A Michigan University professor came under fire for refusing to write a recommendation letter for a student who wanted to go to Israel for a semester, citing his support for boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the country.
“As you may know, many University departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” U.S. culture professor John Cheney-Lippold wrote to Abigail Ingber. “This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.”
An Israeli advocacy group Club Z posted a screenshot of the email on Facebook which was shared by other pro-Israel groups and made it viral on social media. A BDS resolution was passed last year by university’s student government but the administration does not allow its departments to support BDS as per the University of Michigan Spokesperson.
The University issued a statement on Monday saying, “The University of Michigan has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education. That position has been stated publicly by university leaders, including this statement from the president and provost in 2013 and this statement from members of the university’s governing Board of Regents in 2017.”
It further noted that “[t]he academic goals of our students are of paramount importance. It is the university’s position to take all steps necessary to make sure our students are supported. It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students. We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”
Kendall Coden, a senior and the chair of Jewish group on campus, namely, Hillel told the Michigan Daily, “I can’t speak for all students, but I know that I and many others feel hurt by this decision….Students should not be denied the opportunity to experience another culture as a result of a professor’s political viewpoints,”
In recent years, various states in the U.S. including Michigan have passed legislation against the BDS movement, which in recent months have scored various victories in their campaign to place economic and cultural pressure on Israel in an attempt to peacefully force the country to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, its human rights abuses in Palestine, its more-than-a-decade inhumane military blockade on Gaza as well as its apartheid-like policies against its non-Jewish citizens.
BDS victories have been adding up since the Great March of Return in Gaza, which had begun on March 30, was brutally repressed by Israeli occupation forces that used live ammunition and what human rights groups have called a “shoot-to-kill-or-maim” policy.
Since then, Israel has murdered over 150 people, including journalists, medics, and children.