Columbia opens a teaching center in Israel amid outrage among faculty members


April 5, 2023 | 4:33 p.m

Columbia University has continued construction of a new facility in Israel, despite a months-long opposition campaign by dozens of far-left faculty to scrap the plans.

Ivy League school announce On Monday, she will open the Columbia Global Center in Tel Aviv to connect with Israeli scientists amid the country’s ongoing political and religious turmoil.

“The Global Centers Program was created 14 years ago to create vibrant hubs of activity in intellectually rich and often challenging locations,” Columbia President Lee Bollinger said in a statement.

At least 95 faculty members have come out against the center in an open letter – though others circulated a competing letter with 172 signatures in support of the initiative.

Columbia University law professor Kathryn Frank, who Supports anti-Israel Boycott, divestment and sanctions a movementHe wrote the letter against the center of Tel Aviv.

“The State of Israel refuses, through law, policies, and formal and informal practices, to abide by international human rights laws and norms both domestically and in its treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories,” she wrote on February 16.

Franke also expressed concerns about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to reform the Jewish state’s judicial system, which have since been put on hold.

“It would be impossible for the university to announce the creation of this new world center and avoid creating the impression that it endorses or legitimizes the new government,” she said.

Columbia University creates a new educational center in Israel.
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Columbia University law professor Kathryn Frank wrote the letter, which opposes the Israeli center.
Columbia University

Netanyahu returned to office last fall after being the first Israeli prime minister to face corruption charges for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

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His judicial proposals were stalled by massive street protests in March.

Frank cited a “significant concern about the strength of donor funds” in the university’s decision to move forward with the center, saying it violated “faculty governance principles”.

The law professor directs the university’s Center for Gender and Gender Law, and wrote a similar letter in 2021 that also cited concerns about Israel banning Columbia University faculty and students based on their identity or political affiliation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced protests over reforming the judicial system.
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Israeli authorities banned Franke from entering the country in 2018 due to her alleged membership in a pro-BDS group, whose members the authorities have blacklisted.

Faculty members who support the Tel Aviv Global Center said in a March 8 letter that the university’s decision should not be “determined by political considerations,” either for or against Israel.

“For a country of its size, Israel has an extraordinarily rich infrastructure of universities and other scientific, cultural, religious, scientific, technological, legal, and artistic resources that have intellectual connections to every school at Columbia University,” a letter from political science professor Esther Fox reads.

The letter notes that Colombia maintains another 10 spots in countries like China and Jordan – both of which have far worse human rights records than Israel.

Faculty who support the plans noted that Columbia has centers in China and Jordan.
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“One does not have to support the policies of the current government of Israel – and many of us do not – to admit that singling out Israel in this way is not justified,” the letter read. “Applying a separate standard to Israel – and Israel alone – is understandably seen by many as a form of discrimination.”

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The statement of support was also signed by Columbia Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lehman, Columbia Law School Dean Emeritus David Shaiser and Law Professor Matthew Waxman.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, praised Columbia for going ahead with the plans despite opposition from faculty members.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to face corruption charges.
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Columbia University’s plan to build an academic center in Tel Aviv is commendable, especially at a time when hatred of Jews is on the rise around the world. Sadly, there are a few radical faculty members at Columbia University who disagree with this proposal, hoping to deny their students the opportunity to learn about the richness of Israel and Judaism.

“These faculty members have made common cause with other Jew-haters and the anti-Semitic BDS movement — those trying to ban books that examine the Holocaust, erase Jewish identity and symbols, and even physically attack Jewish people,” he said.

“Columbia faculty should know better, and they should reject such bigotry, especially in the educational environment. I urge Columbia’s leaders to follow through on their original plans, ignore these hateful and misguided voices, and provide their students with a rare opportunity to learn about Israel and Judaism first-hand “.

“It’s not surprising to see radical professors like Kathryn Frank and Rashid Khalidi leading an anti-Israel cabal,” said Avi Gordon, executive director of Alums for Campus Fairness. Both have a long history of defending the anti-BDS movement and justifying Palestinian terrorism.

Protesters in Israel.
AFP via Getty Images

“Professors like Frank and Khalidi are a big part of why Columbia University has a reputation for hostility toward Jewish and pro-Israel students,” Gordon added. “However, we must give the university credit for which it is due: the Tel Aviv Global Center appears to be an incredible opportunity for Columbia University students and alumni.”

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Columbia was one of three institutions of higher education in New York City — along with NYU and NYU’s Brooklyn College — to have an F rating for anti-Semitism on campus, According to a 2022 report from the watchdog group Stopping Antisemitism.

Tel Aviv University has shared a dual-degree program with Columbia University since 2019 — another initiative that has faced opposition from faculty members.

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