Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Boycotting Israeli Universities Is Wrong

Three small academic associations, the American Studies Association being the most prominent of them, have endorsed a call for academic boycott of Israeli institutions. They claim they will not target individuals, but rather Israeli universities, colleges and research centers, and people representing those institutions as deans, presidents, etc. That's bullshit, for several reasons:

  • Had the boycott been enforceable, American scholars wishing to go to conferences in Israel or publish in journals published by Israeli universities would not be able to do so, because it would constitute cooperation with the institutions themselves.
  • University administrators would not be able to present their academic work, unrelated to their positions as administrators.
  • There is a chilling effect on all Israeli scholars. As someone who is not a university official, I am not technically the target of this boycott, but I would never go to a conference organized by the ASA or any other organization that supports the boycott of Israel. It would be a hostile environment for me as an Israeli. I would not feel welcomed there, perhaps unless I was a far left-wing anti-Zionist.
Other than that, the academic boycott, just like all other forms of BDS against Israel, is extremely simple-minded. In effect, it puts all the blame for the conflict on Israel. It does not recognize the fact that it takes both sides to solve this problem. 

And how do you solve the problem? The original Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS takes the most anti-Israel stance possible:

"These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."
I agree with Point 2, but 1 and 3 are problematic, to say the least. In Point 1, what constitutes "all Arab lands" - the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights or Israel proper as well? Point 3 is something Israelis in their right minds can never agree to.

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