Monday, May 06, 2024

  • Monday, May 06, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon
As part of the agreement to dismantle the anti-Israel encampment at Rutgers, the university gave in to a number of protester demands.

In general, as I've argued, any concession to students violating policy is an invitation to further and more extreme violations down the road, and I believe that any concessions sends a wrong message. In this case, some of the concessions are problematic and a couple of them are window dressing. even so, the optics is that the protesters achieved complete victory, which is the wrong message to give.

Here are the protester demands and Rutgers' responses, followed by my comments:

1. Divest from any firm or corporation materially participating in, benefitting from, or otherwise supporting the state of Israel's settler colonialism, apartheid, and genocide of Palestine and the Palestinian people, in accordance with the principles for divestment listed in University policy 40.2.14. 

A request from the Endowment Justice Collective to divest from companies doing business in Israel was received on April 2, 2024, and is undergoing the review process that is outlined in the university’s investment policy. The University President and the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Investments will meet with no more than five student representatives to discuss the divestment request provided the end of encampment.
In this case, the request for divestment was done in accordance with university policy before the encampment began. That is the proper way to do it. The meeting with the protesters to discuss it after the encampment ends does not seem to be problematic.
2. Terminate its partnership with Tel Aviv University including in the HELIX Innovation Hub.

Agreements with global partners are a matter of scholarly inquiry.
This is a flat-out "no." 
3. Accept at least 10 displaced Gazan students to study at Rutgers University on scholarship. 

Rutgers University has a close partnership with Scholar Connections and will work with a committee of students, faculty, and staff to implement support for 10 displaced Palestinian students to finish their education at Rutgers.
The only problem with this is that it was agreed to as a concession to policy violators. It is ironic, though, that the protesters are asking for support for those who they would have preferred to remain in Gaza.

4. Provide resources for Palestinian and Arab students in the form of an Arab Cultural Center on each Rutgers campus. 

We will develop a plan for the creation of an Arab Cultural Center with designated physical space and a hiring plan for administrators and staff by the start of Fall 2024 semester at New Brunswick.
Who will fund this? What is the purpose of these centers? Will they allow freedom of expression? Will they be allowed to explicitly support Hamas terror? There are more questions here than answers, so it is difficult to know how problematic this might be. 

5. Establish a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a long-term educational and collaboration partnership with Birzeit University, Ramallah, Palestine -- in accordance with precedent set by William Paterson University 

Rutgers-New Brunswick will revisit and follow up on the relationship established in 2022 with Birzeit University to explore avenues of research collaboration and scholarly exchange, and the feasibility of student exchange and/or study abroad through RU Global Studies
This is completely unacceptable. Birzeit University students perennially elect Hamas groups in student elections, the university is proud that it has terrorists among its alumni, it censors speech from its own faculty, and in every sense it is pro-terror and antisemitic.  Rutgers should never consider any link whatsoever with a pro-terror university.

6. Name "Palestine" and "Palestinians" in all future communications related to Israeli aggressions in Palestine (as opposed to "Middle East" "Gaza region" etc.), and release a statement from the Office of the President acknowledging the ongoing genocide against Palestinians, its impact on the Palestinian community at our university, and advocating for a ceasefire. 

The Chancellor will continue to name Palestine, Palestinians, and Gaza in future communications. 
This sounds like a "no."
7. Hire senior administrators with cultural competency and knowledge about Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims, anti-Palestinian racism, and Islamophobia. 

Rutgers–New Brunswick will work to develop training sessions on anti-Palestinian, antiArab, and anti-Muslim racism for all RU administrators & staff. We also commit to the hiring of a senior administrator who has cultural competency in and with Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian communities in the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community.
This looks like a backdoor way to entrench antisemitism at Rutgers. It makes the assumption that there is Islamophobia at Rutgers, and who engages in such activities? Jews! 

