(JTA) — Columbia University has announced that it will launch a “Global Center” in Tel Aviv amid dueling letters from faculty supporting and opposing the decision.
The university’s Global Centers act as hubs for local scholars and researchers to work with the New York City school’s faculty, students and alumni to study and address a range of local and global issues. The center in Tel Aviv will join 10 others across the globe.
The Tel Aviv Global Center will enable the university “to connect with individuals and institutions, as well as with the alumni community in Israel, drawing them closer to the ongoing life of the University,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement Monday. He added that the center will focus on climate change, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, the humanities, biology, health and medicine.
Columbia already has ties to Tel Aviv through Tel Aviv University, with which it began a dual degree program in 2019, despite also facing faculty and student objections.
For decades, Columbia has been the site of heated debate among both faculty and students over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the months leading up to the announcement, a group of Columbia faculty urged the school to halt plans for a center in Tel Aviv. In February, law professor Katherine Franke began circulating an open letter against the center, which as of Tuesday morning had received 95 faculty signatures, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator, a student publication.
The letter references accusations of Israeli human rights violations, as well as the policies of Israel’s governing coalition, which includes far-right parties and which has put forward a proposal for a judicial overhaul that has led to massive street protests and upheaval in the country.
“We are particularly concerned that Columbia University would take the bold step of opening a Global Center in Tel Aviv at this particular moment, with the newly seated government that is widely, if not almost universally, regarded as the most conservative, reactionary, right wing government in Israel’s history,” the letter reads. “For Columbia to preemptively invest in a new Global Center in Israel at the very moment when the domestic and international community is pulling away as part of a concerted and vehement objection to the new government’s policies would render Columbia not only an outlier, but a collaborator in those very policies.”
While the letter notes broadly that Global Centers have served as a “liberal academic footprint” in other countries with restrictive regimes, it does not reference the individual human rights records of any of the other countries where the centers are located. The 10 existing centers are in Amman, Jordan; Athens, Greece; Beijing; Istanbul; Mumbai, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Paris; Rio de Janeiro; Santiago, Chile and Tunis, Tunisia.
The letter also argues that Israel would ban Columbia alumni and affiliates based on their citizenship, identity and politics.
Franke herself was barred from Israel in 2018, along with attorney Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights, based on accusations that they supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, against Israel. Both denied the accusations at the time, according to Haaretz. Around that same time, according to an opinion column by Roger Cohen in The New York Times, Bollinger was in Israel to discuss plans for the Global Center.
The letter also notes “substantial concern about the power of donor money to direct major decisions, such as the establishment of this Global Center in Tel Aviv, in lieu of consultation with the faculty.” The letter does not name any specific donors or detail how the alleged donor pressure was deployed.
In response to the opposition letter, faculty supporters of the Tel Aviv Global Center composed their own statement. They argue that the centers are independent of their governments’ host countries and do not signal approval or disapproval of each country’s government.
“The decision to locate a center in all of these countries was never determined by political considerations, but rather to enhance Columbia as a global research university,” the statement reads. “For a country its size, Israel has an unusually rich infrastructure of universities and other scholarly, cultural, religious, scientific, technological, legal, and artistic resources that have intellectual connections to every school at Columbia University.”
The statement of support, signed by more than 170 full-time faculty, was written by political science professor Ester R. Fuchs; Nicholas Lemann, dean emeritus of the Columbia Journalism School; David M. Schizer, dean emeritus and professor at the Columbia Law School and law professor Matthew C. Waxman.
The supportive letter says that Israel has a better human rights record than other countries that host the university’s centers — such as China or Jordan — and adds that many signatories do not approve of Israel’s current government.
“One does not have to support the policies of the current government of Israel — and many of us do not — to recognize that singling out Israel in this way is unjustified,” the letter says. “To apply a separate standard to Israel — and Israel alone — would understandably be perceived by many as a form of discrimination.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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