Faculty pressure: Universities make concessions to pro-Hamas demonstrators

The role of university faculty in leading the push against Israel has received little attention.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

At least two elite American universities have made concrete concessions to anti-Israel protesters who set up illegal “encampments” on school property, chanted antisemitic slogans, and vowed not to leave unless administrators agreed to adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish state.

For the past two weeks, college students have been amassing in the hundreds at a growing number of schools, taking over sections of campuses by setting up “Gaza Solidarity Encampments” and refusing to leave unless administrators condemn and boycott Israel.

Footage of the protests has shown demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus.

In many cases, activists have also lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

The protests initially erupted across the US but have since spread to university campuses around the world, primarily in the West.

According to an announcement issued by Northwestern University in Illinois after hours of negotiations with the protesters, the school has agreed to establish a new scholarship for Palestinian undergraduates, contact potential employers of students who caused recent campus disruptions to insist on their being hired, and create a segregated dormitory hall to be occupied exclusively by Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim students.

Northwestern University — where a mob shouted “Kill the Jews!” as part of the ongoing protests — has also agreed to form a new investment committee in which anti-Zionists students and faculty may wield an outsized voice.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, Brown University in Rhode Island announced that it will hold a vote on divesting from companies linked to Israel in exchange for the students disassembling their encampment and abstaining from holding more protests until the school’s commencement on May 26, according to the Brown Daily Herald.

The student newspaper added, however, that the university will not “at this time” drop criminal charges filed against 41 students who illegally occupied an administrative building in December.

Student involvement in promoting the BDS movement and anti-Zionism amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has been widely covered by major news outlets across the world.

However, the role of university faculty in leading the push against Israel has received little attention.

On Wednesday, campus antisemitism expert Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who founded the AMCHA Initiative watchdog group, told The Algemeiner that far more focus must shift to the faculty, who have provided material and intellectual support to the student protesters and, in many cases, are the individuals responsible for steering them into antisemitic movements fueled by anti-Zionism.

“So much of this has to do with faculty — it’s the missing piece for understanding all of what’s happening, but particularly administrative responses to it,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

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“The protesters were students who were protected, supported, and, in many cases, colluded with by faculty. Almost all of these encampments, especially the most vicious and antisemitic, have faculty groups that either have their back and are running interference with the university administrations or are actively conspiring and participating in what’s happening on campus, giving it academic legitimacy, inciting it, and encouraging the adoption of more antisemitism and aggression.”

Rossman-Benjamin added that when a university president concedes to the demands of a student mob, they do so at the insistence of faculty, who can prematurely end their employment by issuing votes of no confidence, a measure that all but guarantees a president will be removed from office.

On Tuesday, such a vote took place at Barnard College — reportedly the first ever in the school’s history — in protest of President Lauren Rosenbury’s decision to suspend over 50 students for their involvement in staging an encampment there.

“It’s the faculty. Faculty are behind the vote of no confidence at Barnard College and also at [California State Polytechnic University-Humboldt],” Rossman-Benjamin continued.

“Faculty run the university, and they are out of control. They have tenure, and university presidents do not. So, it’s not that administrators are capitulating to students. They are capitulating to the faculty, because they know that if they run afoul of the faculty, they are history. This has been happening for years and and is the consequence of allowing academic departments to become political soapboxes.”

Formally launched in 2005, the BDS campaign opposes Zionism — a movement supporting the Jewish people’s right to self-determination — and rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

It seeks to isolate the country comprehensively with economic, political, and cultural boycotts.

Official propaganda issued for the campaign’s academic boycott delineates specific restrictions that adherents should abide by — for instance, denying letters of recommendation to students who seek to study in Israel — and says that it aims to ensure that “projects with all Israeli academic institutions should come to an end.”

Widespread adoption of BDS by universities would be a watershed moment in American history, Rossman-Benjamin explained.

“What is an academic boycott? The goal of it is to make sure that Israel is not normalized in the global academy,” she said.

“What does that mean? No mention, no positive mention of Israel, which is about more than stopping study abroad programs. It’s about stopping and shutting down any flow of information about Israel that puts Israel in anything but a negative and demonic light. It’s completely against anything the university stands for, turning it on its end, and it uses the structure of the university to do that.”

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