Marc Lamont Hill is a professor at Morehouse College, frequent cable news commentator, and host of his own shows on BET and VH1.

Lamont Hill has voiced support for “revolutionary struggle” against Israel, which he recorded on a video for a Dream Defenders trip to express solidarity with Palestinians against Israel:

Lamont Hill also is a supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, specifically the academic boycott of Israel.

This spring Lamont Hill announced that he was voting in favor of a resolution at the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israeli academia under the expansive guidelines of the BDS movement. The boycott failed to pass by a very slim margin.

Among other things, the BDS academic boycott guidelines forbid any cooperation with Israeli academic institutions or any individual faculty members representing such institutions. Israeli universities are not permitted to attend conferences, and cooperation of any nature, including research, is barred. Student interactions are barred under the “anti-normalization” portion of the boycott. There are no exceptions based on field of study.

…  PACBI urges academics, academic associations/unions, and academic — as well as other — institutions around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israeli academic institutions or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights, or violate the BDS guidelines.

Specifically, the following events, activities, or situations are in violation of the Palestinian academic boycott:

2. Research and development activities that fall into these broad categories:

(a)    Among academic institutions – Institutional cooperation agreements with Israeli universities or research institutes. These agreements, concluded between international and Israeli academic institutions, typically involve the exchange of faculty and students and, more importantly, the conduct of joint research.  Many of these schemes are sponsored and funded by the European Union (in the case of Europe), and independent and government foundations elsewhere.

In light of Lamont Hill’s support for the academic boycott of Israel, I posed a question to him last April when I read about a joint cancer research project between The Technion in Israel and NY University, Question for @MarcLamontHill – How many must die for academic boycott of Israel?

Not long after I saw Lamont Hill’s annnouncement of his support for the academic boycott of Israel, I saw this article in the Jersusalem Post online, Haifa and NY researchers collaborate on treatment for two deadly cancers:

The Technion – Israel of Technology and New York University Langone Medical Center have initiated a joint cancer research project, targeting the most dangerous form of skin cancer, metastatic melanoma, and mesothelioma, a rare cancer that develops in the protective lining of the lungs and other internal organs.In the first joint collaboration, US and Israeli researchers will test the ability of a nanotechnology based on so-called “nanoghosts” to deliver the promising treatments.

In earlier studies, Technion researchers took a stem cell, removed its contents and then shaped a piece of the cell’s outer membrane into a vehicle to deliver treatments into the brain.

There are dozens if not hundreds of similar medical research projects cooperatively between Israeli higher education institutions and non-Israeli institutions. Under the official academic boycott guidelines, such cooperative projects are banned….

The American Anthropological Association boycott will be mostly symbolic (like that of other groups like the American Studies Association). So perhaps it’s viewed as a no-risk easy ideological and political choice for Lamont Hill and others AAA members. But if they support the BDS academic boycott of Israel for one field of study, they necessarily advance the boycott in all fields of study since BDS makes no exceptions for medical research. The academic boycott is the academic boycott, in for one field, in for all.

Which raises a question I tweeted to Lamont Hill. Since the Technion-NYU cancer research project would be banned under the academic boycott guidelines, How Many People Must Die for BDS?

I tweeted that question to Lamont Hill, and so did many others, but I never received a response.

The other day I read of another breakthrough cancer research project, this time at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with at least one foreign university. The Times of Israel reported, Tel Aviv University study may lead to melanoma cure:

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) say they have unraveled the metastatic mechanism of melanoma, the most aggressive of all skin cancers.

According to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the scientists discovered that before spreading from the epidermis — the outer layer of the skin where the disease originates — to other organs, a melanoma tumor sends out tiny vesicles containing molecules of microRNA. These cause morphological changes in the dermis — the inner layer of the skin — to prepare it to receive and transport the cancer cells. The researchers also found chemical substances that can stop the process and are therefore promising drug candidates.

“The threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin, but rather in its metastasis — in the tumor cells sent off to colonize in vital organs like the brain, lungs, liver and bones,” said research leader Dr. Carmit Levy of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at the TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine. “We have discovered how the cancer spreads to distant organs and found ways to stop the process before the metastatic stage.”

The TAU group worked in close collaboration with researchers from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer, Israel and the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel….

“Our study is an important step on the road to a full remedy for the deadliest skin cancer,” said Levy. “We hope that our findings will help turn melanoma into a nonthreatening, easily curable disease.”

It’s easy, in the soft subjects like the Humanities and Social Sciences, to view the academic boycott as having no serious consequences for anyone other than Israelis.

But one of the reasons over 250 university presidents, the major university associations, and the American Association of University Professors all oppose systematic boycotts, including the Israel boycott, is the destruction to the free exchange of ideas and scholarly exchanges of the sort that lead to medical and other advances.

To anthropologists and non-STEM academics, this may all seem like harmless virtue signalling.

But to cancer patients whose lives depend on the type of breakthrough research conducted by Israeli universities, often in cooperation with foreign universities, the academic boycott of Israel is no joke. It’s deadly serious.

So, should we boycott breakthrough cancer research because it is conducted at an Israeli academic institution?

I ask again, how many must die for BDS?


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