Did Columbia Law Dean Gillian Lester Troll Professor Katherine Franke?


Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke, a prominent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, was recently denied entry into Israel, pursuant to legislation excluding supporters of boycotting Israel from the country.

Columbia Dean Gillian Lester sent out this statement, reprinted at Leiter:


As many of you know, our colleague, Katherine Franke, was recently denied access to Israel, detained, and deported while traveling there as a member of a delegation from the Center for Constitutional Rights and in furtherance of her academic work. After being in contact with Katherine during her detention and offering assistance, I was glad to learn of her safe return.

As an academic institution that supports individuals with widely diverse views, the Law School tries vigorously to respect and protect a broad array of activities and points of view. Doing so will, at times, counsel against taking substantive positions on behalf of the entire community.

With that said, let me state unequivocally that both personally, and in my position as dean of the Law School, I believe that the unconstrained movement of people and the global exchange of ideas and viewpoints are vitally important to the critical intellectual engagement at the heart of our mission as a university. Efforts to restrict such exchange, whether by any country's law or by other means, are antithetical to these baseline principles and I strongly object to any policy that would deny a member of our community access to Israel—or any other country—on the basis of her political views or scholarship. [emphasis added]

Now, check out this story from the Electronic Intifada a few years ago:

In a statement and video published on the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog of Columbia Law School, Professor Katherine Franke has made a very public declaration of solidarity with Palestinians and support for the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions on Israel.

Specifically, she is boycotting Equality Forum happening now in Philadelphia where she was scheduled to speak. This annual conference chooses a nation to highlight and discuss its culture and policies toward LGBTQ individuals. This year's selected country is Israel. Michael Oren is the keynote speaker.

Responding to the call from a wide coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations and joining more than 700 U.S. academics who support a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, Katherine Franke will boycott the annual Global LGBT Summit, organized by the Equality Forum in Philadelphia, at which she is scheduled to speak today…. [emphasis supplied]

l doubt this was intentional trolling, but it seems to me that Dean Lester's critique of trying to constrain the "global exchange of ideas" applies to Franke herself and her support of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)–which includes support for boycotting academics deemed "complicit," or who advocate "violations of internatonal law," which from a radical pro-Palestinian perspective likely includes many VC bloggers, including me–as much as it does to Israel's refusal to admit her.

NEXT: Extra Twist in the Arkansas Prior Restraint Case

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This may have been a very mild indirect criticism. But to call it trolling is a bit like comparing a gent who mentions the Bishop of Norwich when someone has failed to pass the port at a dinner party a “mooner.” The Dean’s criticism was mild and diplomatic. Trolling (like mooning) is neither. Trolling is a form of abusive behavior. But there’s nothing abusive about mild criticism.

    1. Does “Bishop of Norwich” rhyme with “b____” or something?

      1. According to Wikipedia:

        When port wine is passed around at British meals, one tradition dictates that a diner passes the decanter to the left immediately after pouring a glass for his or her neighbour on the right; the decanter should not stop its clockwise progress around the table until it is finished. If someone is seen to have failed to follow tradition, the breach is brought to their attention by asking “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?”; those aware of the tradition treat the question as a reminder, while those who don’t are told “He’s a terribly good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port.”

        This custom almost certainly owes its origins to an incident at Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1785, when Lewis Bagot, the then Bishop of Norwich, dined with the Master and Fellows. The bishop was a notable example of the epicurean clergymen of the period and he applied himself with zeal to the port, to the near complete exclusion of his fellow diners. Nothing was said, but when the bishop entered the college chapel the following day to preach a sermon he discovered the following pasquinade attached to the lectern.

        The Bishop of Norwich is fond of his Port.
        Too fond, for the Villain won’t pass when he ought.

        I will admit to not being previously aware of this custom.

        1. “The Bishop of Norwich is fond of his Port.
          Too fond, for the Villain won’t pass when he ought.”

          To make the rhyme better and more up to date, replace “Port” with “Pot.”

          1. It’s an English story.

            “Port” and “ought” rhyme perfectly in English English.

            1. Yeah, but with today’s Episcopalian bishops, maybe “pot” would be more appropriate.

            2. And if I learned anything from Reggae, it is also customarily passed to the left

    2. Calling her beliefs and actions “antithetical” to the mission of the university is “mild criticism”?

      I don’t know how a dean at Columbia could be stupid enough not to see what he was doing there, but another dean there wrote an article in the Atlantic a few years ago about how when ancient cities built city walls, it was a sign of their early decline. Using Rome as an example. Which built its city wall hundreds of years before Caesar was born. (and yes, he specifically meant the city of Rome, not Hadrian’s Wall or something, although I think that might have been mentioned in a minor way)

      1. He didn’t call her beliefs and actions antithetical. He called Israel’s.

      2. I think you might be misreading that, Careless. The dean doesn’t call her actions “antithetical”. I read that as a criticism of Israel’s policy.

