(March 13, 2019 / JNS) The president of Cornell University has refuted calls from the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter for the university to divest from Israel.
“While I appreciate your dedication to the issues that are outlined in your letter, I must reject your call for BDS-related divestment,” wrote Martha Pollack several weeks ago in a letter to Cornell SJP, according to a Facebook post by the school’s Hillel.
“Cornell is an educational institution, and its primary purpose is to further the education of students, and the general public, through our teaching, research and engagement mission,” she continued. “Cornell is not primarily an agent to direct social or political action, but rather a neutral forum for analysis, debate and the search for truth. Similarly, the principal purpose of our endowment is to provide income for advancing our mission-related objectives and must not be viewed as a means of exercising political or social power.”
Pollack then explained that her opposition to BDS as a movement that “singles out” Israel in that “there are many countries around the world whose governments’ policies may be viewed as controversial.”
Moreover, she said, “it places all of the responsibility for an extraordinarily complex geopolitical situation on just one country and frequently conflates the policies of the Israeli government with the very right of Israel to exist as a nation, which I find particularly troublesome. And, although not mentioned in your petition, the BDS movement, consistent with its name, calls for boycott, including academic boycott, which is at odds with Cornell’s core commitment to academic freedom and the open exchange of ideas.”