Education Minister Naftali Bennet at coalition meeting, March 11, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett publicly scolded the University of Michigan following an incident last week, where a lecturer displayed a picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to Adolf Hitler accusing Netanyahu of genocide.
The lecturer, Emory Douglas presented a lecture at the Penny Stamps Speaker Series – Stamps School of Art and Design, and displayed a slide presenting Hitler and Netanyahu side by side, with the words “Guilty of Genocide.”
Bennett sent a letter to the university’s president Dr. Mark Schlissel, describing the incident as “deeply offensive” and calling it an act of antisemitism by Douglas, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s wide-ly accepted definition, and therefore being an act of racial hatred.
“Aside from the offense caused to the people of Israel and [to] Jews around the world, I would sincerely hope that as head of this important academic institution, you would appreciate the severe detriment to the well-being of the students in your care, of allowing such hatred and racism onto your campus – even sanctioned in a mandatory lecture,” wrote Bennett, who added that this fell under his capacity as education minister. “I therefore write to condemn in the strongest terms the incident as reported, and call on you to clarify urgently – in both action and words – that as you said last year, ‘racism has no place’ at the University of Michigan.”
Bennett also referenced another incident in which faculty member John Cheney-Lippold refused to grant a letter of reference for a Jewish student, who wished to study at an Israeli university.
“I feel the time has come for you as head of the university to [take] a strong stand against what has clearly become a trend of vitriolic hatred against the Jewish state on your campus,” demanded Bennett.
A spokesman for the university declined to respond publicly to Bennett’s letter, saying that it would respond directly to the minister.
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The university defended Douglas’s lecture, claiming that the lecture series was “intentionally provocative and the school is clear with students about this,” and that the university does not “control or censor” what lecturers say.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post published a report in which another member of staff refused to grant a letter of recommendation to a student seeking to study in an Israeli university.
Jake Secker, a student from New York, requested a reference from a teaching assistant for his application to Tel Aviv University, but was told that the assistant pledged “to boycott Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine.” The university declined to comment on the incident.
According to the Post report, an associate dean of Secker’s school met with the student and offered to write a letter of recommendation.
However, a spokesman did state regarding the incident involving Cheney-Lippold that it “opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education,” and that “injecting personal politics into a decision regarding support for our students is counter to our values and expectations as an institution.”
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