UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has condemned the anti-Israel BDS movement that has taken root on college campuses throughout the United States, stating that the movement “fails to acknowledge the humanity on the Israeli side of the conflict” and serves to alienate Jews who attend the school.
Subbaswamy condemned BDS in statement posted on UMass Amherst’s website on Oct. 21, 2019 in response to a panel about Israel organized by UMass Professor Sut Jhally scheduled to take place on Nov. 12, 2019. A number of speakers, including Linda Sarsour, who has declared “Nothing is creepier than Zionism” and Omar Barghouti, who has called for Israel’s elimination, will participate in the event.
Subbaswamy said he will not interfere with the event, but laments that it will take place on his campus.
“It is troubling that such a one-dimensional, polarizing event should take place on our campus,” he said. “A panel discussion where only one perspective is shared does little to increase the understanding of such a complex topic like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In response to Subbaswamy’s statement, Jhally, chairman of the communications department at the school, complained to a local newspaper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, declaring that he objected to his nonprofit organization, the Middle East Education Foundation as being portrayed as a “sinister” outside organization.
“You have one pro-Palestinian event . . . and all hell breaks loose,” Jhally told the paper.
Anti-Zionist Blame CAMERA Research
A group of college professors at UMass Amherst responded with outrage to Subbaswamy’s condemnation of the BDS movement and wrote a public letter to the Chancellor. In its coverage of the professors’ letter, the anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss reported
Pro-Israel organizations and news outlets have been attacking the event and Jhally’s work, and on October 21 UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy issued a statement that, while allowing the event to happen, was extremely critical of it.
All three of the articles cited by Mondoweiss as leading up to Subbaswamy’s anti-BDS statement were produced by CAMERA. (Note: None of these articles mentioned the upcoming event on Nov. 12, 2019.)
Sadly, Subbaswamy’s condemnation made no reference to Jhally’s abuse of the classroom. Jhally has declared openly that he regards college classrooms as providing a “captive audience” for his anti-Israel propaganda.
In addition to using multiple choice exams to coerce students into affirming his anti-Zionist agenda, Jhally makes extensive use of online lectures which precludes him from being challenged publicly on his statements.
Such practices seem contrary to Chancellor Subbaswamy’s efforts to promote UMass Amherst as a “flagship” institution in the state’s university system and get it into the top 20 of US News & World Report’s list of best colleges and universities.
Despite his failure to confront Jhally’s abuse of the classroom as a place of indoctrination, Chancellor Subbaswamy’s condemnation of the BDS movement was striking.
“Academic boycotts are antithetical to academic freedom and it is ironic that individuals, who rely upon that very freedom to make their case, should advocate for a movement, in BDS, that seeks to suppress it,” he said.
Subbaswamy’s declaration was issued the same day that Professor Andrew Pessin, a philosophy professor from Connecticut College spoke at UMass Amherst about the problems with the BDS movement. Pessin, speaking under the aegis of the Academic Engagement Network, warned that the BDS movement has prompted students and faculty members to ostracize and bully Jewish students on college campuses, a clear violation of the norms associated with higher education.
“Students are ganging up to ostracize pro-Israel Jewish students,” he said.
A week after Subbaswamy condemned the BDS movement, he issued a statement condemning world-renowned historian Benny Morris, declaring that statements Morris has made about the Israel-Palestinian conflict are “odious and loathsome.”