You don’t have to be “pro-Israel” to sign — only pro-academic freedom, pro-fairness, pro-intellectual honesty, pro-education and pro-peace.
The short version is that anti-Zionist, anti-Israel academic activists for years have maneuvered to take over professional organizations in order to bring the war against Israel home to campuses. Their biggest success to date is the ASA, but they continue their efforts elsewhere.
The loudest mouths get all the attention, while the majority of people in academia who do not support academic boycotts (of Israel or any other nation) mostly go about their business and watch from the sidelines.
There have been strong institutional expressions against academic BDS, most prominently by over 250 university presidents, the American Association of University Professors, and numerous higher education associations.
Now, a Petition is circulating that gives individuals on campus an opportunity to go on record against the academic boycott of Israel.
You don’t have to be “pro-Israel” to sign. You only need to be pro-academic freedom, pro-fairness, pro-intellectual honesty, pro-education and pro-peace.
The Petition quietly went live online last week, and already has over 500 signatures, including some very prominent academics from a wide variety of academic disciplines: International Petition to Oppose Boycotts of Israel’s Academic Institutions, Scholars and Students.
Legal Insurrection reader crowdsourcing was critical in responding to the ASA boycott. We can do it again by spreading the word as to the Petition on Facebook, Twitter and by personal contacts.
Here’s an excerpt from the Petition:
We, the undersigned academics, (faculty, full time and part time, academic staff including librarians, researchers, post doctorates,technicians and technologists, administrators, and trustees) vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students.
Our opposition is rooted in the following core principles.
1. Academic freedom: The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement discriminates against Israeli institutions, professors, and students for no other reason than their nationality and the policies of their government. Thus BDS violates the very principle of academic freedom….
2. Truth: The factual record does not support the accusations and narratives of the BDS movement. Many are based on overstatements, cherry picked evidence, outright falsehood, or on disputed or highly biased data.
3. Peace: The two-state solution …. By demonizing and seeking to isolate one of the two parties to the peace process, the anti-Israel BDS movement sets itself apart from the global consensus for peace.
4. Access to World-leading Scholarship: BDS would have the practical impact of undermining academic cooperation and would deprive universities significant Israeli contributions in many academic areas, especially scientific research….
If you are faculty (present and emeritus), academic staff (e.g., librarians, researchers), administrators, trustees or a graduate student, please sign.
If you know someone who fits that description, please forward the link to them (or forward this post).
If you have any doubts, read this amazing Reunion Speech by Legal Insurrection reader Nevet Basker, which she delivered recently to her Stanford University class reunion, and which she has given permission for us to reprint:
September 7, 2014
[At the request of some of my classmates, I am posting here the comments I made at a TED-style talk at our recent reunion.]
I am here to talk about Israel, the American Studies Association boycott, and the role of Stanford University.
First, let’s make sure that everyone who’s here wants to be here. If you don’t want to hear about this subject, this is your chance to leave. Even if you never found the “Delete” function of your email system, you can still opt out of the discussion.
For those still here: Thank you for your interest, or at least willingness to listen. I would have preferred to have a dialog, an interactive discussion. I welcome your thoughts and feedback later, in person, by email, or in the Comments section below.
Second, a disclaimer: I was born and raised in Israel, but I am not a spokesperson or apologist for the Israeli government. I have plenty of criticism of various Israeli policies. I also have criticism of some American policies. But I’m still a proud American, and a proud Israeli.
In December 2013, the American Studies Association adopted a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The ASA is the professional organization for scholars and professors in the field of American Studies. Basically, they decided that they will no longer invite Israeli colleagues to their conferences, review their papers, or collaborate with them in any way. Stanford University issued a statement “rejecting” the boycott, but maintained its institutional membership in the ASA.
The American Studies Association boycott is anti-academic, discriminatory, and anti-peace.
A boycott, any boycott, is inherently anti-academic. A university is supposed to be a place for an open exchange of ideas. The original Latin word means “a community of masters and scholars.” Its very essence is intellectual interchange that is free from political or other external pressures. Rejecting or refusing to work with some scholars because of their politics, or because of their geographic origin or ethnic identity, is the antithesis of academia. It is an affront to the very notions of scholarly discourse and academic liberty.
The boycott is also biased and bigoted. Obviously, the organization is hypocritical in singling out Israel while being completely silent about massive atrocities and human rights abuses from Nigeria to Crimea and from the Islamic State to Tibet.
But even if they only wanted to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, believing—as some do—that it’s the most pressing geopolitical issue of our time, it’s still unfair. The American Studies Association puts the entire blame for a decades-old conflict on one side. It condemns only Israel, absolving the Palestinians from any responsibility whatsoever.
Does this even pass the smell test? Have you ever encountered a dispute, in any arena, where one side is completely right and the other completely wrong? What kind of fair-minded or impartial observer would uncritically accept such a position?
By the way, boycotting Israeli academics and condemning Israel is not pro-Palestinian. It’s just anti-Israel. There are many valid, useful ways to support the Palestinian people; shutting down discourse is not one of them. This should not be a zero-sum game, just as being pro-American does not require you to be anti-Canada.
This brings me to the biggest reason that the ASA boycott is wrong, as is Stanford’s complicity in it. They are anti-peace. Like most Israelis, I was raised on the hope for peace. The founding document of the modern-day State of Israel, its Declaration of Independence, “extend[s a] hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal[s] to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help.”
The simple truth is that peace requires a willingness to cooperate, to coexist, to live side by side in peace and security. It requires mutual understanding, mutual respect, mutual recognition, and mutual effort. It requires people living together, working together, studying and researching together. It requires engagement and open dialog, not isolation. We need more conversations, more listening, not less. Boycotts are the opposite of dialog and coexistence; they are an obstacle to peace.
The ASA boycott has even hurt our own community. It has alienated me from our alma mater, an otherwise proud association. It has driven a wedge between some of our classmates who found themselves on different sides in this debate, or debating whether this is even a legitimate debate at all.
Please choose peace. Reject academic boycotts. Fight discriminatory, one-sided, politically driven condemnation of Israel. Reject efforts to isolate scholars by those who disagree with a country’s policies. Please join me in asking Stanford University to support dialog and engagement, not boycotts. Ask Stanford to end its affiliation with the American Studies Association for its bigoted, shortsighted, and anti-peace position. Let’s work toward a future that is defined by peace, engagement, and dialog rather than conflict and boycotts.
Update 9-24-2014 — as of this morning, the petition has passed 900 signatures, almost all of them faculty members.
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