Faculty at Pitzer College in California have “overwhelmingly voted to pass two motions providing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights”, according to a press release by PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) yesterday.
In the first motion, PACBI reported, faculty rejected a decision taken last year by the college’s president and trustees to nullify a Student Senate resolution in April 2017 in support of BDS. The resolution in question “resolved to stop any funds for student activities from being used to purchase goods from companies complicit in Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian territories”.
In the second motion, faculty urged Pitzer to suspend its academic exchange programme with the University of Haifa, until Israel stops restricting entry based on ancestry or political speech and “adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities”.
According to Daniel Segal, Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History, the administration’s attack on the student resolution was “the first time in the history of Pitzer College that there have been efforts to override students’ autonomy in deciding how to dispense their funds”.
“It’s antidemocratic and unprincipled,” he added. “The Pitzer Board is trying to apply a ‘Palestine exception’ to free expression.”
Professor Samia Botmeh, dean at Birzeit University in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and leading activist with PACBI, said that “faculty and students at Pitzer College are standing up for Palestinian rights at a critical time”, adding: “Israel’s attacks on Palestinian education are not new, but over the last two years, they have been escalating.”
“I have colleagues with foreign passports, including senior faculty teaching at my university for years, who are being denied visas or visa renewals. Israel is forcing academics teaching in occupied Palestine to abandon their lives and students.”
According to Professor Botmeh, “many of them have Palestinian origins, all face the threat of being forced out because of their ethnicity or their commitment to Palestinian education.”
“Israel’s repression of Palestinian academic freedom and disruption of Palestinian education is part and parcel of its military rule over us and effort to control every aspect of our lives,” Botmeh added.
“It’s heartening to see fellow academics around the world rise to the occasion and make sure that they and their institutions are not complicit in this harm to Palestinian education and life. It’s a professional and ethical responsibility.”