Few schools offer study abroad program possibilities as extensive as those of the University of Michigan, which includes programs in more than 130 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zambia. To participate, students must complete an application, attend a series of meetings, maintain a minimum grade average, and obtain a short recommendation from a faculty member. It seemed straightforward to an undergraduate named Abigail Ingber, who requested a reference this semester from professor John Cheney-Lippold after taking one of his classes in the Department of American Culture. Although Cheney-Lippold initially agreed to provide the letter, he changed his mind when he realized that Ingber intended to study at Israel’s Tel Aviv University.
Member Writings and Interviews
Anti-Zionism is a form of racism like any other: The erasing of a nation’s experience, the denial of their right to speak. Often it comes twinned with the old anti-Semitic gestures. Jews are cruel, enjoying domination for its own sake; they are money-hungry and care nothing about others. They are, in fact, a world historical evil, unique among the nations. The fact that American universities are the new breeding ground for this moral idiocy is no surprise, since the academy has so often provided a home for repellent ideologies. Now that Stalinism and Maoism are passé, anti-Zionism has become the latest way to excuse massacres, now rechristened “resistance,” in the name of history.
An associate professor in the American Culture program at the University of Michigan refused to write a recommendation for a student, Abigail Ingber, who seeks to study in Tel Aviv. John Cheney-Lippold informed the student, to whom he had said he would write on her behalf, and who he told he would be happy to write for study in other countries, that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine.” He explained that “for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”
The past two years have brought a seemingly unending stream of revelations about disparaging comments made by the British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, about Jews, Zionists, and Israel. But in recent days has come the lowest blow, with the emergence of a video from 2013. Corbyn, in speaking of people who approached the Palestine Liberation Organization representative to the United Kingdom to challenge points he had made in a talk, declared that such Zionists “clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony, either.”
In an important essay-length survey, “BDS: How a Controversial Non-Violent Movement Has Transformed the Israeli-Palestinian Debate,” in the Guardian (August 14, 2018), Nathan Thrall, Director of the International Crisis Group’s Arab-Israeli Project, argues that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in recent years has achieved significant influence in reshaping how the conflict is understood and has transformed the debate.
Imagine yourself at the therapist’s office. “Doc,” you say, “there are invisible forces pressing down on me. I’m too weak to save myself!” The therapist replies, “You’re right. The danger is everywhere.” You ask, “What should I do?” The therapist replies, “Hide. But that’s a temporary solution. Unite with other victims and crush the sadistic fascists who run the show. It’s a long shot, but… sorry, our hour is up.”
For many years we’ve been documenting anti-Israel activity on U.S. university and college campuses, typically part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and carried out by student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.
In these prior posts we’ve described many instances when this Israel-related activism has crossed over the line into blatant anti-Jewish animus, including at schools as diverse as Vassar, Oberlin, and University of Illinois.