The head of Cornell University in New York has responded to demands by anti-Zionist student activists that she embrace the Palestinian-led boycott of Israel, saying the campaign was antithetical to academic freedom and unduly targeted Israel for sanction while ignoring other countries.
President Martha Pollack’s comments came in response to a letter delivered to her on February 18 by members of the Cornell chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which urged the university to divest its endowment from companies “complicit in the morally reprehensible human rights violations in Palestine.” The letter also accused Israel of sharing a “common history” with the United States as a “settler-colonial project rooted in genocide,” and claimed that the BDS campaign was working to isolate Israel “until it meets its obligations under international law.”
Critics of the effort — including major Jewish groups in the US and globally — say it fails to recognize Arab and Palestinian culpability in the conflict with Israel, aims to undermine the Jewish state’s very existence, and rejects the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination.
SJP also plans to bring forward a Student Assembly resolution in support of BDS, which has already been endorsed by more than 20 student groups, including the Queer Political Action Committee, Black Students United, Climate Justice Cornell, South Asian Council, Islamic Alliance for Justice, and Cornell Young Democratic Socialists.
In her response to SJP’s letter, shared online by the Jewish campus group Cornell Hillel, Pollack expressed a “strong opposition to BDS,” and rejected the idea of using the school’s endowment as a tool of “political or social power.”
“BDS unfairly singles out one country in the world for sanction when there are many countries around the world whose governments’ policies may be viewed as controversial,” Pollack wrote. “Moreover, it places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome.”
She also pointed out that the BDS campaign calls for an academic boycott, “which is at odds with Cornell’s core commitment to academic freedom and the open exchange of ideas.”
Read More: Algemeiner