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California University hit with backlash over Israel boycott – Times of India

WorldCalifornia University hit with backlash over Israel boycott - Times of India



The president of Sonoma State University, a public liberal arts college in California, was placed on leave a day after he announced a controversial agreement with pro-Palestinian protesters that includes an academic boycott of Israel and a role for student activists to enforce the deal.
“In my attempt to find agreement with one group of students, I marginalized other members of our student population and community,” Sonoma State President Mike Lee wrote in a note to the campus.“I realize the harm that this has caused, and I take full ownership of it. I deeply regret the unintended consequences of my actions.”
The agreement, which was announced late Tuesday by Lee and campus activists, stipulates the institution will not pursue formal academic collaborations with Israeli institutions, including study abroad programs. Lee also had said the school would commit to creating a divestment strategy that “includes ethical alternatives,” but stopped short of agreeing to divest Israel-linked entities from the university’s endowment.
“None of us should be on the sidelines when human beings are subject to mass killing and destruction,” Lee said in his first message to the campus community.
Lee acknowledged that he drafted and sent the message without getting approval from California State University Chancellor Mildred García and other system leaders. She described his actions as “insubordination.”
“I want to acknowledge how deeply concerned I am about the impact the statement has had on the Sonoma State community, and how challenging and painful it will be for many of our students and community members to see and read,” Garcia said in a statement.
Sonoma State, which is located in Rohnert Park near the vineyards of Napa Valley, is one of the smaller institutions within the 23-campus California State University network, which is the largest four-year public university system in the US.
Universities across the US have been dealing with dealing with protests and campus tensions since October, when Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people, taking hundreds hostages and sparking a retaliatory war in Gaza. More than 35,000 people have since been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
At UC Irvine on Wednesday, police were sent in after protesters occupied the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall near a tent encampment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
While universities such as Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern have engaged with activists in order to end tent encampments and disruptions, they’ve rejected demands to divest from Israeli assets or defense stocks, citing the complexity of investment structures, potential legal issues and a refusal to politicize the endowments.
State Senator Scott Wiener, an outspoken critic of campus protests, said in a social media post on Wednesday that the Sonoma State agreement “aligned the campus with BDS” — referring to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.
The effort has long been criticized as antisemitic because it calls into question the legitimacy of the Jewish state and singles out one country for its policies. Advocates have argued that boycotts and divestments represent one of the few non-violent tactics to pressure Israel.
A particularly contentious part of the Sonoma State agreement designates Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group, as the sole authority to appoint members to a new advisory group tasked with overseeing the agreement’s implementation along with administration staff.
On Tuesday night, the Sonoma State chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine took to Instagram to declare that its demands were met.





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