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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Amid Boycott Calls: Boost to Academic and Scientific Collaborations

06.06.18
Editorial Note

Academic collaboration is on the rise in recent years. Universities UK, the umbrella body for vice-chancellors in the UK, issued a statement on 3 June, 2015  aimed to “confirm its previously stated position that it is firmly opposed to any academic boycott of Israeli universities [and that it is] firmly opposes academic boycotts on the basis that they are inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics”. 

Last March, the Times Higher Education reported that the UK Universities Minister Sam Gyimah spoke in an event marking the launch of BIRAX Ageing, a new £5 million fund for bilateral Anglo-Israeli research projects and said he is planning to visit to Israel to “deepen our collaboration in scientific research and innovation”.

Last week Mr. Gyimah has visited Israel and signed several agreements to boost academic and scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel.  The agreements are being supported by multi-year programmes to be paid by the two governments.  


During a meeting between representatives of British universities and the heads of universities in Israel, Sir Steve Smith, President of Exeter University, reiterated the “commitment of the British Universities Union against any academic boycott with an emphasis on Israel and the importance of not allowing political or other issues to harm the cooperation between the institutions.”  

While this is a step forward, there were also some negative developments taking place this week. The British University and College Union has held a Congress on the 30 May. Notion number 32 was titled "Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, and the Defence of Jeremy Corbyn". The congress noted an ‘anti-Corbyn campaign’ which "conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism" and is "a thinly-veiled attack on Palestine solidarity and BDS."

BDS also targeted a chemistry conference held in Jerusalem, titled "The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences" from 3 to 7 of June.  The advocate of this initiative is David Klein, mathematics professor at California State University, Northridge.  In a letter, he urged conference participants to honor the call by Palestinian academics and civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel since the conference is sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and is billed as a celebration of “the 70th birthday of the State of Israel.”  Klein is a member of The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) and his letter was endorsed also by other members of the USACBI. 

The letter presents the key BDS requirements, that Israel "Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Apartheid Wall;  Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."


The BDS activists stated in the letter: "We call to your attention that the academic boycott of Israel is directed solely at Israeli institutions, not individual academics. It is regrettable that many in the scientific community have chosen to denounce the academic boycott of Israeli institutions utilizing the justification of protecting academic freedom. That justification is misdirected. Participation in the academic and cultural boycott is not a denial of academic freedom, it is an exercise of academic freedom. It is a choice not to participate in joint projects with Israeli institutions, which are deeply complicit with Israel’s program of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies."


The old trope of Israeli apartheid is belied by everyday reality.  For instance, just a few days ago Prof. Faisal Azaiza, the Dean of Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at the University of Haifa congratulated Prof. Mona Khoury-Kassabri on her new promotion on the Academia-IL network: "Joining the greetings to Prof. Mona Khoury-Kassabri on her appointment as the Dean of the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University. A proper appointment. Good luck.”  It is hard to imagine such a promotion in South Africa under apartheid.  


Equally important, the claims that BDS targets Israeli institutions alone and not individual academics is equally false.  A new book, Anti-Zionism on Campus,   is detailing harrowing experiences of faculty-on-faculty and students abuse. Co-edited by Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar, the 438 pages comprise of 24 chapters (out of 33) of staff who personally experienced what could be described as an "all-out assault on Jewish identity on campuses,” from private and public universities and colleges.  


review of this book written by Miriam Ellman notes "Some of the chilling, disturbing, and highly personal case studies of intimidation and harassment... how unhinged anti-Israel hostility is corrupting the academy on just about every level—from scholarship and the production of knowledge to teaching and the free exchange of ideas."  


Anti-Zionism on Campus "meticulously documents how anti-Israelists promote their cause on college and university campuses, and the deleterious effect that they have had on the campus environment over the past 15 or so years. In particular, the book shows how this hostility often morphs  into straightforward antisemitism. It includes accounts  written by undergraduate students at the University of Michigan, UCLA, Stanford University, Oberlin College, CUNY’s John Jay College, Brown University and the University of Missouri. They each recount their own painful experiences during their college years, especially how toxic anti-Israel BDS campaigns tried to turn their Jewishness into a source of shame—“an inescapably innate sin and stain... The book shows how pro-BDS activism on the part of faculty corrodes scholarship, teaching, and basic collegiality and civility without which an institution cannot run. At least on some campuses, it’s turning intellectual arenas allegedly devoted to the free exchange of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge into ideologically-driven activist training grounds that suppress all dissent."


