A California college is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to end its study abroad program with an Israeli university -- a push that appears to have picked up the support of freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Pitzer College, a private liberal arts college in Claremont, Calif., currently runs a range of study abroad programs with a number of countries, including some with poor human rights records such as China, Turkey and Cuba.
But it is the trips to Israel, specifically the University of Haifa, that have sparked the ire of students and members of the faculty, and a vote is scheduled Thursday afternoon to suspend the program. The vote will be taken by the university's College Council, which, according to its website, has the power to make recommendations to the president of the college.
The president, Melvin Oliver, has fought back against the push to end the program. According to The Student Life, he said in November that ending the program would mark a “major blow” to the college and noted the other countries to which the college runs study abroad programs.
“Why would we not suspend our program with China? Or take our longest standing program in Nepal, where the Pitzer in Nepal program has been run for over 40 years. During that time they have had a bloody civil war that killed 19,000 people,” he said. “Why Israel?”
According to The Claremont Independent, a motion approved by the College faculty in November called for the ending of the program until "the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech and...the Israeli state adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities.”
A spokesman for the college told Fox News that the college would not be releasing statements while the motion is being deliberated within Pitzer’s shared governance process.
The controversy is notable in particular to its similarities to the controversies over support for Israel currently ongoing in Washington, D.C., where freshmen members of Congress have reignited the debate over U.S. support of Israel. In particular, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., drew bipartisan condemnation for her comments about Israel, including alleging that those backing Israel were pushing for U.S. politicians to declare "allegiance" to the country.
One of those freshman members of Congress, Rep. Tlaib, was pictured offering her support for Pitzer's move to end trips to Israel. Daniel Segal, a professor at the college who backs ending the study abroad program to Israel, posted pictures this week of her wielding a folder with the hashtag "#SuspendPitzerHaifa."
Tlaib's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News and it was not clear whether she was in California for the push.
But even though the move may have the support of at least one member of Congress, it has seen furious pushback from faculty and students. The student-run Claremont Independent’s editorial board published a furious op-ed in which it condemned the move as being against academic freedom and would take away from students an opportunity to learn in an alternative setting.
“In a twist of irony, this vote is also counterproductive to even the efforts of pro-Palestinian student activists; it prevents students from seeing the current conflict in-person and forces a reliance on second-hand sources. Is not actually attending the place where the conflict is occuring, seeing and experiencing it yourself the purest way to see the conflict unfiltered?” the article asked.
”This push to ban the study abroad at Haifa is nothing but the absolutely worst form of virtue signaling,” it said.