Increase Academic Freedom by connecting to Israeli Universities

Mandy Zheng/Staff

UC Berkeley is not only one of the most respected institutions of higher learning but the standard bearer of the Free Speech Movement. We should expect the debates at the ASUC to confirm this legacy and call out those who would undermine our fine traditions. During the recent conversation about the ASUC Senate bill supporting academic collaboration with Israeli universities, we have fallen short thanks to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that thrives on the intimidation of critics and the advancement of propaganda masquerading as facts. We deserve better.

The BDS movement’s exclusive focus on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza requires ignoring the Palestinians who have been living as full citizens in Israel proper for generations, known as Israeli Arabs. The loyalty to this strictly anti-Israel ideology, furthermore, would also necessitate an acceptance of how Palestinians have been treated by the likes of Bashar Assad in Syria, who has carpet bombed the Palestinian Yarmouk Refugee Camp, killing thousands of civilians and forcing tens of thousands more to flee. Or, take Jordan’s King Hussein, the current king’s father, who killed more Palestinians on Black September from 1970-71 than have been killed during Israel’s entire occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Jordan’s population is more than half Palestinian, yet the country is run by a Hashemite monarchy that provides few rights to the majority-Palestinian population. Where are the academic boycotts or protests against the University of California Education Abroad Program in Amman, Jordan?

Israel certainly bears responsibility for the real and legitimate challenges accompanying its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel, furthermore, holds itself to a far higher standard than these dictators, as showcased by its daily cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who commute to Israel each day for work. This has prompted even far-left-leaning columnist Roger Cohen in the New York Times to oppose the BDS movement “because (he does) not trust it.” Cohen correctly wonders how the BDS movement can claim it is working on behalf of the Palestinian cause when it advances policies that would end Israel, which he believes to be the movement’s goal.

All those who consider themselves supporters of Israel, the Palestinians and a two-state solution should be united in opposing an academic boycott of Israeli universities. The irony of this boycott is that it hurts Palestinians. Israeli Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population and have equal rights under the law. Moreover, they represent about 11 percent of the student populations of the very Israeli universities singled out for protest. This actually makes Israel, in most cases, far better than UC Berkeley when it comes to the student populations of underrepresented minorities. Unlike many universities across the Middle East, Israeli academic institutions are egalitarian bastions of free speech, freedom of religion and academic opportunity for all.

There is an academic problem that prevents a two-state solution. In many Palestinian schools, children are taught some of the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes and to hate Jews.  Hamas, part of the Palestinian Unity Government, has a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of Israel’s Jewish inhabitants. How can we take the BDS movement seriously when it calls for an academic boycott of Israel while at the same time ignoring these flagrant violations of academic ethics?

The BDS movement has also been known to claim that it focuses on Israel, because Israel is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid. What is puzzling is how this argument is used to justify criticism of Israel’s response to rocket fire — shot from civilian areas and aimed at civilian areas — but not to justify any actions by other foreign-aid recipients. Where are the protests against Saudi Arabia for exporting the hateful ideology of ISIS as these fighters make their way across Syria and Iraq, oppressing minorities, enslaving women and beheading journalists? Where are the hashtags and social media campaigns against Bahrain as it uses U.S.-manufactured weapons to gun down peaceful-democracy protesters? How about against Pakistan for harboring Osama bin Laden?

The reason for this lack of moral clarity is that many who claim to be “for justice in Palestine” or “pro-Palestinian” are simply obsessively anti-Israel. I myself am a supporter of a Palestinian state and denounce these anti-Israel movements as antithetical to the cause. The only way there is a conflict between Zionism and Palestinian statehood is if the goal is an end to Israel.  Hold the BDS movement accountable for its moral relativism, because its reflexively anti-Israel view not only discourages Israeli compromise but also keeps Palestinians from making good on any of their obligations.

