SJP warns Tulane not to collaborate with Israeli universities

Students for Justice in Palestine is demanding that Tulane University forego opportunities to collaborate with Israeli universities, saying the partnerships would alienate Muslim and Palestinian students.

The demand comes in response to Tulane President Mike Fitts’ recent visit to Israel, which was described in a June media announcement as an attempt “to learn about technological innovation and boost bilateral academic research and exchange opportunities” with four Israeli universities.

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After visiting with administrators from Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv University, and the Technion, Fitts and 16 other American college presidents also traveled to the Palestinian Authority to meet with “Palestinian experts on society, higher education, and entrepreneurship.”

Fitts described the trip abroad as “an exciting opportunity to explore ways in which Tulane can collaborate with Israeli universities and other institutions around the world to address long standing societal problems in the environment, healthcare, energy, and numerous other areas.”

In a letter to the editor of The Tulane Hullabaloo, however, Tulane’s SJP chapter excoriated Fitts for the trip, calling the partnerships with Israeli universities “a hypocrisy of Tulanian values and a regressive step away from expanding diversity among our student body.”

SJP’s letter depicts the Israeli universities as active collaborators in what they referred to as the “racialized oppression” of Palestine, noting for instance that the Technion developed a bulldozer for the Israeli armed forces.

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“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,” the group argues, scoffing that “When Tulane hopes for a more diverse student population, it is evident that they do not imagine Muslim and Palestinian students in this picture.”

The letter does mention Fitts’ visit to the Palestinian Authority, but dismisses it as inconsequential, noting that the trip agenda did not mention any meeting with administrators from Palestinian universities.

“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,” SJP concludes. “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.”

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Tulane, though, is standing by its decision, arguing that the partnerships will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as Tulane itself.

“The group of U.S. university presidents who recently visited Israel engaged with a variety of perspectives across the political and social spectrum—a factor very important to Tulane University President Mike Fitts’ decision to participate,” Michael Strecker, executive director of Tulane Public Relations, told Campus Reform.

“This visit was intended to find areas of collaborations with both Israeli and Palestinian partners that will help all people in the region, and indeed, in the world at large,” Strecker added.

Campus Reform reached out to SJP for comment, but has not received a response

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