06:09 GMT06 April 2020
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    A University of Michigan professor refused to write a recommendation letter for a student to study abroad in Israel citing his academic boycott against the country in support of the Palestinians. Sputnik discussed this with Dan Diker - project director for the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

    Sputnik: What is your take on the professor’s conduct in this situation? Could there be any justification for the intervention of politics into education?

    Dan Diker: I think it’s a very sad day for American higher education when a professor at the University of Michigan, one of the most distinguished universities in the United States, becomes a political operative and engages in economic warfare against the Jewish state by refusing to write a recommendation for one of his students who wishes to study in Israel. It’s an abject failure of the principle of objective and fair academic education for students in order to take such a prejudiced view against the Jewish state, number one, and number two, according to the Department of Education of the United States, today it is also considered an anti-Semitic act.

    Sputnik: If there are many professors that share this sentiment stated by Mr. Cheney-Lippold, why do students have to be victims of their convictions? It’s very sad and very difficult for these students, the next generation of course, did the professors have any right legal or moral to deprive students? That’s the question we're posing, it’s very, very unethical when we think about it from a professional point of view; very sad as well, have you got anything else to add?

    Dan Diker: Here you have a situation which is completely unacceptable in which the one area academia which should be on university campuses a politics-free environment for the study of everything from medicine to international politics, to literature and therefore students that become the victim of the personal politics of their own professors, and in this case probably the only case in the international community in which a professor refuses to write a recommendation because it’s Israel, it's the Jewish state. So the hatred and anti-Semitism has manifested itself and metastasized. from the last generation or two generations ago which is hating the Jewish people as an anti-Semitic Jewish state, and it is completely unacceptable to the United States government, it is unacceptable to European leaders such as Mrs. Merkel of Germany, such as Mrs. May of Great Britain, such as the French government as well as the state of Israel, it’s unacceptable and it is really a very sad day for American higher education when it happens.

    Sputnik: The University stated that it opposes any boycott against Israel; in your view what needs to be done to make sure that the staff's political agenda does not interfere with students education?

    Dan Diker: The minute the professors are allowed to become political operatives and refuse fair academic treatment, objective academic treatment on the basis of merit to their students, then they're free to boycott any country they choose to for whatever reason they want, and that represents the beginning of the collapse of higher education in the United States. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement generally has become a dangerous foray on the American campus into shutting down free speech, destroying free speech and introducing prejudicial behaviour from the BDS advocates in some professors, not nearly the majority, but some professors have become very much advocates for this type of political and economic and academic warfare against the Jewish state, which, by the way as you probably know in Moscow, has a very good relationship with Moscow on the political level, and also Israel is one of the freest, most democratic, painfully democratic countries, certainly in its academia anywhere in the world. So from a prognosis standpoint it’s important for the international community to guarantee the freedom, the academic freedom for all students of all orientations and all backgrounds to be able to study where they want to in the world in order to learn international politics from their own perspective, and therefore it’s really a very important responsibility of faculty to write these recommendations on the basis of academic merit, not on the basis of personal political enmity.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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