UC Berkeley can play a role in fostering more mutual understanding and freedom of speech by increasing ties with Israeli academic institutions. In the same way UC Berkeley does not speak for the U.S. government, Israeli universities are independent of their government and are global leaders in science, engineering, technology and medicine. By increasing these relationships that provide opportunities to Palestinians as well, we foster open societies and a powerful antidote to the curriculums of hate found in too many Middle Eastern classrooms.  Mario Savio said in 1994 that “freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is.” Let’s live up to the history of our great campus and not let hateful propaganda hijack a worthwhile free exchange of ideas.

Daniel Frankenstein is a UC Berkeley alumnus from the class of 2004 who served on the ASUC Senate from 2001 to 2002 and on the UC Academic Senate in 2003. Daniel lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, from 2008 to 2012. He is currently a managing partner at JANVEST Technologies.

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  • Arafat

    Google “gays” and “Palestinians” to see how gay people are treated by the people who are calling for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The first search result is titled,
    “Palestinian gays flee to Israel”

    Google “Palestinian” and “honor killings” to see how women are treated by the people who are calling for
    boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.

    If you are a femalel student (or alumna) who is thinking about going to “Palestine” to help protest against the Evil Zionists, I suggest that you first read “Female Palestinian Peace Activists Suffer
    Sexual Harassment, Rape From Palestinians” (just Google on the title). You might want to reconsider.

    As a final note, look up Israel’s and the Palestinians’ relative political and civil rights ratings at Israel’s are close to the best possible while those under both Hamas and Fatah are almost the worst possible.

    Now, please explain to me again who is guilty of crimes,
    apartheid policies (e.g. dhimmis or second-class citizens in countries under
    militant Islamic rule), and so on. I have not even touched on the Palestinians’
    long litany of mindless terroristic violence including the Munich Massacre, the
    massacre of the Fogel family including young children in their beds, and so on.

    • Delvon

      I googled “Palestinians” and “gays”, and I found this article:

      It tells how the Israeli secret service blackmails palestinian gay men and threatens that it will out them unless they become collaborators. This is the country you’re supporting.

      • Daniel Frankenstein

        @Devlon: This is a stunning piece of moral relativism that proves much of the thesis of my Op-Ed: You are using Israel’s free press to demonize Israel for the treatment of Palestinian homosexuals. First, as referenced above, free and progressive societies also provide the freedom for those to act badly. A free press holds these people to account. Maybe you should direct your anger and advocacy at the Palestinian society that does not tolerate dissent, homosexuals, or equal rights for women. Israel is far more progressive than the United States when it comes to LGBT rights. Does the article you link to showcase a terrible circumstance? Absolutely. But the difference is that a vast majority of Israeli society would agree and expect their leaders to act differently. Your unquestioned support of the Palestinians and your reflexive anti-Israel stance allows the Palestinians to abuse the very human rights you claim to care about.

  • Tempest5000

    Frankenstein, please fade back into irrelevance.

    • Dan Spitzer

      No there’s an astute comment representative of SJP and MSA. BTW, does MSA mean “Morons’ Stupid Association?” Just asking as Tempest’s comment seems worthy of that definition…

