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UC Davis students have formed the EAP Equality Coalition (EEC), calling upon university administrators to discontinue a recently revived study abroad program in Israel. EAP is the UC sanctioned Education Abroad Program.
Addressed to Eric Shroeder, the Summer Abroad faculty director at UC Davis, including Vice Provosts Jean-Xavier Guinard and William Lacy, the EEC petition claims that “continuing the Study Abroad in Israel suggests the university’s condoning of the Israeli massacres and sanctioning of the Israeli state’s ongoing policies of discrimination towards Arabs and Muslims.”
The petition also states that, because the State Department has issued a travel advisory regarding visits to Israel, the University will be “going through extreme precautions” like notifying the Israeli Consulate of all students admitted to the program. While it is framed as a process meant to assure the security of students, it sounds much more like a screening process that could impede the academic freedom of students who would otherwise be targeted by racist Israeli government policies.
Apparently the University has also arranged for students participating in the program to be accompanied by Israeli military personnel during “outdoor endeavors.” According to the EEC, “these measures only compromise the freedom of education of the participants” and “serves to romanticize the notion of the Israeli Defense Force as a protective state entity that ensures human security, when in reality the IDF is currently under numerous investigations for attacking innocent civilians, including children and students.” Not to mention that if a student is of Arab or Muslim background, they may not feel very “protected” by an army that views them as enemy.
Racism at Israeli borders and airports is a well-documented fact. According to the State Department, “American citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab or Muslim origin are likely to face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel.” Notice the usage of the word “suspect.”
It also remains to be seen whether all UC students will have equal access and opportunity to participate in this program, regardless of their background. I suspect that Arab students, especially Palestinian, will have a difficult time participating in this program. If the UC fails to cancel the program for the reasons stated in the petition, it must find other means to ensure that the admissions process is non-discriminatory.