Letter to the Editor: Tulane Israeli partnership is a hypocrisy of university values

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On June 25 Tulane News announced President Mike Fitts would be visiting the state of Israel this week with the intention of exchanging opportunities with four Israeli universities: Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv University and the Technion. Fitts’ visit to Israel, coupled with the prospect of additional partnerships between Tulane and Israeli universities, constitute a hypocrisy of Tulanian values and a regressive step away from expanding diversity among our student body.

According to a report published by the United Nations in 2017, Israeli discrimination against Palestinians in Israel proper and the Occupied Palestinian Territories meets the internationally established definition of apartheid. This system of racialized repression is facilitated by violations within five categories of international law, including abusive detention and forced displacement. Both Bar Ilan University and the Technion participate directly in facilitating these abuses, meaning any partnership with either institution is inherently a partnership with illegal occupation.

Within Bar Ilan University, the Zefat College houses a program to train members of the Shin Bet, an Israeli security organization that has admitted to engaging in systematic torture directed against thousands of Palestinians. The Technion has developed various military technologies to aid in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, including the “D9 Bulldozer,” which is used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes, and tunnel detection technology to maintain the blockade in GazaWhen President Fitts aims to further ‘technological innovation’ in partnership with Israeli universities, is this an example of the progress he envisions?

Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Universities, on the other hand, show that Israeli violence and repression need not be limited to Occupied Palestine, but can be applied abroad as well as within the 1967 Israeli border.

In the 2006 war against Lebanon, Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies promoted genocidal military tactics through a policy recommendation that advised causing “the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people.” In 2008, Ben Gurion University blatantly inhibited the free speech of its own students when university security guards began to photograph and monitor left-wing political activists to prevent them from staging demonstrations against the occupation. President Fitts posits himself as an advocate of free speech at Tulane, which makes his willingness to disregard this core value all the more disturbing.

Recently, the Tulane Office of Undergraduate Admissions has emphasized its commitment to increasing the diversity of our student body, but Tulane’s partnership with universities who support racist and Islamophobic violence will further dissuade Muslim and Palestinian students from attending. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban from Muslim-majority countries, students would expect to look to their university for a place of solace, yet Tulane continuously proves itself to be an unsafe home for Muslim students. When Tulane hopes for a more diverse student population, it is evident that they do not imagine Muslim and Palestinian students in this picture.

One of the intended goals of the Israeli-Tulane partnership is a promotion of bilateral academic research. The outcomes of the partnership, however, are a direct challenge to its own ambitions.

Any scholars or professors interested in teaching a Palestinian perspective on the conflict will find that Tulane is not a place to do so.

In contrast to his extensive collaborative work with officials from Israeli universities, President Fitts’s trip agenda lists only a brief visit to Ramallah to meet with members of the Palestinian Authority and does not mention any meeting with Palestinian universities. In addition to discussion focusing on advancements in Israeli technology, the Tulane News article mentions that the partnership between universities will include discussion on security challenges and Israel’s approach to global humanitarian aid. Why is a country with almost 50 cited violations of the Geneva Conventions prioritized in a conversation about humanitarian aid while a country that has required aid since Israel’s occupation began 70 years ago is left out of the discussion?  If Tulane was truly interested in genuine cooperation around the world, then it would offer equal limelight and opportunity for Palestinian universities and students to succeed with American partnerships.

If partnerships are established with any of the institutions that President Fitts is visiting, Muslim and Palestinian students will be forced to invest in their own oppressors. We, as a student body, cannot allow our tuition money to support the continued violation of human rights abroad.

We strongly urge Tulane’s administration to oppose the oppressive tactics used by these universities and to refuse to collaborate with them until the end of Israeli occupation.

Sincerely,

Tulane Students for Justice in Palestine

For more information about Tulane SJP or inquiries of membership, please contact [email protected].

To submit a letter to the editor, send it [email protected]