Friday, February 19, 2016

Academic Engagement Network, a rightwing Zionist organization

President Hill,

A am a retired Vassar College administrator (Career Services) and I attended Dr. Puar's recent presentation.

I did not hear the inflammatory things that the Wall Street Journal claims. She did refer to the purposeful restrictions on food imports to Gaza (well substantiated by numerous reports). She also referred to the controversy surrounding organs taken from Palestinians without consent, a charge that also has a great deal of documentation <http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/08/28/israeli-organ-harvesting/>

I didn't hear any demand not be be recorded. She did say that "academic courtesy" includes being asked for permission to record a talk. Not the same thing, of course.

The authors of the Wall Street Journal article work for the Academic Engagement Network, a rightwing Zionist organization that hires retired academics to shut down campus debate on Palestinian rights.

This from a December Haaretz article: "NEW YORK – Enlisting faculty members at American colleges and universities as allies in the fraught battle against the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is the main objective of a new organization [Academic Engagement Network] that is being launched on Wednesday."

The Academic Engagement Network has received tens of millions from from Sheldon Adelson, billionaire ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I don't think Vassar can afford to be intimidated by extremist groups like this. As a career counselor at Vassar, many of the employers I dealt with commented on Vassar's reputation for bright and motivated student who were able to apply critical thought to solving problems. I think that shutting down critical analysis of the Israel/Palestinian conflict on campus would eventually hurt Vassar's reputation with employers.

But Vassar does not exist merely to get its graduates good jobs. Curtailing this debate on campus would also be intellectually indefensible.

Fred Nagel

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