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COMMENTARY: Rutgers must end relationship with Tel Aviv University

University President Jonathan Holloway in Israel signed an agreement with Tel Aviv University President Ariel Porat in the fall of 2021. – Photo by Courtesy of Carissa Sestito

On March 7, the Rutgers University Student Assembly unanimously voted for a historic divestment referendum. As part of the Assembly elections, the referendum asks Rutgers students to take a stance on Rutgers' complicity in plausible acts of genocide, human rights violations and apartheid in Palestine. The two following questions are:

1: "Should Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, divest its endowment fund from companies and organizations that profit from, engage in, or contribute to the government of Israel’s human rights violations?"

2: "Should Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey terminate its partnership with Tel Aviv University, including in the New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub?"

This begs the question: why should Rutgers terminate its partnership with Tel Aviv University, including in the New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub?

In November 2021, University President Jonathan Holloway signed an agreement welcoming Tel Aviv University to house operations at the forthcoming Innovation & Technology Hub in New Brunswick.

The Innovation & Technology Hub, a collaboration between the University and Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), is currently in construction opposite the New Brunswick train station and is set to open later this year. The agreement commits to funding at least five future collaborative projects between Rutgers and Tel Aviv University researchers.

The Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers—New Brunswick and Rutgers—Newark (SJP) wrote the following statement to express their dissent and exasperation over the University's partnership with Tel Aviv University, as well as Holloway's visit to the state of Israel: We are absolutely opposed to the University's collaboration with Tel Aviv University in the Innovation & Technology Hub project and to Holloway's past visit to Israel to formalize the collaboration.

To collaborate with an Israeli university, business or organization is to disregard the effects of Israeli apartheid and the ongoing settler-colonization of Palestine. Since these entities directly encourage the power structures used by the Israeli government to oppress Palestinians, they are also culpable for the oppression of Palestinians.

Israeli universities, in particular, are strong contributing forces to Israeli apartheid, as they act as hubs for the development of Israeli weapons systems and military doctrines.

Tel Aviv University is arguably the university most directly involved in Israeli apartheid, and the one which the Rutgers administration has chosen to welcome to our campus in New Brunswick.

The Tel Aviv University community actively develops Israeli military philosophy with academics and students working in the university dedicated to strengthening Israeli military forces.

Tel Aviv University professors were some of the primary developers of the Dahiya doctrine, the infamous Israeli military strategy of disproportionate force against civilian communities and infrastructure.

Rutgers administration's decision to invite Tel Aviv University to the New Brunswick campus is wholly unacceptable.

Holloway's decision to travel to Al-Shaykh Muwannis, the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village, where Tel Aviv University now sits, to sign the memorandum of understanding for this agreement is an affront to Palestinian students and allies in the Rutgers community. 

The University and Holloway claim to provide a safe space for political engagement, yet in actuality, they collaborate with forces contributing to mechanisms of apartheid and reveal to us the administration's failure to stand in genuine solidarity with the Palestinian members of its university.

How can Palestinian students and allies expect to safely voice their solidarity when their own University administration engages in such close partnerships with their oppressor? This very University, which houses Palestinian students on campus, is currently constructing a space to expand the institution built atop the graves of Al-Shaykh Muwannis. That graveyard will now extend to our campus.

Holloway owes an apology to our Palestinian community members for traveling to the state of Israel. We affirm our request from August 2021, which has been ignored, for Holloway to publicly affirm the right of Rutgers faculty, students and staff to voice their solidarity with Palestine, as other institutions have already done, and make clear that the University rejects all attempts to falsely conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Rutgers University must terminate its agreement with Tel Aviv University, withdraw its invitation for Tel Aviv University to house operations at the Innovation & Technology Hub and expose all other ties between the University and Israeli apartheid.

As we previously requested with no response from the administration, we ask for the University to protect the rights and the safety of its community members. The University must do so by denouncing and taking action against the targeted doxxing of pro-Palestinian students and faculty members on blacklist sites such as the Canary Mission. It must also take action to ensure accountability from administration, faculty and staff who violate the safe space Rutgers claims to be for activists and advocates of the disenfranchised.

SJP and Endowment Justice Collective (EJC) will continue to hold Rutgers accountable as we campaign for an ethical endowment in the name of progress rather than destruction and human rights abuses. Join us as we vote from Monday to Friday.

As part of the Assembly elections, Rutgers undergraduate students will have the opportunity to vote on Rutgers' divestment from Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism. This vote will show the Rutgers administration that the students no longer wish to be complicit in genocide — and decide the Assembly's official position on divestment.

Additionally, you can sign the EJC's Divestment Request, and tell your organization and or community about the opportunity to sign on.

Editor's note: The following article was updated to remove an outdated source about the death and holding of Ahmad Erekat's body.

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization at Rutgers University committed to supporting the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 600 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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