January 17, 2020

University of Haifa President: Our School ‘Contradicts the BDS Narrative’

Ron Robin, the president of the University of Haifa, told the Journal in a phone interview that the university was likely targeted by the Pitzer College faculty because the school “contradicts the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] narrative.”

On Nov. 26, Pitzer faculty voted on a motion to suspend the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa, stating that the program should be suspended until Israel rescinds its policy of barring BDS supporters into the country.

Robin told the Journal that the vote “took us totally by surprise” since the University of Haifa provides study abroad programs to universities around the world and this was the first time to his knowledge that they were singled out by a college.

He pointed out that “Jews and Arabs co-exist as students and faculty members” at the university, as they’re bound by “their love of knowledge and mutual respect for each other.”

“This contradicts the BDS narrative, and they’re uncomfortable with it,” Robin said. “So rather than confront us, come to terms with it, they just banish us and send us to some distant academic Siberia by just cutting off student ties with us.”

Robin told the Journal that he engaged with the faculty member who led the effort to get the motion passed; he said the faculty member told him that Israeli is “a particularly nefarious state.” Robin then asked why him he was being so “selective” with his targeting of Israel and going after other countries in the same manner.

“He had no answer for that,” Robin said.

Robin praised Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver’s statement denouncing the motion as “heroic” and got the impression that most students on campus are against the motion.

Students who participate in the University of Haifa’s study abroad program will get “a sense of the complexity of the Israeli society,” Robin said. He added that the university is “broadening the middle class, broadening access to the startup nation” with a diverse community.

“We are producing a society that has all the merits that one would expect to find in a Western democracy, and I feel that is something that BDS just cannot stomach,” Robin said.