  • Dan Spitzer

    A key note has been lost in the pro-Palestinian minion’s persona attacks on Daniel Frankenstein, the author of the op-ed. In violation of the most important facets of free expression on the university level or anywhere for that matter, there is an effort by SJP and MSA to impose BDS on Israeli academic institutions. Israel is among the freest countries in the world when it comes to free speech, verbal or written. And for Israel, the world’s sole Jewish state, to have its academic institutions singled out for BDS is nothing short of blatant anti-Semitism.
    Innumerable life saving drugs have come from Israeli academic researchers. They have saved the lives of Jews and non-Jews, including thousands of Muslims. And for quality of life, there are few countries which have provided the technological innovations stemming from Israeli academic research institutions. Moreover, desert agrarian practices originating from Israeli university scientific research has expanded harvests throughout the world, including the hot climes and desert soils of Muslim nations. How much of value has come from researchers at universities in the Islamic world?
    As I noted in another commentary, Mario Savio as cited in the superb bio, “Freedom’s Orator,” was a supporter of Israeli democracy and he criticized the left for ideologically reducing Israel to evil incarnate. Prominent pro-Palestinian “superstars” such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein have castigated BDS as counterproductive and just plain dumb.
    It blows ones mind to learn that those who say they advocate freedom of expression should support BDS vs Israeli academic institutions. You will never hear them call for this when it comes to Palestinian universities where one dissents at one’s own peril, or from Chinese universities, or institutions of higher learning based in the brutal regimes of the Islamic world or sub-Saharan Africa. No, you only see these strictures demanded against Israel and it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out why…

  • Dan Spitzer

    I might add to this most intelligent op-ed the following: Star-power pro-Palestinian supporters Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein have said and written that they think BDS vs Israel is both inane and hurts the pro-Palestinian movement.
    Moreover, in Robert Cohen’s highly regarded biography of Mario Savio, Freedom’s Orator (Oxford Univ. Press) the author notes how distraught Mario was to see so much of the left castigate Israel for what he believed to be purely ideological reasons. Mario considered Israel a legitimate democratic state and he supported its existence. If you don’t believe me on this, get a hold of a copy of the book and find Savio’s quotes.
    Finally, comments on this site call Daniel Frankenstein a propagandist for Israel. Are members of SJP and MSA not propagandists for the Palestinians? Indeed, one would be hardput to find a scintilla of truth in the pronouncements of SJP, MSA and the nonsense spouted by some professors in the Middle East Studies Department, particularly those of Hate’em Bazian…

  • Nonpartisan

    I take no position on the contents of this Op-Ed. However, sudents don’t “*serve on* the UC Academic Senate”. There are, at most, nonvoting student observers. If the author was an observer, he should be aware of the distinction. This purposeful misleading for self-serving purposes seems highly unethical. Does the Daily Cal fact check author bios? Will the Daily Cal issue a correction?

    • Dan Spitzer

      You are about as “non-partisan” as David Duke.
      All op-eds are opinions, as are the commentaries which respond to them. WTF should the DC fact check in this case? And what sort of “correction” do you want?

    • 1kenthomas

      I have heard “served on the UC Academic Senate” in relation to students for over 30 years. As a colloquialism, I believe it is clear.

  • Daniel Frankenstein

    @RL, thanks for your comment. I also appreciate that you prove one of the major points of my Op-Ed. First, you have taken “propaganda” and turned it into “fact”. AIPAC is not “Israel’s main lobbying group in Congress”. AIPAC does not lobby for Israel. AIPAC simply advocates a strong relationship between the democratically elected leadership in Israel and the democratically elected leaders in the United States because of the mutual benefits to both countries. I believe in this principle and do not hide my affiliation. Furthermore, I advocate in my Op-Ed the position that a strong relationship actually gets us closer to a peaceful, two state solution. The facts support my position. You can attempt to discredit me all you like, but the neutral observer will see that you are simply avoiding the substance of the issues I raise and worse, use false information to do it.

    @Borracha Linda: inaccurate historical comparisons do not get us closer to a solution. They increase misunderstanding, discourage debate, and make it harder for reasonable people to discuss these important issues. I would encourage you to do some research and acquaint yourself with the facts.

    • RL

      I welcome Daily Cal readers to glance at AIPAC’s website here:, which defines it as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.” Arguing that AIPAC doesn’t lobby for Israel is laughable. So Mr. Frankenstein, please be respectful and don’t treat Cal students as idiots. And if you “don’t hide” your affiliation to AIPAC, why did you not mention it in the article?