        Where I think the Dean misses the boat (and I gather this was the point of the original post) is in missing the opportunity to call Franke out on her hypocrisy. Or maybe the Dean was calling her out on it but being remarkably subtle about it.

        1. I thought that was obvious: she’s doing the same thing she’s complaining about Israel doing. He’s not defending Israel, he’s trashing her.

          1. Which is why it’s trolling. She’s using her complaints to mock her while acting like she’s supporting her.

            Sorry for referring to the dean as male above

  2. If you can’t tell the difference between an individual boycotting a conference in solidarity with the Palestinians and official action by a nation to exclude critics of its ruling regime, then you probably shouldn’t be trying to read subtle trolling intent into a rather anodyne statement by a university dean.

    Just more of the same from you, David. I keep hoping one day you’ll surprise me.

    1. “If you can’t tell the difference between an individual boycotting a conference in solidarity with the Palestinians and official action by a nation to exclude critics…”

      Whatever the differences might be, there are also similarities, like the fact that they are “Efforts to restrict such exchange, whether by any country’s law or by other means…”. Which is kinda what the post said. Keep trying, though.

      1. A closer similarity would be comparing (and condemning) BDS’s politically based targeting of Israelis with the Israeli government’s politically based targeting of BDS advocates.

    2. One difference is that unlike BDS, Israel’s denial of entry to Franke doesn’t have its roots in genocidal anti-Semitism. http://www.thetower.org/3931-f…..fects-us/. Admittedly, that’s not the only salient difference, but it’s not an irrelevant one.

      1. The most obvious distinction is that BDS threw the first punch and Israel is simply retaliating.

      2. David, you’re a law professor. You ought to know better than to lean on the genetic fallacy. Or maybe you don’t, I dunno. Would explain a lot.

    3. Why does someone boycotting Israel want to spend money in Israel?

    4. The BDS movement aims to have universities boycott by policy, doesn’t it?

      Not, you know, mere individual choice of potential attendees.

      (As written, the official action here is not to exclude “critics”, but people who … support organized institutional boycotts.

      That difference might be meaningful, just like “regime” might just maybe be a term that tells us more about you than about Israel?)

  3. Wait, I’m confused, Professor Franke wants to boycott Israel, so why was she trying to get into Israel?

    1. So she could refuse to tip the wait staff and taxis and doormen.

  4. Why does the byline say “David Bernstein is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law”? Didn’t they change the name?

    1. Yeah, it was ASSOL for a (very) short while.

      1. To traditionalists, it should and will be ASSOL forever.

  5. She declares solidarity with Palestine (which, as a Muslim country, probably takes a pretty dim view of LGBTQ matters) in order to snub Israel (which is probably a lot more enlightened on that matter).

    The fact that it makes sense to her is a pretty good reason to have little respect for any other of her decisions.

    But I could be wrong. Palestine might be an enlightened exception to the general Muslim bigotry.

    1. “Palestine might be an enlightened exception to the general Muslim bigotry.”

      Which mean on the scale of tolerance of gays, with 1 being ISIS throwing you off a rooftop in Raqqa to 10 being the pride parade in San Fran, they might be a 2 or 3.

  6. I certainly do not agree with proposals to boycott our ally Israel.

    That said, I am not sure that equating denying a person entry into a country is equivalent to a boycott in the relevant sense. Does a boycott prevent the movement of people? I don’t think it does. Nor do I think that in this Internet Age that either a boycott or denied entry really do much to restrict the exchange of ideas and viewpoints, at least not very much. (Sure, there is some value to in-person communication that cannot be wholly duplicated; but ideas can be exchanged without in-person speeches, assuming access to the Internet.)

    Given the lack of equivalence, I am not sure I am even seeing implicit criticism, much less trolling going on here. But, it could be that this is just all too subtle for me. I am more into direct communication myself.

    1. Does a boycott prevent the movement of people?

      Yes, that is one of the objectives of the academic boycott.

    2. Israel is not an ally in the legal sense (lots of lawyers here).

      1. Yes, we shamelessly kowtow to Arab states on that issue.

        Turkey is an ally in the legal sense of the word though no longer in reality.

        1. Israel is not an ally because Israel does not wish to have a mutual defense treaty with the U.S. Kowtowing to Arab nations therefore is not in play at all.

  7. I’m worried about the mindset which looks at the Middle East and says, “yeah, Israel is the one country you want to boycott.”

    1. It comes from a combination of sympathy for underdogs and hope of outside pressure actually influencing Israel.

      Not my issue of choice either, but I will note that Israel hasn’t exactly been covering itself in glory lately.

      1. Also, it appears per Bernstein, genocidal anti-Semitism. ?.?

      2. “It comes from a combination of sympathy for underdogs and hope of outside pressure actually influencing Israel.”

        And Jew hating, don’t forget that.

