of university policy and to protect the department from complicity with these forms of racial, religious, and political profiling.”

“This historic vote is the culmination of a student-led initiative,” reported Rose Asaf, a senior in the department, and president of NYU’s chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.“We the students asked our department to not cooperate with a wing of the university that discriminates against us students ideologically, racially, and religiously. And they answered. This is the outcome of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty coming together, recognizing a problem, and acting.”

Text of the resolution:

    Resolution of Non-Cooperation with NYU-Tel Aviv

Faculty and student members of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis seek at all times to uphold this university’s basic principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunity in our relationships with other NYU departments and programs. We feel that these principles, set forth in the Code of Ethical Conduct, are being effectively violated in the operation of NYU’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv. Access to the program is clearly being obstructed by Israel’s long-standing discriminatory policies (as acknowledged by the State Department) of barring entry to Palestinians or persons of Arab descent and Muslim heritage, and by the recent amendments to its Law of Entry, which advocate for the exclusion of persons on account of their political speech. Moreover, the Israeli government routinely prevents Palestinian students from enrolling in higher education institutions outside of the West Bank and Gaza. Students accepted at NYU, for example, have been unable to obtain their visas from the US consulate in Jerusalem due to the Israeli government’s restrictions on movement from the West Bank and Gaza.

The NYU administration has indicated its disagreement with the Israeli state’s policy of barring entry based on political speech. However, in noting that “no NYU student has been prevented from going to Israel,” the administration fails to take into account the Palestinian members of the NYU community from the West Bank and Gaza who are unable to enter Israel, in addition to those with American citizenship who have been banned based on their Palestinian heritage and political activity. Participating in the program while members of our own department are barred entry to their homeland and sites of research serves to reproduce the racial inequalities of Israel’s policies in our own workplace.

We pledge non-cooperation with the Tel Aviv program until (a) the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry based on ancestry and political speech and (b) the Israeli state adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities.

We urge other departments to pass similar resolutions in the spirit of abiding by NYU’s Code of Ethical Conduct and opposing racial and religious profiling on campus.

**According to the amendment, the excluded groups include

American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace, National Students for Justice in Palestine, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and the BDS National Committee.

N.B. Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have chapters at NYU and many SCA students are members.

NYU-Tel Aviv academic center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo: NYU-Tel Aviv)

NYU-Tel Aviv academic center in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo: NYU-Tel Aviv)

Questions about the Resolution:

Has the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) been affected in any way by Israel’s restrictions on entry?

Yes. Members of the department’s academic community have been denied entry. In addition, many SCA members—faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates—have been profiled on the notorious Canary Mission blacklist, which Israeli authorities consult to screen for entry. Many others, who are not profiled on that site, are members of groups on the list of those banned under the amendments to the Law of Entry.

Will SCA faculty and students be penalized in any way if they travel to Israel/Palestine?

The resolution does not affect anyone’s travel to Israel or the Occupied Territories.

Is the department violating its institutional obligations to function as an NYU unit?

At NYU, each department can choose which global sites it works with. That choice is made on the basis of available resources, faculty and student interest in the site, and regional relevance to the department’s priorities. Departments also have the obligation to act to protect their own members. At least one other NYU department—Journalism—chose to cease cooperation with NYU-Abu Dhabi, after one of its faculty members was denied entry to the UAE.

Doesn’t this resolution curtail the academic freedom of faculty members?

It does not abridge faculty and student speech rights or mobility in any way. In fact, the status quo (the entry restrictions put in place by Israeli authorities) is a flagrant limitation of the academic freedom of those who cannot travel to study at NYU-Tel Aviv and do their research in the region. The resolution seeks to protect the department and its members from the harm of cooperating with a program that operates in the shadow of racial, religious, and political profiling.

Has SCA adopted a BDS resolution?

Technically no, since NYU-Tel Aviv is not an Israeli institution and does not depend on state funding.  Nor does the resolution appeal directly to the principles of the BDS movement. Its chief rationale is that, because of Israeli laws and practices, the effective operation of NYU-Tel Aviv is in violation of NYU’s own Policy of Ethical Conduct on nondiscrimination and equal opportunity. In other words, the resolution seeks to uphold the university’s own policies.

Why single out NYU-Tel Aviv, and not include NYU-Abu Dhabi for example?  

The Israeli state has singled itself out through its recent amendments to the Law of Entry, and through its consistent denial of access to those of Palestinian descent. While the UAE regularly restricts entry for reasons of “national security,” and while academic freedom is routinely violated at NYU-Abu Dhabi, the UAE has no publicly articulated policy that bars entry to population groups to which NYU faculty and students belong.

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2 Responses

  1. JWalters on May 3, 2019, 8:23 pm

    My deep thanks to the students and faculty who worked to make this advance happen. This is how the human race makes progress. This is why we won’t be in the moral stone age forever.

  2. punterweger on May 3, 2019, 9:05 pm

    Bravo NYU faculty and students!

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