WASHINGTON (JTA) – Yeshiva University and its affiliated Cardozo School of Law backed the right of a student-run journal to honor former President Jimmy Carter.
A number of alumni are objecting to the decision by the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, run by students in the Manhattan-based law school’s Program for Conflict Resolution, to award its International Advocate for Peace Award this year to Carter.
Statements from the leadership of the law school and the university backed the students’ academic freedoms.
"The students have made this decision based on President Carter’s achievements, and we support their right to do so," John DeNatale, the director of communications for Cardozo, said in a statement Monday.
Richard Joel, the Yeshiva University president, emphasized that the decision to invite Carter, who brokered the Camp David Israel-Egypt peace accords, was the journal’s.
"While he has been properly lauded for his role in the Camp David Accords of 1978, I strongly disagree with many of President Carter’s statements and actions in recent years which have mischaracterized the Middle East conflict and have served to alienate those of us who care about Israel," Joel said in a statement.
"President Carter’s presence at Cardozo in no way represents a university position on his views, nor does it indicate the slightest change in our steadfastly pro-Israel stance. That said, Yeshiva University both celebrates and takes seriously its obligation as a university to thrive as a free marketplace of ideas while remaining committed to its unique mission as a proud Jewish university."
The Forward quoted one alumnus as saying that a dozen or so alumni would attempt to block Carter physically from receiving the award on Wednesday. A group calling itself The Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni set up a website called Shame on Cardozo for Honoring Jimmy Carter.
Another alumnus, Yishai Fleisher, wrote in the Jewish Press that criticism of the award should be left to Cardozo students, noting his own organizing of protests of the journal’s award to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another harsh Israel critic, in 2003.
The critics of this year’s award focus particularly on Carter’s likening Israel’s West Bank policies to apartheid and to his meetings with Hamas leaders. Carter wrote a 2006 book called "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."
Some of his meetings with leaders of Hamas, a terrorist group, involved relaying messages from the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive by the group from 2006 to 2011.