Letter to the Editor: Tulane must not adopt pro-BDS policies

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Dear Editor:

As a Tulane alumnus and the former Features Editor and Executive Editor of The Hullabaloo during the early 1970s, I was appalled that the newspaper chose to run a pro-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction), anti-Israel opinion piece by freshman Dylan Borne.

In making the case for a Tulane academic boycott against Israeli universities, Borne asserted that the New Orleans City Council already supports “Palestine.” This is patently false. The council did suspend its regular rules and passed a non-binding resolution (R-18-5) on Jan. 12 in support of basic human rights without any opportunity for debate nor any specific reference within the four corners of the document to Israel or Palestine. Almost immediately, though, members of the New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee trumpeted their belief that the passage of this resolution made New Orleans the first Southern city to pass a pro-BDS measure.

Two weeks later, at the ensuing meeting of the New Orleans City Council on Jan. 26, Councilmembers Jason Williams and Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell publicly voiced their opposition to being labeled as pro-BDS and, after a limited debate, led the council in voting unanimously to withdraw the resolution. (So much for their “support” of Palestine).

Apart from troubling allegations of war crimes and the oppression of the Palestinian people, Borne’s call for the academic boycott included many fallacious and unsubstantiated charges against Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University, Hebrew University, the University of Haifa and Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

For example, Borne alleged that Hebrew University was built “on land stolen in 1968.” What Borne failed to mention was that Hebrew University was founded in 1918 on its original location of Mt. Scopus or that the campus opened its doors in 1925. Hebrew University continued to maintain a viable presence on that site until Jordanian forces surrounded the facility during the 1948 war for independence, at which time the faculty and students were evacuated and the campus was abandoned.

Between 1948 and 1967, Hebrew University opened two other campuses in western Jerusalem, one at Givat Ram and another in the Ein Kerem neighborhood, where a medical campus was founded in partnership with Hadassah. When Jordan was forced to retreat following the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War, the Mt. Scopus campus was restored to Hebrew University.

This was not a land grab at all, but the reclamation of land lost in war decades earlier. Israel did not steal land to build Hebrew University. It recaptured its former campus – the spoils of war, if you will – and paid for that with the lives and sweat of its armed forces.

Borne also condemned Israel’s security fence, built in 2002, calling it an “Apartheid Wall.” No matter what one calls it, the number of Israel’s citizens put in harm’s way from sniper attacks or homicide bombs has dropped from a high of 1,000 innocents slaughtered and many thousands more injured to just a few deaths and injuries per year. In fact, most terrorist acts these days come from isolated stabbing or ramming attacks because these very security measures have proved to be very effective in stemming the tide of “soft target” terrorist acts.

Technion’s assistance in helping implement this “Security Fence” should be commended, not vilified, for helping to save hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives.

In summary, I see no reason for Tulane to sever its ties to respected Israeli academic institutions or for it to weigh in on the Israel-Palestine conflict at all. It is a sad commentary that many proponents of BDS claim they advocate for peace and human rights, but offer no such support for Israelis who also desire peace and security. Let us carefully consider the consequences of aligning our own hallowed institution with those of terrorist organizations like Hamas in Gaza, who advocate for continued violence in the Middle East and the destabilization and, ultimately, the destruction of Israel.

Alan Smason (College of Tulane, 1975)

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