Columbia University (CU) announced earlier this week that it would be opening a center in Tel Aviv, Israel, drawing backlash from anti-Israel faculty who claim that the college should not be supporting a country that “refuses to abide by international human rights laws,” according to the Columbia Spectator.
CU officials announced the Columbia Global Center in Tel Aviv Monday as part of its ongoing initiative to expand internationally, as it has in Athens, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris and Rio de Janeiro, according to the university’s statement. An opponent of the center, Colombia law professor Katherine Franke, pushed back against the plans in an open letter. (RELATED: Civil Rights Office Opens Investigation Into George Washington University Over Alleged Antisemitism)
“The state of Israel, through formal and informal law, policy, and practice, refuses to abide by international human rights laws and norms both domestically and in its treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories,” Franke wrote. “It will be impossible for the University to announce the establishment of this new Global Center and avoid creating the impression that it is endorsing or legitimizing the new government.”
The center will focus on “climate change, technology and entrepreneurship, and aspects of arts and the humanities, as well as biological science, public health, and medicine,” according to the university’s announcement. Students will be able to use the center as a way to find scholarly connections and expert resources in Israel.
Franke, however, argued that the conservative government under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership was not in line with the goals of the university and expressed “substantial concern about the power of donor money” in the decision-making process, according to the Spectator.
“This is not specifically just about the occupation, it is about entry bans, travel bans and the question of who would be allowed to be there,” Marianne Hirsch, a professor of English and Comparative Literature, said, according to the New York Times.
Franke’s letter has 95 signatures from university faculty as of April 3, but a counter letter from CU staff in support of the center garnered over 170 signatures.
“There are sound scholarly reasons not to apply a political litmus test to the countries we study and the intellectual resources the university invests in them,” the letter read, according to the Spectator. “To apply a separate standard to Israel – and Israel alone – would understandably be perceived by many as a form of discrimination.”
CU and Franke did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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