Letter to the editor: DeSantis in Israel

David Jaffee

**Letters to the editor are written and submitted by Spinnaker readers**

If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, contact us at [email protected].

As a member of the UNF faculty, I was disappointed to see officials from the university participating in Governor DeSantis’s politically motivated junket to Israel, while also establishing a partnership agreement with the University of Haifa.

There are many Florida citizens asking why the governor chose to send 100 members of political, business, religious, and educational organizations, presumably at taxpayer expense, on this so-called “trade mission” to Israel?

One clear answer can be found in the participation of Sheldon Adelson – a GOP megadonor, hardline supporter of Israel and the right-wing Netanyahu government and, not so coincidentally, a huge campaign contributor to DeSantis ($800,000 to his gubernatorial campaign).  Almost every media source has also noted that the trip is designed to win over Florida’s Jewish voters for Republicans and Trump in 2020.

Universities, of all institutions, should be sensitive to being used for cynical political purposes, and programs established with foreign universities should also be subject to faculty input and deliberation.

Furthermore, there is longstanding, widespread, and justifiable concern about Israel’s human rights record regarding the treatment of the Palestinian population. Recently, Israel was formally and legally declared the “nation-state of the Jewish people” further marginalizing the non-Jewish citizens of the country.

As a result, many academics support the peaceful and nonviolent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which includes an academic boycott. BDS is designed to place pressure on Israel to modify its oppressive domestic policies toward the Palestinians.

DeSantis has attacked BDS as anti-Semitic. This is the time-honored, but shopworn, strategy to silence any criticism of Israel. But its effectiveness is fast diminishing as increasing numbers of US citizens, given the billions in aid from the US, reasonably expect Israel to adhere to basic international human rights principles.

It is my hope that the faculty at Florida’s universities will consider the full range of issues when deciding whether to participate in the various partnership agreements being forged in their name.

Universities and their faculty should not allow themselves to be used as political pawns.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].