        “I will note that Israel hasn’t exactly been covering itself in glory lately”

        The problem is Jews don’t want to wait passively and be killed anymore.

        1. I find it adorable that right-wingers have put their bigotry aside temporarily, although exclusively with respect to Jews, and only so long as they find support for right-wing Israeli belligerence useful as a left-right divider in American politics.

          Right-wingers’ plans for Israel, of course, consist of having Jews play an important role in a superstitious fantasy . . . until the moment the Jews no longer are useful to evangelicals, at which time they are to be cast immediately into eternal hellfire.

          I suppose I understand why American evangelicals — hypocritical, selfish, delusional — follow this plot. I find it difficult to understand why Israelis, especially those with a self-preservation instinct, go along. As American support for Israel concentrates among right-wingers in an electorate becoming less rural, less religious, less bigoted, less white, etc., the day when America will no longer be willing to support immoral Israeli conduct approaches. Most Americans dislike right-wing authoritarianism at home; why would be subsidize it elsewhere?

          Carry on, clingers.

          1. So you’re into BDS? I mean, everyone has their kink.

            1. I do not wish to boycott Israel. I believe Israel should be free to continue to engage in right-wing belligerence and immoral conduct. I wish to see America stop providing military, political, and economic skirts for Israel to hide behind — at great economic, political, and moral cost — as Israel implements cruel, conservative, immoral policies. My principal objection is to American subsidization of Israel. I now expect that subsidization to end during my lifetime, thanks to conservatives’ efforts to make support for Israeli wingnuttery a left-right divider in American politics.

              Carry on, clingers . . . so long as you can, anyway.

              1. So long as the U. S. and Israel have common enemies, the two countries should at least work together against those enemies.

                That shouldn’t mean endorsing everything Israel does, of course. Nor should it mean endless U. S. subsidies.

                But at the very least it should mean giving the Israelis some leeway when it comes to dealing with adversaries who want Israel’s extinction, and who in pursuing their goals are as heedless of the truth as they are heedless of human life.

        2. Jews don’t want to wait passively and be killed anymore.
          …In response to a fiasco of scores of deaths from shooting unarmed Palestinian protestors?

          I don’t think Israel intended that. Sounds like you think they did, and support it.
          How long have you been into ethnic cleansing?

    2. It’s because a boycott of Israel has the potential to be highly effective both politically and economically.

      A boycott of Yemen for example would not be effective.

      1. So in other words, only scream “racist” as whites who actually care. Nobody else does.

        1. That was the basis of Ghandi’s passive resistance, which MLK modeled his activities after. Both rely on the inherent good nature of the larger societies, such that merely showing the oppression in action can shift and change things.

          Such would apply to Israel, but not to the myriad surrounding thugocracies.

          Is it different standards? Yes.

          That’s the best case I can make for BDS.

        2. That analogy only makes sense if it were the Palestinians engaging in passive resistance, in order to achieve a just, negotiated settlement.

          Here, the BDSers are only seeking for one side to make concessions.

      2. Does anyone ever go to Yemen?

    3. I’m worried about the mindset which looks at the Middle East and says, “yeah, Israel is the one country you want to boycott.”

      Particularly on the issue of gay rights.

      1. Particularly on the issue of gay rights.

        Maybe people look at Israelis cuddling with American’s right-wing authoritarians and engaging in vicious conduct (from behind American skirts, of course) and figure Israelis have become unreliable on moral issues?

        1. Maybe the issue is why Israel should be singled out among Mideastern countries as uniquely evil.

          That’s the burden of proof you bear.

        2. Look, Mr. “Deport all Israelis to West Virginia” felt the need to weigh in on this topic.

          1. DN: “Deport all Israelis to West Virginia””

            And watch West Virginia blossom.

          2. That comment begins to make sense where “deport” = offer citizenship to volunteers.

            Are you still claiming, or maybe even believing yourself to be, a libertarian rather than a standard-issue right-winger?

        3. The Likud party is doing the cuddling, not Israelis in general. The Likud party is notoriously unreliable on moral issues.

          1. I see little to no difference between Likud and Israel when it comes to policies or practices these days. If Israelis do not wish to be held accountable for immoral right-wing belligerence, they need to change course quickly and completely. Otherwise, they should prepare to do as they wish — but without American protection.

    1. To clarify, I agree with the major points. The minor points are not worth dwelling on.

  8. It’s absurd to argue that a country has a moral obligation to allow the entry of a person who opposes its existence and sovereignty.

    1. No country has a moral obligation to admit anyone.

      1. Agreed.

      2. Well, you’d think that.

        Except on any immigration post around here.

        1. (Here, note, being “Reason”, not “Volokh Conspiracy specifically”.)

          1. AFAICR, all the immigration posts are by open borders fanatic Somin

            1. here, I mean, not Reason in general.

    2. Franke denies neither of those.

  9. I wonder if the good professor will boycott Israeli developed pharmaceuticals?

Please to post comments