We support Katherine Franke
We write to protest the refusal of the State of Israel to permit entry 
to Professor Katherine Franke of Columbia University Law School, along 
with Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional 
Rights. Franke and Warren arrived to meet with Israeli and Palestinian 
colleagues. They were questioned for 14 hours before being sent back 
home without entry. Professor Franke is a 
renowned scholar of gender, sexuality, civil rights, and human rights, and those who work closely with her recognize her as an academic fundamentally committed to justice and equality. She 
seeks to bring her insights into the law to the repair of society; 
indeed, her forthcoming book is entitled Repair: The Unfinished Business 
of Slavery.


While much of her work has focused on gender equality and civil rights 
for African Americans, Professor Franke has been deeply engaged in and 
concerned about the status of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. 
She has worked as a mentor to colleagues in human rights at Al-Quds 
University in Jerusalem. Professor Franke had travelled to Israel to 
meet with a PhD student at Al-Quds and to meet with faculty at Al-Najah 
University about a possible human rights master’s program. She is a 
member of the academic advisory council of Jewish Voice for Peace, an 
organization that supports elements of the BDS movement.


Presumably, it is Professor Franke’s affiliation with Jewish Voice for 
Peace and its position on BDS that led to her and Mr. Warren’s 
exclusion. The Knesset has passed a series of laws, most recently in 
2017, directed against those who support a boycott, including those who 
support a ban of settlement products in the occupied territories. In 
addition, and with the support of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Knesset 
has passed several bills and is actively considering others that are aimed at asserting the 
primacy of Jews over all others in Israeli society, as well as limiting 
the right to open and free expression. It is this deeply worrisome trend 
that Professor Franke and her colleagues protest. Deporting and denying 
entry to those with dissenting views is a clear sign of the erosion of 
democratic foundations in Israel.


The measure of a society’s commitment to democracy lies in its 
willingness to tolerate political views at odds with those of the ruling 
regime. We have seen examples around the world, from Turkey to Hungary, 
of increasing intolerance for dissenting views—and for the very 
principles of liberal democracy. By its latest action against Katherine 
Franke and Vincent Warren, the Israeli government has registered its own 
indifference to the core values of democracy. As Jewish Studies professors 
dedicated to free and open exchange, we call on our academic community and 
our academic institutions to stand in support of Professor Franke and the 
principles which were violated by the denial of entry. We also call on 
the Israeli government to reconsider its recent steps and permit 
Katherine Franke and all those who support peaceful change to enter the 
country.


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