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Volokh Conspiracy

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.