Eric Lee

To Cornell University’s President

Dear President Pollack,

I have read with interest your recent message to the Cornell community. As someone who studied at Cornell in 1972-75, and who visited the campus most recently in June of this year, I wanted to let you know how disappointed I am at what you had to say.

In your message you rightly condemned antisemitism. In fact, you went on to say that you “have repeatedly denounced bigotry and hatred, both on and off our campus.”

This is not good enough.

Denouncing antisemitism on its own means very little. As we have seen at Cornell this week.

You and other campus leaders have denounced antisemitism. But the threats against Jews have grown worse. Read this account from the Times of Israel today about what’s being discussed online at Cornell:

“If i see a pig male jew i will stab you and slit your throat,” read another post by a user called “hamas” that was viewed directly by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “If i see another pig female jew i will drag you away and ràpe you and throw you off a cliff. if i see another pig baby jew i will behead you in front of your parents.”

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, ‘Last week, the campus was graffitied with the messages “Israel is fascist,” “Zionism = genocide” and “F— Israel,”’.

Israel is not fascist. Zionism does not equal genocide. Cornell students must be taught that — all Cornell students, whatever their views.

You wrote that you “will work to reinforce a culture of trust, respect and safety at Cornell”. But you don’t say how you’ll do that. Pious declarations that antisemitism is wrong are not enough.

Let me suggest a slightly different approach. Let’s take advantage of the fact that Cornell is, first of all, an institution of learning.

Why not teach your students about the history of the Jewish people, the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust? And I don’t mean having courses for those studying for a history degree. I mean teaching everyone, the whole community, the truth about Jews and those who hate Jews.

And while you’re at it, why not teach the history of the Jewish people and Israel over the last two thousand years. And the story of the Palestinians too. You might argue that these are controversial issues, but I disagree. Arm your students with the facts, counter the vicious, lying anti-Israel propaganda with your best teachers and resources.

I, like many others, often do not agree with the policies of the Israeli government. I lived in Israel for 18 years and served in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces.
I was politically active on my kibbutz and in Israeli society, a supporter of the left and the peace movement. I actively fought against Binyamin Netanyahu and the party he leads.

I know what it means to be critical of Israel — but what I am hearing from Cornell is not criticism. It is hatred. And ignorance.

Please do more than denounce and condemn. That is not enough. Do what Cornell is good at: teach.

Thank you.

Eric Lee
ILR ’76

About the Author
Eric Lee is the founding editor of LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the author of several books about 20th-century history. His next book is The August Uprising 1924: Georgia and the Birth of Democratic Socialism. He was a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor from 1981-1998.
Related Topics
Related Posts