May 13, 2020
Press Release

ZOA: Rescind Appointment of Anti-Israel BDS Activist Ilana Feldman as Interim Dean of GWU’s School of International Affairs

George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein, ZOA Chair Mark Levenson, Esq. and ZOA Director of Special Projects Liz Berney, Esq. released the following statement: 

The ZOA joins in the strong condemnation of the appointment and urging rescinding the appointment of anti-Israel BDS activist and propagandist Ilana Feldman as interim dean of George Washington University (“GW”)’s Elliott School of International Affairs (“ESIA”).  Feldman helped lead the unsuccessful 2016 effort to have the American Anthropological Association adopt a boycott of Israeli educational institutions.  As a promoter of boycotting Israel and Israeli universities, Feldman has no business heading any academic institution – much less one as influential as GW’s ESIA. 

The student group “GW for Israel” “strongly condemn[ed], to the highest degree” Feldman’s appointment, and reported: “As a fervent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Professor Feldman isolates Israeli students in the ESIA as well as the hundreds of students who support a Jewish State of Israel.”

Canary Mission’s profile of Ilana Feldman details Feldman’s long history of anti-Israel activism and pseudo-scholarship to delegitimize Israel.  Among many other examples, Feldman co-signed a letter calling Israel’s 2014 operation to stop Hamas rockets and tunnels targeting Israeli civilians, “the wholesale slaughter of a [Gazan] civilian population,” and wrote a blog demonizing Israel’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties. 

ZOA’s review of Feldman’s “scholarship” likewise found numerous examples of her extreme anti-Israel propagandizing.  Feldman’s 2014 article entitled “What is a camp? Legitimate refugee lives in spaces of long-term displacement,” repeatedly calls Israel’s reestablishment the “Nakba” (catastrophe); calls Israel’s re-capture of the lands illegally occupied by Jordan “the 1967 Israeli occupation”; and calls terrorism “resistance.”  Feldman wrote: “the 1967 Israeli occupation led to repression of the camps, but also a degree of autonomy as they became key sites of resistance.”

In the same article (and others), Feldman falsely claims that “750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in 1948.”  (Accurate studies show that only about 360,000 Arabs left Israel, mostly at the behest of the Arab High Committee, which urged them to leave for their own safety, so that 6 Arab armies could invade Israel to slaughter all the Jews, unimpeded. And if 6 Arab countries hadn’t invaded Israel to destroy the Jewish State, there wouldn’t be any Arab refugees.See, e.g., discussion in Shmuel Katz’s Battleground.)  

The main thrust of Feldman’s “What is a camp?” article (and other articles) is to urge that Palestinian refugee camps should be strengthened and positioned so that the camps “can produce a more effective politics for the pursuit of Palestinian rights” (including the “right” to “return” to Israel).

Feldman also praises the Dheisheh camp as “a site of power in the Bethlehem area.”  She adds that “the popular committee of the [Dheisheh] camp has always been strong and has been considered the leader of the other West Bank camp committees…. The strength of the popular committee has played an important role in making the camp special and in making it attractive for people from the camp who now live outside it.” 

Feldman fails to mention that the “special” “attractive” Dheisheh camp is a notorious terrorist bastion and stronghold of the designated foreign terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.- and internationally-designated foreign terror group.  In addition, another camp that Feldman waxes poetic over, Yarmouk, in Syria, houses the PFLP general command center.

In a 2009 article entitled “Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis,” Feldman also repeatedly falsely lambastes Israel.  She falsely condemns “repeated IDF assaults during the last eight years,” “Israeli offensives,” and “Israeli incursions” – while never mentioning the Hamas or PLO or PIJ terror and Hamas rockets launched at Israeli civilians, or that Israel’s belated incursions in Gaza were solely necessitated by Hamas shooting thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.  Feldman also makes the absurd claim that Israel is still and “occupier” of Gaza, despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

Feldman’s only mention of terror is to mock Israel’s real concerns as “Israeli . . . language of belligerency and danger centered on “enemies,” “enemy territories,” “terrorists,” and so on.”

Feldman also never mentions that Israel’s weapons blockade of Gaza exists to stop the import of more weaponry and is lawful.  Instead, Feldman falsely characterizes the weapons blockade as blocking various types of humanitarian assistance.  Feldman also falsely attributes the blockade to an Israeli desire to “punish” the Gazan population, claiming that “to punish the population for electing Hamas, Israel increased the intensity of its closure of Gaza.”   

Feldman’s article also praised the intifada (in which Arab terrorists murdered or maimed thousands of Israelis), saying: “one of the great successes of the uprising was the increasingly widespread recognition that Palestinians had legitimate political claims, not just humanitarian needs.”

Feldman’s article also falsely accuses Israel of violating Article 49 of the Geneva Convention.  In fact, the Convention does not apply to Israel, because Israel is not an occupier of her own land, and none of the parties are signatories to the convention.  

In other words, Feldman’s writings repeatedly regurgitate every anti-Israel attack used by the BDS movement and Israel’s other enemies and de-legitimizers.   It is shameful that she holds any position at GW.  

We urge GWU to immediately rescind the appointment of this Jew hating Israelophobe immediately. 

Sadly, GW’s May 8 announcement of Feldman’s appointment as temporary dean adopted Feldman’s biased mis-descriptions.  The GW announcement calls Israel’s lawful sovereign lands an “occupation”; calls Palestinian-Arab terrorists’ murders and maiming of thousands of innocent Jews in the intifadas “the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation”; and calls the Arabs who voluntarily left Israel at the behest of the Arab High Committee when 6 Arab nations invaded Israel in 1948 to annihilate every Jew: “more than 70 years of Palestinian displacement.“   

The GW announcement states:  Dr. Feldman has conducted extensive cultural and historical research on the more than 70 years of Palestinian displacement…. It is a course of study she said she first encountered more than 25 years ago as an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, a time that coincided with the Intifada—the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.”   

GW’s announcement also explained that Feldman will lead the school’s search for a new permanent dean. Given Feldman’s 25-year record of propagandizing against Israel, and her active support for anti-Israel boycotts, it seems reasonable to assume that Feldman will abuse her new position to hire a similarly-minded Israel-hater, or, a minimum, to block any fair-minded pro-Israel academic from obtaining the permanent deanship.

ZOA accordingly urges George Washington University to immediately remove Ilana Feldman from the ESIA deanship. Otherwise GWU risks harming its reputation and becoming known as an anti-Jewish, Israel-hating, sloppy-scholarship-producing University – as well as potentially making Jewish and pro-Israel students deeply uncomfortable in attending and applying to GWU.