Israel's Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon cancelled his participation in a conference organized by Columbia University in New York after a series of complaints were made by Jewish students.
The students claim that certain professors in the university's Middle Eastern Studies department hold clearly anti-Israel positions and discriminate against students who try to present different positions.
The conference, scheduled to take place on Thursday, is being organized by Columbia University's Center for International Conflict Resolution, of which former senator George Mitchell is a Senior Fellow.
Sources in the Israeli Embassy in Washington said Tuesday that Ayalon's decision not to participate in the event was made after consultations with the heads of the Jewish community in the United States, "due to Jewish students' claims of intimidation by university staff."
The sources noted that despite the importance the ambassador sees in maintaining academic freedom, all efforts should be made to ensure that this freedom is not exploited to intimidate students.
Columbia University, one of the most highly-respected institutions of higher education in the United States, established a committee to look into claims made by a dozen Jewish students that professors in the Middle Eastern Studies department use their classes to spread anti-Israel positions. The students also claimed that those professors do not allow Israel supporters to express their views in class.
Members of the Jewish community claimed recently that Columbia University does not adequately acknowledge the aforementioned complaints, and that the investigation has gone on for far too long.