      And this is before I even get to the article’s ridiculous claims that boycotting Israeli academic institutions will negatively affect Palestinian citizens of Israel. Yes, Palestinian citizens of Israel are 20% of the population. One only wonders why Frankenstein forgets to mention that they make for only 1.5% of the academic faculty in the country. Frankenstein also does’t mention the persistent violation of Palestinians’ academic freedoms by Israel. Indeed, this is exactly why we call for boycotting Israel. Don’t blame him: while in Israel he spent most of his time mingling with high-tech companies where palestinians are hardly represented.

      But again, all of this disinformation is not surprising: the author of this article is a propagandist affiliated with AIPAC, and as such, his work is to spread disinformation. It is unfortunate, however, that the Daily Cal is complicit in Israel’s propaganda efforts and doesn’t inform its readers about authors’ political affiliation.

      • Daniel Frankenstein

        @RL, thanks again for your comment. I also appreciate you linking to AIPAC’s website where you will see clearly that the definition of “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” are American’s advocating for a strong US-Israel relationship. To claim that AIPAC “lobbies for Israel” is
        not factual. You are correct on this point: Cal Students are not idiots. I would encourage people to educate themselves on all of these issues and draw their own conclusions.

        You can also dive into my history and try and continue to attack me personally all you like. But again, the casual observer will note that you actually know nothing about me, or how I spent my 4 years in Israel. Drawing these conclusions, based on your own bias and incomplete information, further buttresses my argument. Please also note I have purposely put my full name in the comment section so people can know anything they want about me.
        Hiding behind “RL” might be a good debating tactic, but I have learned long ago that anonymous comments are not ones people take too seriously (see your point about Cal Students not being idiots).

        Finally, Israel is a multi-cultural, multi ethnic democracy that struggles with minority rights just like we do in the United States. All over the US, we struggle with police brutality, the representation of minorities in business and academia, along with issues of academic freedom. The fact that in Israel, like in the US, we can have these open discussions is the point. I express my opinions as a free speaker of my own views. You can attempt to discredit my opinions by calling me “a propagandist affiliated with AIPAC”, but yet again, you would simply discredit yourself.

        If you have the desire to engage with me on the actual issues, and stop attacking my affiliations, I will happily and respectfully engage. If you prefer to continue to draw false conclusions based on your ideology and assumptions, I will respectfully leave you to do so on your own time.

        • YoungJ

          @Daniel Frankenstein
          From the perspective of a non-Israeli/Jew or Palestinian/Arabic, I found the article very distasteful and biased. I am a Cal student that perhaps has nothing to do with the conflict in the Middle East. But as a global citizen, I try to keep track of all the current events. And from my unbiased perspective, you and Dan Spitzer are coming across as ignorant imbeciles trying to push your own agenda, or propaganda so to speak. Please do not ever post this kind of garbage on Daily Cal. I am embarrassed to be even remotely associated with Cal when this kind of crap is “published” (albeit op-ed) as this newspaper is supposed to represent the integrity and journalism of my school.

          • Daniel Frankenstein

            @YoungJ, thanks for engaging, but I will make the same comment to you as I have done to others: If you prefer to attack me personally, call me names, and simply call my view “crap” without providing any facts, evidence, or issue advocacy to the contrary, I will not engage. As a public service reminder, the op-ed pages of the newspaper are meant for opinions. I have chosen to back up my opinions with a set of objective facts. Not wanting to read opinions with which you may disagree is certainly your prerogative. These threads continue to prove that few are actually interested in a conversation around the facts and issues. Instead, it appears everyone is far more interested in personal attacks and sideshows. I would contend that this simply proves the point of my op-ed.

          • 1kenthomas

            Do you have any substantive argument?
            Daniel argues for continued dialogue, co-operation and engagement. You spout naked accusations without reason.
            Where is the “bias” in Daniel’s article, for instance?
            Without such details, your comment comes off as prejudiced and full of hate.

          • Dan Spitzer

            YoungJ, as George Bernard Shaw said, “The truth only hurts when it ought to.”

