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Cornell-related summer program’s anti-Israel rhetoric draws scrutiny

Cornell University, already grappling with backlash from recent antisemitic incidents, is under renewed scrutiny after a summer program held on campus featured an anti-Israel statement on its website.

The website, which was recently taken down, noted that the Philosophy of Law Undergraduate Summer School, or PLUSS, “unequivocally and irrevocably condemns the advancing, unchecked Zionist violence against Palestinians by the state of Israel.”

Calling Israel “a settler colonial state” created after World War II “against the wishes of the native Arab people,” the PLUSS website blamed Israel for “traumatiz[ing] generations of Palestinians” and “causing political instability and violence in South West Asia and North Africa.”

“Palestinians living in their homeland and scattered across the diaspora have been suffering for decades,” the program’s statement continued, “and will continue to do so until the settler colonial state of Israel is disbanded and condemned by members of the international community.”

PLUSS concluded its statement by arguing “anti-Zionism is not equivalent to nor consistent with anti-Semitism” and that “to stand with Palestine is to stand for justice.”

Bianca Waked, the Cornell PhD candidate who founded the program in 2019 and has since served as its director, has not responded to The College Fix’s inquiry regarding the statement and whether the website was shut down voluntarily or by Cornell administrators.

According to its website, PLUSS is “a week-long summer program which exposes students to rigorous philosophical work by under appreciated philosophers in addition to supporting students from under resourced institutions in their philosophy graduate school applications.”

Cornell Law School Professor William Jacobson told The College Fix in an email, “Given the trend on campus of increasingly aggressive anti-Israel activism, it is not totally surprising that the website for a Cornell-related program was used to push political propaganda.”

Jacobson, however, noted the issue at hand is not one of free expression, but rather “a matter of abuse of power over a resource that should be non-political and welcoming to all students.”

The College Fix reached out to Cornell’s media relations office, whose director Rebecca Valli noted that PLUSS is “not a Cornell program.”

But Cornell has advertised the program on its Department of Philosophy website in a way that emphasized its connection to the university. The program also seemed to have been held on Cornell’s main campus for multiple years.

For example, the department posted in 2019, “We are excited to announce Cornell University’s Philosophy of Law Undergraduate Summer School,” while noting that the program would be held on “the beautiful campus of Cornell University.”

“I hope the university administration will look into how this happened, release the results of its inquiry for the sake of transparency, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Jacobson said.

MORE: Cornell professor who called Hamas attacks ‘exhilarating’ takes leave of absence

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About the Author
Matthew Xiao -- Cornell University