CSU Students Protest Reinstated Israel Study Abroad Program
The CSU Office of International Programs has reinstated its study abroad program to Israel after an almost decade-long suspension.Written by Kashi Khorasani
11 January 2012
Cal State students at or above junior-level standing can still submit late applications for the program, which will start sending students to the University of Haifa in Fall 2012.
CSU and UC officials froze their study abroad programs to Israel due to security concerns after the U.S. State Dept. issued a travel warning during the Second Intifada in 2002.
Also known as the second Palestinian uprising, this was a period of heightened Palestinian-Israeli violence that resulted in a large amount of civilian casualties.
The travel warning remains in effect, but CSU Director of International Programs Leo Van Cleve announced last calendar year that study abroad to Israel would be reconsidered due to pressure from Jewish organizations, legislators and Israeli diplomats.
“We had an external group as well as our own risk assessment manager and our Director of International Programs travel to Israel and do an assessment of the security situation,” CSU Spokesperson Erik Fallis said. “That assessment came back and it was felt that the exception could be made based on the conclusions of both the external party and our own.”
The UC system conducted its own risk assessment in 2008 and began sending students to Israel again in Fall Quarter 2009.
Both decisions — to initially shut down, and later reboot the program — were founded only on security matters, according to Ines DeRomaña, UCEAP Principal Security Analyst.
“There were clearly security issues for several years, and then we were able to reinstate it in 2009-10 when the security situation improved,” DeRomaña said.
In late 2009, 389 signatories endorsed a letter to then-UC Davis Vice Provost William Lacy protesting the system-wide reinstatement on the grounds that the program would be inherently discriminatory against Muslim and Arab students.
A similar open letter was sent to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed a few weeks ago, with endorsements from students, alumni, staff and some-70 faculty members.
This letter cited a State Dept. document that confirms that U.S. citizens with Muslim or Arabic names have, on occasion, been given “Palestinian Authority Only” passport stamps.
The letter also called for a comparable program in Palestine, and included other arguments pertaining to safety and limited university funds.
“We received the letter, but they did not meet with us. It did not affect the program’s reinstatement,” Fallis said. “It was solely a security decision. We have a policy that when a state is put onto a list of travel warnings by the US State Dept., then we do not have our students travelling to those locations. There is built into the policy the possibility of exceptions being made.” Fallis said that the sole program to Israel will be coordinated by the CSU system-wide office with a single Israeli research university, the University of Haifa.
“The university that was chosen did appear to be in a more secure location,” Fallis said.
Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Emmanuelle Berdugo studied at Hebrew University last quarter through the UC Education Abroad Program.
“Overall the experience was amazing; I wasn’t stopped from doing anything I wanted to do except for going to the West Bank,” Berdugo said.
She also spoke of the measures taken at universities to ensure the safety of students.
“Even when I entered my dorm, I had to show my ID card. To enter the school you have through metal detectors and your backpack is checked,” Berdugo said.
According to Fallis, a CSU risk assessment team was also dispatched to Mexico late last year, but it is unknown how far along the process is.