            You say you keep track of current events. You therefore must be aware that the vast majority of Palestinian people support Hamas which openly calls for Jewish genocide. Do you comprehend why some might have a problem with that? Do you see nothing horrifically wrong with that? And you must also be aware that the Palestinians treat their women as second class citizens, brutalize gays and suppress dissidents. Surely since you claim to be a “global citizen,” you are aware of this odious support for genocide, gender apartheid and overall tyranny. Do you find any of this acceptable? It appears you must, but if you don’t, please enlighten us to the contrary…

          • Delvon

            I think the most upsetting thing about Frankenstein’s last post is how naturally he accepts the murder of African Americans and Palestinians in the US and Israel. You can only write “there are also shared challenges and opportunities to improve as both countries are imperfect” if you come from a position of great privilege. As if the hundreds of black men police kills in the street is just an “imperfection”, as if the mass imprisonment of african american people is just a “challenge”, as if more than 2000 Palestinians massacred by Israel this summer is “an opportunity to improve.”


          • Daniel Frankenstein

            @Delvon: You continue to personally attack me but you are not providing any substantive argument to the contrary. The consequence of a free society is that people are also free to do terrible things and elect people to office who do terrible things. Having a free press, the freedom of assembly, and the ability to dissent is how we hold people accountable. I don’t gloss over the challenges of free societies or minimize the suffering of those who are incarcerated or victims of violence. You don’t know me, yet you seem so quick to draw conclusions about me. A casual observer of this thread would see that as a curious line of attack.

            Countries like the US and Israel hold those who do wrong to account and the laws of the land treat everyone equally. The implementation of this in both countries is not perfect nor will it ever be. Both counties have a vigorous free press that holds them to account. Where I would suggest you focus is in countries where these freedoms are not allowed. You advocate for the Palestinian cause but don’t at all expect that they treat dissidents and those who disagree with respect. You rage against Israel blindly and don’t expect anything of the Palestinian. Your double standard enables the Palestinian leadership to deny the very freedoms you are privileged to have in speaking your mind. I think that fits your not so eloquent classification of “disgusting”.

    • Delvon

      Oh, RIGHT. AIPAC doesn’t lobby for Israel, it just advocates a strong relationship between the leadership in Israel and the leaders in the United States. I mean, the Koch brothers’ lobbyists don’t lobby for the Koch brothers. They just lobby for a strong relationship between the leadership of the Koch brothers corporation and the leaders in the United States.

      I love that.

      Did you really graduate from Cal, dude?

      • Daniel Frankenstein

        @Delvon: Thanks for engaging in the conversation and because I don’t know you, I will assume your final comment, questioning my intelligence, was a simple lapse in judgment.
        However, if this thread devolves into disrespectful name-calling and personal attacks, I will not play a part.

        A lobbying organization hired by a foreign government to advocate on its behalf is very different from an organization like AIPAC, which is a public affairs committee made up of Americans, working towards items of mutual interest between the US and Israel. The larger issue is the not so subtle insinuation of the unnamed commenter accusing me of being some “propaganda agent” of a foreign government. It is not only false, but clearly meant to distract from the actual issues.

        On this thread, we are having a free exchange of ideas; able to criticize and say whatever we please. This is exactly what Israelis (Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze) do at their universities. Unfortunately, in many countries this is not possible because of repressive regimes and censorship. AIPAC exists because Americans believe there are shared values between the US and the Middle East’s only Democracy. There are also shared challenges and opportunities to improve as both countries are imperfect. So we can spend our time with personal attacks and advancing false information… or we can discuss the issues. Because it appears you are more interested in the former, I bid you a good evening and take leave.

        Go Bears!

