Boycotts, Benjamins and America’s university leaders

Boycott divestment sanctions 560
BDS movement [Public domain]
Educational institutions continue to use academic freedom arguments in opposition to BDS when money may be the more honest answer.

By David Klein | International Middle East Media Center | Sept 12, 2019

‘Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars.’
— Drew Faust, past president of Harvard University

Days of Palestine, September 11th, 2019

If there is one thing which unites American university presidents, it is opposition to the academic boycott of Israel.

The leaders of more than 250 universities have posted letters or made public statements denouncing the boycott. The provost and president of Johns Hopkins proclaimed, in a joint statement: “To curtail the freedom of institutions to participate in the exchange of ideas because of the policies of the government of the country where they reside is to strike at the very mission of our university.” Harvard’s president wrote, “Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars.” The president of California State University Northridge, where I teach, echoed the Chancellor of the 23 campus California State University system when she wrote, “The boycott tarnishes the gold standard of academic review and undermines academic freedom — the very heart of the academic enterprise.”

University leaders have placed a higher value on what they describe as academic freedom than to the opposition to racism and discrimination which the boycott seeks to rectify. However, by invoking academic freedom, they misrepresent the academic boycott of Israel. As with the boycott of Apartheid South African institutions, decades ago, the current boycott is not a denial of academic freedom, but rather an exercise of it, by scholars from around the world who choose not to collaborate with Israeli state institutions complicit in Israel’s apartheid policies. Examples of boycottable activities include conferences, symposia, workshops and study abroad programs convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions. The academic boycott of Israel is aimed at institutions, and does not target individuals such as research collaborators.

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