Pitzer College President Melvin L. Oliver reaffirmed Tuesday his opposition to the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement while visiting the University of Haifa – the academic institution his college’s governance body attempted to cut ties with earlier this year.
“Academic boycotts of any nation set us on a path of breaking the free exchange of ideas,” said Oliver. “To boycott a country on the basis of their policies is by definition a blanket indictment of the nation itself, and by extension its citizens.”
He expressed hope that Pitzer’s exchange program with the University of Haifa would continue for years to come, calling it “a model institution” with a “diverse student body.”
In March, the private liberal arts college located in Claremont, California – with support from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) – voted to end its only study abroad program with the Jewish State. Oliver vetoed the non-binding resolution and issued a passionate plea against the academic boycott of Israel.
He dismissed the policy as “a direction which ultimately destroys the academy’s ability to fulfill our educational mission.” A Student Senate resolution calling on Oliver to resign failed to pass in April.
In December, a group of 75 civil rights, education, Jewish, and student groups praised Oliver for pushing back against the discriminatory treatment of Israel. The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower, was one of the groups to sign the letter in support of the president.
The BDS campaign attempts to delegitimize and ultimately destroy Israel in an effort to advance radical Palestinian interests.
Speaking in Haifa, Oliver noted that, “As president, I discovered early on that the more I addressed the details of any BDS-inspired argument, the more I became just another political combatant in what appears to be a never-ending content of assertion and counter assertion.”
In his view, “This is the essence of polarized thinking today.” University of Haifa President Ron Robin, in return, thanked Oliver for “his principled defiance of the BDS-motivated call to suspend study abroad ties with our institution,” calling him a staunch advocate of academic freedom.
[Photo: Pitzer College / YouTube]