Most days there’s no difference between campus activists and the tenured professors who tutor them in grievance politics, so allow us to note rare courage among the nation’s educators: On Sunday more than 230 members of Columbia University’s faculty sent a letter to the school’s trustees opposing demands that Columbia divest, boycott and sanction Israel.
The student group Columbia University Apartheid Divest is active at the New York campus and passed around a faculty petition pressing Columbia to stop investing in companies that sell to Israel— Hewlett-Packard, Boeing and others. The appeal denounces Israel’s alleged “inhumane segregation” and “use of asymmetrical and excessive violence against Palestinian civilians.” Some 70 faculty members signed.
Most signers teach anthropology or comparative literature, where truth is a hazy concept. This may explain why they ignore the depredations of Hamas, which fires rockets at civilians from the cover of schools and hospitals. As for “excessive violence,” consider Taylor Force, the West Point graduate stabbed to death by a Palestinian earlier this month near Tel Aviv.
The faculty letter in response defends Israel’s “thriving democracy” that protects “the individual rights of all citizens, including Arabs as well as Jews.” The letter notes that “Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza,” which is now “a base for attacks on Israeli civilians.” The conclusion: “Columbia’s ties with Israel need to be preserved.”
Nine deans signed the letter, including the business school’s Glenn Hubbard and the law school’s David Schizer. Also on the list are liberal historian Simon Schama, former Democratic New York mayor and professor David Dinkins, as well as teachers in physics, computer science and dozens of medical educators. Then there’s professor Jack Greenberg, the civil-rights lawyer who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court.
This show of sanity is important given developments on other campuses such as the City University of New York, or CUNY, where nasty episodes of anti-Semitism have unfolded in recent months. At a rally organized by the divestment outfit Students for Justice in Palestine, a woman donning an Israeli flag had it ripped off her shoulders. There were reported shouts for “Jews out of CUNY!” As a result, New York’s legislature is considering cutting the university’s funding.
The divestment movement has infected campuses across the nation, but the rebuke from the Columbia faculty may suggest that professors, regardless of political affiliation, see the campaign for what it really is: a smear tactic against the Jewish people.
This article was published by Wall Street Journal and may be found here.