Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SJP and Cornell anti-Israel resolution: William Jacobson in the Ithaca Journal

Bill Jacobson of Cornell just wrote a good op-ed piece for the Ithaca Journal on the recent vote by the Cornell Student Assembly to table an anti-Israel resolution.
Guest Viewpoint: Democracy worked to defeat Cornell anti-Israel resolution 
William Jacobson
The Cornell Student Assembly recently voted, 15-8-1, to table a resolution backed by Students for Justice in Palestine and others to divest from certain companies doing business in Israel
The tabling of the resolution has led to accusations that SJP and other anti-Israel groups had their voices silenced and were deprived of speech. 
The latest such claim was in a recent Guest Viewpoint by Ithaca College professor Beth Harris, who singled me out as supposedly contributing to the stifling of student voices and depriving them of the democratic process through coverage at my website, Legal Insurrection
The claim that anti-Israel students were deprived of the democratic process is laughable. 
The anti-Israel students simply lost the vote. Overwhelmingly. About an issue — divestment — which has been a topic of discussion for years. 
Losing a vote is not losing democracy. Just the opposite. It is democracy in action. 
Many legislative bodies utilize preliminary procedural motions to eliminate proposed legislation that has no chance of success. There is no right to waste a legislative body’s limited time for debate of a resolution that has so little support. 
The tabling of the resolution, however, did not deprive anti-Israel students and faculty of being able to voice their views. 
The Cornell Sun regularly runs columns and letters against Israel, and the anti-Israel students appear with local activist groups to organize and agitate. Students also appear on campus in many other ways, including through guest speakers, to make their supposed case against Israel. 
Anti-Israel students also recently held the malicious “Israeli Apartheid Week” including a main event sponsored by numerous Cornell academic units, including the English Department. 
This is typical of what is happening on campuses, where anti-Israel faculty seek to put their thumbs on the scale to amplify already vocal anti-Israel voices. But it didn’t work this time, and that’s what they really are upset about. 
Indeed, Harris and certain academic units at Ithaca College also sponsored a talk by Cornell professor Eric Cheyfitz in favor of an academic boycott of Israel. When I asked to be able to appear at that event to give an alternative view so students could hear both sides, Harris limited me to a mere five-minute rebuttal. 
When Harris limited my time to speak, I didn’t whine and moan about my speech being suppressed. Instead, I declined and IC Hillel kindly scheduled a separate event for me. 
Seriously, let’s stop the nonsense that not always getting your way means you have had your rights violated. 
The debate on campus is robust on all sides. 
The anti-Israel groups simply lost the vote. Democratically.

Jacobson is a clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School.

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