Last week, President Andrew Hamilton reaffirmed his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in an interview. This past April, BDS was a subject of contention, as the NYU Graduate Student Union demanded that the university cut ties with Israel completely and close NYU’s global academic center in Tel Aviv. Hamilton, however, coldly rejected the resolution. While BDS’ theoretical ideology is necessary, its extremism is not welcome, especially at colleges, where academic freedom should be sacred.
Back in June, the motion was discarded by the United Auto Workers International, GSOC’s parent organization, as it contravened the organization’s constitution bylaws. This ruling also restricts 15 other unions at universities from supporting BDS. Nevertheless, other universities prefer to stand on the fence on the BDS issue, as critics argue that the movement restricts academic freedom. For example, earlier this week, a Jewish art donor threatened to pull 20 pieces of his collection at UCLA following a controversy involving a former pro-Israel law student — who is now completing his studies at NYU. Instead of making any kind of statement, the university decided to silently add Jewish art to one of its buildings, attempting to fly under the radar of the BDS movement.
NYU’s student body and faculty, however, demonstrate a strong attachment to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last year, NYU Out of Occupied Palestine was established, a “coalition of NYU faculty, students and organizations working towards justice in Palestine/Israel on our campus.” The organization is trying to persuade the university to divest from corporations connected to the state of human rights in Israel by reminding NYU’s Board of Trustees its previous commitment to social justice; such as when it divested profiting from companies related to the apartheid in South Africa. While this theoretical approach is logical, shutting down NYU Tel Aviv is not going to solve any problems — if anything, it may actually worsen the reputation of the BDS movement. Besides, universities often avoid endorsing certain points of view in such extreme situations, as students should be free to ask questions about the issue and to make an opinion for themselves. Most students will understand that this is not a black-or-white conflict.
Americans tend to assume that religion should never limit citizenship, and the plain fact that this happens en masse in Israel is heartbreaking. As a person who grew up in the ethnic and religious majority of my hometown, I cannot imagine having to hide from my own community; but, boycotting an entire country is not the same as just boycotting a corporation. The academic and cultural freedom of students of Israeli descent, or those who hope to go to NYU Tel Aviv, should not be jeopardized.
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