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January 09, 2014 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-01-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Showing Support

Nationwide, universities find Israeli boycott violates academic freedom.

Jerusalem Post and JTA


ore than 90 American universi-
ties have so far released state-
ments rejecting the American
Studies Association (ASA) decision to
boycott Israeli academic institutions, and
several have cut ties with the organiza-
tion in protest.
Brandeis University, Indiana
University, Kenyon College and Penn
State Harrisburg withdrew their mem-
bership in the ASA in protest of the boy-
cott decision. Among the more notewor-
thy universities that rejected the boycott
were Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, New
York University, Yale and Dartmouth
The Conference of Presidents of
Major American Jewish Organizations
expressed appreciation to university
presidents and chancellors who "stood
up against this discriminatory and
unjustified measure and rejected the
ASA boycott of Israel:'
"This is now a clarion call to reject
the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
movement and assure that American
campuses are not subverted for extrem-
ist political ends," said Conference
of Presidents chairman Robert G.
Sugarman and executive vice chairman
Malcolm Hoenlein.
The 5,000-member ASA announced
last month that one-third of its members
had participated in an online vote that

endorsed a boycott of Israeli universi-
ties and academic institutions. The
Native American and Indigenous Studies
Association (NAISA) decided to join the
boycott as well shortly thereafter. The
Association for Asian American Studies
was the first to join the boycott in April
The ASA language, previously
approved unanimously by the organiza-
tion's national council, claims there is
"no effective or substantive academic
freedom for Palestinian students and
scholars under conditions of Israeli occu-
pation;" blames the United States for
"enabling" the occupation; and endorses
"a boycott of Israeli academic institu-

Disapproval Expressed

Many major academic organizations
have condemned the boycott or other-
wise expressed their disapproval.
Molly Corbett, president of the
American Council on Education — an
umbrella group that covers 1,800 institu-
tions and claims to be the "most visible
and influential higher education associa-
tion" in the U.S. — issued a statement on
Sunday that "such actions are misguided
and greatly troubling as they strike at
the heart of academic freedom ... We
hope the leadership of these organiza-
tions [that support the boycott] soon
reconsiders their actions and trust that
other scholarly organizations will see the

troubling implications of such boycotts
and avoid [a] similar vote."
The Association of American
Universities (AAU) and the American
Association of University Professors
(AAUP) similarly expressed their opposi-
tion to the boycott.
"Academic freedom ... is a principle
that should not be abridged by political
"American colleges and universities, as
well as like institutions elsewhere, must
stand as the first line of defense against
attacks on academic freedom:' wrote
AAU chairman William C. Powers, also
president of the University of Texas at
Austin, in a statement.
Closer to home, Michigan State
University President Lou Anna K. Simon,
a member of the AAU executive com-
mittee, signed and
endorsed the commit-
tee's statement strongly
opposing the Israeli
academic boycott. That
statement has become
a model for follow-up
statements from univer-
Lou Anna
sity presidents.
In a social media
statement, Ken Waltzer,
director, MSU Jewish Studies, said, "The
MSU Jewish Studies Program stands
against and opposes any efforts to engage
in an academic or cultural boycott of
Israel ... The anti-Zionism in the ASA

statement also extends beyond the occu-
pation, which all democratic people must
oppose, to the existence of Israel itself,
which we strongly affirm."
He says Jewish studies continues its
relations with Hebrew University (annual
summer program); with Ben-Gurion
University, Haifa University and Tel Aviv
University (exchange programs); with
Tel Hai College and with Kibbutz Lotan
(occasional Green Israel summer pro-
grams); and with the Jewish National
Library and with Yad Vashem and Ghetto
Fighters House (faculty research).
"We continue to explore new ways
to work with Israeli institutions and to
bring Israeli fellows to the MSU cam-
pus to teach students
and enliven our fac-
ulty community and
academic program,"
Waltzer said.
Additionally, Waltzer
is serving on the steer-
ing committee for the
Ken Waltzer
International Grassroots
Faculty Committee for
Academic Freedom and Integrity that is
forming. Already more than 100 active
members are on more than 60 campuses.
Their politics may vary widely, he says,
but they share a commitment to academ-
ic freedom. Waltzer is drafting a mission
statement for the group.
At the University of Michigan,
President Mary Sue Coleman and

Viewpoint Denied

Academic conference to offer panel of BDS supporters only.

JNS. org


he pro-Israel campus groups
Hillel International and the
Israel on Campus Coalition
(ICC) have been denied the right to pres-
ent a discussion on Israel at the Jan. 9-12
Modern Language Association (MLA)
convention in Chicago, INS. org has
MIAs convention includes a round-
table discussion that will feature sup-
porters but no opponents of the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
movement against Israel. The discus-
sion — titled "Academic Boycotts: A
Conversation about Israel and Palestine"

24 January 9 • 2014

— is seen as a possible precursor to an
MLA academic boycott of Israel, which
would mirror recent boycotts by the
American Studies Association and the
Native American and Indigenous Studies
The MLA convention will consider
a resolution that condemns Israel for
alleged "arbitrary denials of entry to
Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. aca-
demics who have been invited to teach,
confer or do research at Palestinian uni-
Hillel and the ICC asked the
30,000-member MLA for the chance
to present what they called an "open
discussion featuring MLA members

regarding academic freedom in Israel, its
territories and Gaza," but MLA said the
deadline to book a meeting at the con-
vention had passed.
The existing MLA session's speakers
will include BDS movement co-founder
Omar Barghouti; University of Texas
professor Barbara Jane Harlow, a sup-
porter of the ASA boycott of Israel;
University of Southern California profes-
sor of English David Lloyd, a well-known
BDS activist; and Wesleyan University
professor Richard Ohmann, who signed
a 2009 letter that described Israeli treat-
ment of Palestinians as "one of the most
massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern
times." University of Texas professor

Samer M. Ali, who publicly defended the
ASA boycott, organized the roundtable.
"We believe the members of the MLA
deserve to hear a far more diverse set of
perspectives on the issue of academic
freedom in Israel and nearby countries.
The MLA members, as academics,
certainly can appreciate the value of
multiple perspectives on what is a very
controversial issue:' ICC's Baime said.
ICC and Hillel said they are now con-
sidering organizing a "balancing panel"
discussion at a nearby location during
the MLA convention. The panel would
feature MLA members who oppose the
anti-Israel resolution being considered at
the convention.

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