        • Dan Spitzer

          Indeed, unlike AIPAC, Saudi and Emirate financially sponsored organizations have to register as foreign agents and they spend megabucks on behalf of the Palestinian cause. Indeed, many of the so-called Middle East Studies departments in the US and EU are funded by Saudi and Emirate money to promulgate nonsense about the poor, put upon Palestinians and how odious the Israelis are.
          Indeed, Jimmy Carter, a true propagandist for the Palestinians, has his Carter Center funded significantly by Saudi money. Ditto at at least one point his peanut farm. Note: unlike other brutal regimes, you will never see the Carter center castigate the Saudis for their manifest human rights abuses. Wonder why?

      • 1kenthomas

        Dude, you’ve been drinking the KoolAid.

        First, if you check a neutral source– say, NPR– you should see that the Kochs have sponsored quite a range of liberal causes, including freedom of choice.

        Next, equally, you’ll also see that, for the most part, they’ve haven’t got anything out of their investments. It’s actually quite hard, to use money to influence politics.

        Finally, could you inform me, perhaps, what is wrong with a strong relationship between the leadership of Israel, and the US?

        Would you prefer the FARC, or Hamas?

  • Borracha Linda

    Were academic and economic boycotts useful against apartheid-era South Africa?

    • Dan Spitzer

      Anyone who compares S. Africa under its apartheid regime with Israel is an ignorant fool. I traveled in the S. Africa of that period and have also visited Israel. There is not remotely any measure of comparison. The only apartheid I see in Israel is the Palestinian second class treatment of their women and gays. But this gender and sexual preference manifestations of apartheid are oh-so-much worse in Gaza and the W. Bank…

    • 1kenthomas

      I do not recall any *academic* boycotts of South Africa, and I am not sure what is to be gained, by cutting off cultural contact and learning.

      • Delvon
        • Arafat

          If you want to see a BDS supporter squirm, ask them why
          Israel existing as a Jewish state is unacceptable and racist but Palestine
          existing as an Arab and Muslim state is a noble cause worth supporting.

          My proof of this is examples of the Palestinian National Charter:

          “Article 1. Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people;
          it is an indivisible part of the greater Arab homeland, and the Palestinian
          people are an integral part of the Arab nation.”

          And from the basic law of Palestine:

          “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.”

          So why isn’t there a movement to boycott the Palestinians,
          seeing as how they make it clear they intend to make a theocratic, ethnic-based

          • Dan Spitzer

            And to this one might add, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN explicitly stated that when “Palestine” becomes a nation, no Jews would be welcome in it. Now there’s your definitive apartheid state…

        • 1kenthomas

          Thanks for the reference– I’m not sure that 400-odd UK academics, and a UN resolution, counts as an “academic boycott,” or that it meets WikiPedia’s notability criterion… :)

          • Delvon

            You’re welcome. If a United Nations resolution for Academic Boycott doesn’t count as an academic boycott, well… I wonder what does. :)

          • 1kenthomas

            Well, you might check Kissenger’s opinion in _Diplomacy_ on that one. What authority or effect does the UN resolution have?
            (Otherwise see Kennan’s _American Diplomacy_ …)

          • Delvon

            Dude, it would be better if you just admitted your mistake. It’s okay you didn’t know there was an international academic boycott on apartheid. Now you know. Move on.

  • RL

    Oh, Daily Cal. With all due respect: On the same day you are being called out for failing to disclose that an Op-Ed author was a Hasbara fellow (that is a propagandist sponsored by the Israeli government), you publish this Op-Ed? Daniel Frankstein (author of the column above) is a member of AIPAC – Israel’s main lobbying group in Congress. What about full disclosure here?

    Too bad you chose to advertise his company, but forgot to mention his political affiliations.

    • 1kenthomas

      What exactly does Mr. Frankenstein (you misspelled it) being or not being a part of AIPAC, have to do with the *actual issues at debate* here?
      Or do you prefer to attack via an ad hominem fallacy– he’s a part of a group, therefore his ideas must be wrong?
      The latter is pure prejudice, which is, no doubt, why you cowardly hide your identity.

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