Truth NGO – A University of Michigan professor refused to help a student study abroad in Israel because of an academic boycott against the country — and claims he’s getting death threats for his decision.
John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American culture department, told student Abigail Ingber he couldn’t write her a letter of recommendation to study in Israel, citing an academic boycott of the country.
“As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of the Palestinians living in Palestine,” Cheney-Lippold wrote in an email, a screenshot of which was posted to Facebook Sunday by Club Z, a networking organization for pro-Israel students.
“This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there,” he said.
The professor is referring to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, an effort meant to isolate Israel until it meets demands by Palestinians, which has gained ground across many university campuses. Israel supporters believe large swaths of the BDS movement are motivated by anti-Semitism.
In the email, Cheney-Lippold writes he previously agreed to pen the letter but “for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.” He said he’d be happy to write “other letters” for Ingber, who is a junior.
In a statement to CBS News, Cheney-Lippold clarified he is one of many professors at the university individually taking part in the boycott — which isn’t sanctioned by the school.
“I want to emphasize that only individual professors are part of the boycott, not any department at the University of Michigan,” he said.
Since his email became public, lawyers for Cheney-Lippold claim he’s received more than 500 emails, including death threats.
Still, the professor said he wasn’t backing down from his decision.
“I wouldn’t cross a union picket line and I can’t cross this one,” Cheney-Lippold said in a statement sent by Palestine Legal, a Chicago-based advocacy group, according to the Detroit News.
“I support the Palestinian boycott call because I am appalled at Israel’s continuing violation of Palestinian rights, and our government’s support for those violations,” Cheney-Lippold said. “If a student had wanted to do a study abroad at an institution in Apartheid South Africa, I would have declined to write a letter for her as well.”
The professor also denied that his decision was motivated by anti-Semitism, saying he has “no bad will against the student” but he believes the boycott will be efficient in granting “equal right for everybody.”
The school’s University of Public Affairs released a statement opposing the boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.
“It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” the statement to student paper Michigan Daily reads. “We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”
The school did not say if Cheney-Lippold will be reprimanded for his email.