Contrary to the claims of the USACBI, the book shows that "The anti-Israel BDS movement on campus targets individual faculty, staff, and students for harm—and isn’t only directed toward Israel’s institutions of higher learning. One of the enduring falsehoods peddled by pro-BDS campus proponents is that the campaign to boycott Israel’s universities and colleges isn’t aimed at individual faculty or students and so doesn’t cause them any harm. Nearly every chapter in Anti-Zionism on Campus shows exactly how absurd this claim is."


To borrow from the book introduction, "Those in the academy who support Israel, or who merely don’t despise Israel, are finding it increasingly difficult to speak up without risking verbal attack, social and professional ostracization, setbacks to their careers, and sometimes even physical threats. As a result, the Israel-friendly (or merely non-anti-Israel) voice on campuses around the world and in the global “republic of letters” is rapidly being silenced. The implications of this phenomenon, not only for Jews but also, we believe, for free speech, for the academy, and for Western values in general, are chilling. Where some might see in Israel a prosperous (if flawed) liberal democracy, or the only modern example of an indigenous people reclaiming lost sovereignty over its homeland, the new campus orthodoxy sees only an apartheid regime founded on racism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and colonialist imperialism. Zionism, it believes, can be neither defended nor corrected, because the very idea of a Jewish state in that region depends on the dispossession of others and because the concept of Jewish democracy is an offensive oxymoron that can only perpetuate the unjust and discriminatory status quo. Israel and Zionism are thus cast as illegitimate, incorrigible abominations."

Anyone who reads these recollections is bound to realize that the BDS campaign with its occasional anti-Semitic overtones is not about the impersonal “institution.”  Institutions are made up of people - in this case students and faculty - and the BDS  campaigners are out to hurt, demoralize, and silence individuals related to Israel unless they support BDS. 

 




Anti-Zionism on Campus The University, Free Speech, and BDS 
Andrew Pessin 
Publication Year: 2018

Contents
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction and Overview: The Silencing / Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar 1

I. Scholars’ Essays
1 BDS and Self-Righteous Moralists / Dan Avnon 43
2 Consensus, Canadian Trade Unions, and Intellectuals for Hamas / Julien Bauer 58
3 Bullies at the Pulpit / Doron S. Ben-Atar 66
4 A Traumatic Professorial Education: Anti-Zionism and Homophobia in a Serial Campus Hate Crime / Corinne E. Blackmer 75
5 Slouching toward the City That Never Stops: How a Left-Orientalist Anti-Israel Faculty Tour Forced Me to Say Something (Big Mistake!) / Gabriel Noah Brahm 83
6 On Radio Silence and the Video That Saved the Day: The Attack against Professor Dubnov at the University of California San Diego, 2012 / Shlomo Dubnov 91
7 Fraser versus the University College Union: A Personal Reflection / Ronnie Fraser 105
8 If You Are Not With Us: The National Women’s Studies Association and Israel / Janet Freedman 122
9 Rhodes University, Not a Home for All: A Progressive Zionist’s Two-Year Odyssey / Larissa Klazinga 134
10 Loud and Fast versus Slow and Quiet: Responses to Anti-Israel Activism on Campus / Jeffrey Kopstein 142
11 A Controversy at Harvard / Martin Kramer 151
12 Attempts to Exclude Pro-Israel Views from Progressive Discourse: Some Case Studies from Australia / Philip Mendes 163
13 Anti-Israel Antisemitism in England / Richard Millett 174
14 Conspiracy Pedagogy on Campus: BDS Advocacy, Antisemitism, and Academic Freedom / Cary Nelson 190
15 When Did We Abandon Academic Integrity for Academic Freedom? / Denise Nussbaum 212
16 BDS and Zionophobic Racism / Judea Pearl 224
17 Friday, November 13, 2015, at the University of Texas, Austin: Anti-Zionists on the Attack / Ami Pedahzur and Andrew Pessin 236
18 Colonel Richard Kemp at the University of Sydney, Australia, March 11, 2015 / Jan Poddebsky, Peter Keeda, and Clive Kessler 253
19 “Oh! Now I’ve Got You!”: In the Sights of Anti-Israelists at the Claremont Colleges / Yaron Raviv 266
20 The Magic of Myth: Fashioning the BDS Narrative in the New Anthropology / David M. Rosen 280
21 Retaliation: The High Price of Speaking Out about Campus Antisemitism and What It Means for Jewish Students / Tammi Rossman-Benjamin 298
22 A Field Geologist in Politicized Terrain / Jill S. Schneiderman 317
23 Fanatical Anti-Zionism and the Degradation of the University: What I Have Learned in Buffalo / Ernest Sternberg 333
24 What Is It like to Be an (Assertive) Israeli Academic Abroad? / Elhanan Yakira 348

