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Say NO to Academic Boycott of Israel

January 2014

Newsletter Article February/March 2014

NOTE:  For the list of colleges and universities that have publically rejected the ASA boycott, click here.


 Not everything bad that happens to Jews is anti-Semitic. But some things are.

 In December, the American Studies Association called for an academic boycott of Israel, asking universities to cut off relations with Israeli scholars and universities to protest the Palestinian situation.

 According to the New York Times:

The American Studies Association has never before called for an academic boycott of any nation’s universities, said Curtis Marez, the group’s president… He did not dispute that many nations, including many of Israel’s neighbors, are generally judged to have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s, or comparable, but he said, “one has to start somewhere.”

Of course. Let’s start with the only democracy in the Middle East. The country with the greatest academic freedom in the Middle East. The country where this year’s valedictorian at the Technion, Israel’s MIT, was Mais Ali-Saleh, an Arab woman. (Could someone show me an Arab country where a Jew was even allowed to study in a state-run university… or a woman?) Yes, “starting” with Israel makes perfect sense, but only because the goal is to single out Jews and destroy the Jewish state, not to bring justice to the world.

 The Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) Movement does not seek to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel; its goal is to create one state, ruled by Palestinians. Those who participate in the BDS process can make any pious claims they wish, but the founders of the movement are clear that their intention is to eliminate the one Jewish State in the world.

 I wonder what the ASA makes of the fact that Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS Movement, has a Masters Degree in Philosophy from Tel Aviv University. When he was asked to comment on this strange state of affairs Mr. Barghouti responded, “My studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting.” More telling, the University received a petition with over 184,000 signatories demanding that he be expelled. But in the name of academic freedom, he was not expelled. Bravo, ASA: I wonder if your boycott means you now won’t allow Barghouti to speak at your conferences, either?

 If the ASA “has to start somewhere,” why not with the worst offenders? Why not with China, which arrests teachers who don’t toe the party line? Or, as a colleague of mine suggested, why not start alphabetically, with the A’s: Afghanistan, where girls are shot for trying to go to school, then Albania, then Algeria…

 But Marez, the ASA president, explained that Israel was chosen because no civil organizations in the other countries have asked the ASA for a boycott. Honest, I’m not making that up. Apparently the 120 Tibetan Buddhists who have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese oppression don’t constitute a recognizable cry for help.

Anti-Semitism is illegal in the United States and in most of Europe, which is why anti-Israel actions are now the new, kosher anti-Semitism. “We don’t hate Jews, we just don’t believe Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state” is supposed to reassure everyone that the people making that statement are not biased in any way. But they are, and we need to oppose them as strongly as we would oppose a swastika painted on someone’s house.

 How do we oppose them? Here is how: As I write this in early January, one hundred colleges and universities have publicly rejected the ASA boycott. The list of schools is available at If you are an alum of any of these schools, and especially if you give money to that school, write to them and thank them for standing up to anti-Semitism. If your school is not listed, write and ask them why not. Tell them how disgusted you are by the actions of the ASA, and ask them to make a public statement denouncing the ASA’s actions and withdraw funding for their professors to belong to and attend ASA events. Explain that ASA’s actions are not anti-Israel, they are anti-Jewish. You might also add that if the university is looking to cut expenses this would be a good place to start, because, in the ASA’s words, “you have to start somewhere.” When you write, ask for a response. Let them know you care deeply about this, and will follow up to see what, if anything, is done.

 In South Africa this past September, BDS activists protested the appearance of an Israeli jazz musician. At the protest rally one of the leaders stood up and called for the demonstrators to “shoot the Jew.” Not the Israeli; the Jew. He later defended his call as an appropriate slogan for the movement, because “Jew” and “Israeli” are synonymous.

 No matter what your views are on Israel’s policies, we need to take his words to heart. It’s time for us to wake up and take action. Now.


                                                                                                Rabbi Don Weber

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