Vassar alums strike back at anti-Israel movement on campus


(The Algemeiner)—Alumni of Vassar College, an elite, liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., struck back against the rising anti-Israel tide on campus, protesting in a widely-read letter to the campus newspaper against recent moves by a group of faculty and students to vilify the Jewish state and intimidate pro-Israel voices.

The open letter, initially signed by 66 alums, was printed by the Miscellany News, the campus newspaper of record since 1866, and quickly attracted dozens of comments from alums worldwide who agreed with the content of their protest.

In their letter, the alumni said that “faculty and student supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel have hijacked campus discourse and imposed an anti-intellectual atmosphere in which professors are ranting activists, not scholars, and students who disagree with the prevailing ‘progressive’ ideology are intimidated into a deafening silence.”

They said that their letter was “submitted on behalf of Fairness to Israel, a growing group of Vassar alumni, parents of Vassar students, and others, who are deeply concerned with this sorry state of affairs. We will vigorously support Vassar’s president in her efforts to restore sanity, tolerance and civil dialogue to campus.” The alumni said they were responding to a letter, published a month earlier and signed by 39 school faculty, who were protesting the decision by Vassar College President Catharine Hill to condemn the December vote by the American Studies Association to approve a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a move that was condemned by over 250 universities in the weeks following the decision.

In the faculty letter, headlined ‘Open letter in defense of academic freedom in Palestine/Israel and in the United States,’ they threw the academic freedom charges back at the school administration, saying they had to “dissent because, rather than upholding the principle of academic freedom in its most expansive sense, their condemnatory statement could have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas and opinions on our campus and across the broader society.”

The faculty claimed that the world was ignoring the Arab fight for “self-determination, freedom, and basic human rights” in Israel. “While Palestinians have been fighting for their freedom since their dispossession in 1948, the world has remained largely silent with regard to this humanitarian crisis.”

The alumni responded to the content of the faculty letter, which they said “constitutes propaganda against the Jewish state. Whether intended or not, it shows a blatant bias against Israel, a glaring attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state and yes, outright anti-Semitism.”

“Our group, Fairness to Israel, supports academic freedom in the true sense of the term — the freedom of all sides to present their views and the facts that support them, and to honestly and open-mindedly discuss contentious issues,” the alumni wrote. “We oppose academic freedom that is really academic brainwashing, where students are exposed only to the views of activists posing as professors, who pretend there is a ‘chilling’ of their speech when the only chilling is of voices that dissent from their anti-Israel agenda. The latter type of ‘academic freedom’ is a disgraceful misnomer unworthy of Vassar’s great traditions.”


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