Tulane must follow New Orleans’ lead regarding Palestine

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For the past year, a human rights movement has been growing in New Orleans, but Tulane’s practices lag behind it. Activist groups are backing the Human Rights Investment Screening Resolution, which asks the city to review all contracts with corporations that violate human rights.

The resolution, though part of a pro-Palestine movement, seeks to defend human rights in general and won the support of Amnesty International20 organizations and hundreds of people. The New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee is spearheading this effort as part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — a human rights movement that Tulane continues to reject.

Inspired by anti-apartheid activism relating to South Africa, BDS calls for severing support for Israel until the country stops systemically violating international law — the country’s governance meets the International Criminal Court’s definition of apartheid. For example, BDS demands boycotts of companies like Caterpillar for selling weaponized D9 bulldozers to the Israeli army to illegally demolish Palestinian homes. Though critics have called the movement anti-Semitic, the organizations that support it, both internationally and in this city, are consistently anti-racist, progressive and sometimes Jewish.

But where does Tulane University stand vis-à-vis BDS? BDS also calls for an “academic boycott” of Israeli universities for legitimizing, and even encouraging, human rights violations, yet Tulane has established institutional partnerships with Tel Aviv University (TAU), University of Haifa, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University (BGU).

TAU is on record for encouraging war crimes. In 2008, Israel’s top strategic think tank, TAU’s Institute for National Security Studies, recommended tactics that would cause “intense suffering among the [Lebanese] population” on the grounds that “the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hezbollah’s behavior more than anything else.”

This same think tank supported the use of “force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions.” The year after TAU made these recommendations, the Israeli army invaded Gaza and caused massive civilian casualties, violating international humanitarian law. Yet, the very week of the criticisms, TAU appointed to its Law faculty one of the colonels who oversaw the invasion.

The University of Haifa puts the “institution” in “institutional racism.” Its chair of geo-strategy has referred to Palestinians as “animals” inspired by “insane fundamentalist Islam.” It also distributed pamphlets justifying the mitzpim settlement project of 23 Israeli communities in originally Palestinian neighborhoods — a “conquest” in the pamphlet’s own words.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology has no problem providing technologies for deeply inhumane projects. In addition to helping develop the aforementioned weaponized bulldozers, Technion helped build the West Bank “Apartheid Wall,” which was condemned by the UN as reinforcing an “unlawful act of annexation.”

Hebrew University built its campus on land stolen in 1968. Furthermore, it moves its staff and students onto Israel’s occupied territories to work, violating Geneva Convention Article 49.

Tulane might justify its partnerships by appealing to the various educational experiences students would have while visiting Israel — fulfilling “the spirit of academia.” If this reasoning is the case, Tulane should know that its partner, BGU, turns academic freedom on its head.

BGU routinely suppresses criticism of Zionism and the Israeli state. It has restricted pro-Palestinian flyer distribution and protesting among the student population, which earned the university criticism from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

In light of their justifying human rights abuse, Tulane should break its ties with Israeli universities. BDS is supported by more than one thousand U.S. academics — including Angela Davis and Cornel West, two prominent black liberation activists. The University of Johannesburg also supports BDS, calling its former relationship with BGU “apartheid-era.”

So which side of history will Tulane be on?

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Dylan is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. They can be reached at [email protected]