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JFN-UBC Meets University Admin to Address Israel-Palestine Issues on Campus


Dear President Bacon and Provost Averill,

Thank you for meeting with our Jewish Faculty Network (UBC) delegation on January 22nd. We write now regarding some follow-up items, as well as about the letter sent to you on February 6th by Faculty for Palestine (UBC) on which we were copied.

We were heartened to hear from you that your responses to letters and lawsuits regarding antisemitism on campus restated UBC commitments to academic freedom and diversity of opinion, Jewish and otherwise. In this regard, we strongly encourage you to continue to resist any conflation of critiques of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism. We are indeed reassured that the university shares our view on the importance of avoiding exceptionalism towards Jews and that the administration will continue to situate its programs concerning antisemitism within the broader framework of its equity and anti-racism initiatives and policies.

As we discussed at our meeting with you, educational events, including within curricula, are crucial to promote learning about the complex histories of Palestinian and Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian movements, cultures, and diasporas. This could include teaching about the Holocaust, as well as about British imperialism, the Balfour Declaration, and the Nakba. The issue of settler-colonialism in Israel-Palestine deserves thoughtful discussion at a university committed to decolonization and to the implementation of its own comprehensive Indigenous Strategic Plan.

We are seriously concerned about the ongoing and widespread chill on campus related to Israel-Palestine. A harmful lack of clarity exists regarding what may be said, when, and by whom about matters related to Israel-Palestine. On-campus speech about Palestine has been suppressed in a range of ways, and in a growing number of instances. Moreover, as detailed in a recent article in The Breach, we were concerned to learn that external forces, including now former Minister of Post-Secondary Education Selina Robinson, may have meddled in university affairs. These circumstances threaten the freedom of expression that is central to the university’s purpose. It is thus an urgent time for the university to underscore its commitment to academic freedoms. We trust you share our view that our role as scholars includes fostering complex understandings of history and contemporary global dynamics. We believe it is incumbent upon the university to issue a clear public statement that affirms its support for dialogue and education on Israel-Palestine on-campus. Such a statement should refer explicitly to “Palestine” in order to clearly broadcast that this term is not off-limits in university discourse.

Greater transparency and communication from the university administration stands to strengthen the ability of individuals and units on campus to conduct their educational and research work freely and without fear of reprisal. Towards this end, we support the request for information sent to you by our colleagues in Faculty for Palestine (UBC) and hope your response to their letter will involve meeting with members of that group as you did with us. In particular, we join Faculty for Palestine (UBC) in requesting clarification about the following:

In addition, we request your response with respect to two additional concerns that we raise here.

Thank you for considering our requests herein. We meanwhile remain active in our efforts to communicate the diversity of Jewish opinion on campus, particularly with regard to education on Palestine and Israel.

With best regards,

Jewish Faculty Network - UBC.