New York University (NYU) condemned its graduate student union over the union’s call to boycott NYU’s study-abroad program with Tel Aviv University.
On June 24, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) — United Auto Workers (UAW) criticized NYU’s decision to include NYU Tel Aviv in its “Go Local” program, where NYU students can decide to go to class in-person at their local NYU satellite.
“NYU’s Tel Aviv academic center is in collaboration with Tel Aviv University, built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwanis,” GSOC-UAW’s statement read. “The university plays a major role in sustaining Israel’s illegal occupation and military offensives, through supplying research, legal and technological infrastructure, and resources to the Israeli military and government. It has contributed to the design and execution of war crimes against Palestinians. GSOC condemns NYU’s relationship with an institution that legitimizes Apartheid and builds on the subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”
The union added that Palestinian students living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be unable to attend NYU Tel Aviv, as would students who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“We condemn these inequalities and call on NYU to uphold its own professed commitment to the principles of nondiscrimination and equality,” the statement read. “While NYU claims to enforce non-discrimination policies and to ensure safety for students and workers, it fails to extend these values to Palestinians, and violates its own non-discrimination policy.”
NYU spokesperson John Beckman denounced GSOC-UAW’s statement.
“NYU categorically rejects GSOC’s call to eliminate NYU Tel Aviv from the list of locations designated to support students in our ‘Go Local’ option for fall 2020, a list which includes all our global sites,” Beckman said in a June 30 statement. “GSOC’s repeated attempts to exclude, stigmatize, and boycott NYU Tel Aviv are at odds with the tenets of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, and at odds with the University’s clear and long-standing position on the matter. It is even more disappointing that its short-sighted call comes at a moment when world-wide travel restrictions are making it so difficult for international students to get to their universities, and when the Go Local program is being put in place to help support students caught in that situation.”
He added: “NYU remains strongly committed to its excellent program in Tel Aviv, and to global engagement.”
StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein praised Beckman’s statement.
“Anti-Jewish bigotry and discrimination are at the core of the BDS movement,” Rothstein said in a July 6 statement. “It is unfortunately unsurprising to see anti-Israel activists exploit any platform they can to promote hate. We applaud NYU for taking a strong and unequivocal stance for academic freedom and against anti-Semitism on their campus.”
Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, said in a statement to the Journal, “As a NYU alumnus, I applaud the university decision to reject the GSOC resolution to boycott their TAU program. I cannot understand however the University reluctance to end this annual boycott circus once for all. It can be done by simply telling the campus how valuable and inspiring the TAU program is to the NYU community, and why collaboration with Israeli academics brings with it a unique experience of nation building that strengthens and enriches the intellectual mosaic of the NYU campus.”
He added: “Truth is what BDS fears most.”
Former NYU student and current Maccabee Task Force Northeast Coordinator Adela Cojab, who filed a complaint against NYU in April stating that the administration improperly handled anti-Semitic incidents on campus, also said in a text message to the Journal that NYU has done a “phenomenal job” in defending the Tel Aviv program from calls to boycott it.
“It’s concerning to see NYU Tel Aviv attacked year after year,” she said. “I very much welcome and support NYU’s statement and commitment to academic freedom.”
In 2016, nearly two-thirds of GSOC-UAW voted on a resolution for the union to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel; in May 2019, NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) passed a resolution calling for a boycott of NYU Tel Aviv until the Israeli government changes its policy barring the entrance of BDS supporters into the country. Beckman condemned those calls for boycott at the time.
This article has been updated.