LTTE: President Kaler’s letter was wrong

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, Professor of Philosophy

President Kaler recently sent a letter to the campus community addressing the Undergraduate Student Government resolution 31-15-SJP, which seeks the boycott of industries supporting militarized injustice in the occupied territories of Palestine. I agreed with his implied view that the reasoning for the boycott was weak at points, for Case Western Reserve University is not “directly culpable” for Israeli human rights violation by investing in the military-industrial complex. Nonetheless, President Kaler’s action was wrong.

The main reason why is that his letter disrespected student self-governance from an office whose opinion could serve to repress such governance. Student government has a right to produce resolutions. They did so in accord with their procedures. The faculty and the administration have to respect that. For the president to send an emotional, inflammatory condemnation of student governance working as it rightfully can was irresponsible and an abuse of the office of the president.

The letter was also wrong because it harmfully misrepresented students. It characterized the resolution as a hate act and as antisemitism. This can plausibly bring disrepute, stigma, even violence against them. Yet reading the resolution shows no comments made against either Judaism or the Jewish people. The resolution is against a set of state policies as these are enabled economically. Moreover, the reasoning for the resolution is grounded in social justice and human rights, citing as authorities major international human rights organizations and documents, including one in Israel that bears a proud Hebrew name – B’tselem (“in the image of G-d”). The resolution was not hateful; it was an expression of social justice in intent.

Finally, having spent years reading Jewish philosophers, studying Holocaust literature, knowing social justice-loving Israelis who also oppose human rights violations by their state and having spent many a powerful meal during Passover with friends, I would think that any group that acts out of love of justice and for human rights is a group in line with the best in the traditions of Judaism.


Jeremy Bendik-Keymer

Professor of Philosophy