Rutgers should explicitly say that anyone they hire must not have antisemitic or anti-Zionist biases.
8. Hire additional professors specializing in Palestine studies and Middle East studies, institute a center for Palestine studies, and establish a path to departmentalization for Middle East studies. 

The Office of the Chancellor will convene a working group to conduct a feasibility study for the creation of a Department of Middle East Studies and hire faculty. The first task of the committee is to identify gaps in the current faculty and make recommendations.
In theory, this is not problematic; in fact, it is, as most Middle East studies departments are virulently anti-Israel and most are antisemitic, teaching slanders about Israeli Jews. Any such department must be carefully set up so as not to just contribute to more hate on campus. There is no indication that Rutgers is even thinking about that.

9. Display the flags of occupied peoples - including but not limited to Palestinians, Kurds, and Kashmiris - in all areas displaying international flags across the Rutgers campuses. 

The Office of the Chancellor will take stock of flags that are displayed across Rutgers New Brunswick campus, and ensure appropriate representation of students enrolled in academic and other spaces.
This could easily be a slippery slope. Would Rutgers display the older Iranian flag for Iranian dissidents who don't accept the current regime?  Would it display "flags" for hundreds of native American tribes? Would it display Hamas or PFLP flags for those who oppose the Palestinian Authority?  Once a clear policy to only display national flags is changed to where any self-defined group can insist on representation, it could turn to chaos - and it could easily turn into a hostile environment for Jews and others.

10. Provide full amnesty for all students, student groups, faculty, and staff penalized for exercising their First Amendment right to protest Rutgers University's support for Israeli human rights violations, and voice support for faculty and staff who have been publicly targeted for exercising their academic freedom. 

No member of the Rutgers–New Brunswick community-including faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, or alumni-found to have been involved in the encampment or related activity will face retaliation from the University, including termination of employment or reduction in compensation. Retaliation shall be defined as any adverse action outside of normal business practices taken for the sole reason that the individual was involved in the encampment activities. Individual students who have been involved in any activities related to the encampment or support of the encampment, including presence in the encampment area, remain subject to the procedures of the Code of Student Conduct as communicated by the Office of Student Conduct. The commitment to end the encampment through this agreement will be considered a favorable mitigating factor in the resolution of those matters. This agreement further recognizes that reports of bias, harassment or discrimination must continue to be investigated by the appropriate offices. This agreement does not pertain to Code of Student Conduct violations that occur or come to be known after this agreement, nor shall the review and resolution of any such individual conduct matters alter or invalidate this agreement.
This sounds like a polite "no." Rutgers is saying that merely attending the encampment would not result in any punishment, but any violation of policies still could. This can be read as saying that the organizers could be subject to disciplinary action, as well as anyone who intimidated Jewish students. 

The devil is in the details, of course. Rutgers is not showing that it learned any lessons when it blocked a planned kosher barbeque at the same location as where the encampment was, forcing it to move:

Rutgers University refused to let a Jewish group hold a pro-Israel barbecue on the campus’ Vorhees Mall, despite allowing pro-terror protesters to camp there for days, emails obtained by The Post claim.

Rutgers Associate Dean of Students Kerri Willson refused to allow the Jewish students to gather at the spot, saying no events could be held on campus after the last day of classes on Monday, April 29 — despite allowing the encampment to drag on until May 2.

The Kosher cookout was set to mark the end of a grueling semester for Jewish students at Rutgers, which has seen pro-Hamas students plaster a pro-Israel student’s picture all over their dorm; spray paint pictures of Palestinian terrorists on campus sidewalks; and scream “Hitler would have loved you” at Jewish students.
And that is the main reason for caution at Rutgers' response: what statement is Rutgers making to ensure the safety of its Jewish students, the students who followed the rules and didn't violate policies in their own protests of Hamas?

The only test that Rutgers needs to pass is to ensure the campus is as safe for Jewish students as it was before  October 7. Anything less than that is a victory for the antisemites - and it is a victory that Rutgers chooses to allow.

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