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Remove politics from Israel abroad program

By Joshua Nass
On December 12, 2011

Within our culture and society, there exists a strong tendency for wrongfully injecting politics into areas that ought to be immune from it. A classic example of such wrongful politicization is the recent letter, authored by California State University administrators, staff, faculty and some students, rallying against the reinstatement of study abroad programs in Israel.

Although these study abroad programs have been suspended since 2002 due to security risks, the chancellor of the schools has recently reconsidered the decision keeping students from studying abroad in Israel.

While the authors of the letter claim to not be politically motivated, it is difficult to take their word for it judging by the very issues they express.

Upon examining the letter, it's clear that its authors have an agenda to carry out, rooted in intellectually dishonest, anti-Israel propaganda. In their letter, they exploit the commonly-used tactic of critics of Israel—when they compare Israel to apartheid in South Africa, referring to the racial segregation imposed by the government of South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

Although such a comparison is in and of itself unjust, one of the primary authors, David Klein, a professor of mathematics at CSU North Ridge, takes making faulty comparisons to an unprecedented level.

In elucidating the reasons for disallowing students to study abroad in Israel, Klein states, "We're choosing not to have relationships with institutions that participate in apartheid in the same way that in the lead-up to World War II, universities broke off relations with universities in Nazi Germany."

Comparing the Israeli government to the Nazis? Such unjust, unfair and even insulting comparisons severely undermine whatever credibility the authors of this letter may have had to begin with.

In the letter, Klein and his co-authors outline several concerns for allowing students to study abroad in Israel. Among them is the fear that students of Middle-Eastern origin could potentially become the subjects of discrimination while in Israel. Such a "concern" is absolutely frivolous in nature.

In Israel, Arabs are afforded rights to citizenship and even serve as members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. There are presently over 1,100,000 Arabs living in Israel.

Most importantly, it is well documented that Arabs in Israel enjoy far more freedoms and rights than those in most other Middle-Eastern countries.

For example, as opposed to most other Middle-Eastern countries where women are treated as second-class citizens, all women in Israel enjoy the right to vote. Arabic itself is an official language in Israel. There are more than 300,000 Arab children who are enrolled in Israeli schools, in addition to the hundreds of Arab schools existing around the country.

There is a sitting justice on the Supreme Court who is Arab. The current deputy mayor of Tel Aviv is Arab. Oscar Abu Razaq, an Arab, is currently the Director General of the Ministry of Interior. Salah Tarif, an Arab, served as a minister in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet. It is clear by reviewing the treatment of Arabs, there is no reason that there would be any danger posed to Middle Eastern students studying abroad in Israel.

The authors exhibit absolute and utter hypocrisy in their apparent intentions for writing the letter. They clearly express that their main grievance with Israel is what they allege to be infringements of its citizens' liberties and freedoms, particularly those of Arabs.

Their accusations are untrue, and preventing students from going to Israel to study abroad undermines their intentions as the very freedoms of the students themselves are curtailed.

If the CSU chancellor makes a judgment that there are no safety risks involved in studying abroad in Israel, he should certainly stay true to his convictions and not bow to such propagandists.

He should stand on the side of truth, and also on the side of the students he's meant to serve. The university should allow students the rightful opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime studying abroad in Israel. Injecting politics into students' study abroad program opportunities is simply unfair. Let's afford our students the opportunity to make choices for themselves and not have the politically-motivated views of a select group of individuals make decisions for them. Prohibiting study abroad programs in Israel to be reinstated on the basis of a political driven letter would effectively undermine our students' freedoms.

Whether it be students' decisions regarding their academic careers or studying abroad, we must ensure that those choices are not made for students on the basis of somebody else's politics, but on the basis of what they themselves deem to be most productive to further their education. The choice should be left to them, not up to anybody else.

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