II. Students’ Essays
25 A Wake-Up Call at the University of Michigan / Jesse Arm 357
26 On Leaving the University of California, Los Angeles, Due to Hostile and Unsafe Campus Climate / Milan Chatterjee 363
27 Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions and Antisemitism at Stanford University / Molly Horwitz 366
28 On Being Pro-Israel, and Jewish, at Oberlin College / Eliana Kohn 372
29 Battling Anti-Zionism at City University of New York John Jay College / Tomer Kornfeld 379
30 Students for Justice in Palestine at Brown University / Jared Samilow 384
31 Battling Anti-Zionism at the University of Missouri / Daniel Swindell 390

III. Concluding Thoughts
32 Inconclusive, Unscientific Postscript: On the Purpose of the University, and a Ray of Hope / Andrew Pessin 401
Index 409
 
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UK science agreements with Israel will bring advancements on Artificial Intelligence

JC Reporter June 3, 2018

Deals between 'innovation power houses' signed during minister's visit to Israel

Science Minister Sam Gyimah has signed landmark agreements which will boost academic and scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel.

The deals, initialled during Mr Gyimah’s visit to Israel and the occupied territories, will focus on advancements around ageing and Artificial Intelligence. Working with partners in Israel, the UK will look to develop technologies and opportunities in these areas.

“There are so many strategic opportunities for these two innovation power houses,” the minister said. “Increased collaboration will help to realise this potential.

“Many of the challenges we face, from an ageing society to disruption caused by AI and big data, are felt around the world. We need to work with our international partners, like Israel, to ensure we take advantage of these global changes and improve people’s lives for the better.” 

The government to government agreement, signed with the Israel Innovation Authority, is being supported by a multi-year £4 million bilateral programme, receiving £2 million in funding from each country.

Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry, Eli Cohen, said the agreement would drive economic growth for both partners. 

"The goal is to create partnerships in which British companies help Israeli innovations go global - and Israeli innovation gives British companies a global competitive edge."

During his visit, Mr Gyimah also formally announced the opening of the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership, focusing on exploring the ageing process and helping companies and researchers come up with innovative treatments.
 
 
 
================================================



UK universities oppose boycotting Israeli academia
University union head and President of Exeter University Sir Steve Smith declares official stance of British universities as being opposed to academic boycotts of Israel which are ‘hostile to academic freedom.’
Adir Yanko|Published:  06.04.18 , 09:02

British universities oppose an academic boycott of Israel, according to a statement made last week by the head of the international arm of the University Association of Britain and the President of Exeter University, Sir Steve Smith.

 

 

During a meeting between representatives of British universities and the heads of universities in Israel, Smith emphasized to the heads of the latter the “commitment of the British Universities Union against any academic boycott with an emphasis on Israel and the importance of not allowing political or other issues to harm the cooperation between the institutions.”

 


The explicit resistance by Britain comes in the wake of several attempts to implement an academic boycott of Israel. Such calls were made by university heads and senior officials in the higher education system in Norway, Ireland and the United States, among others.

 

 

In addition to what he told the Israeli academic leaders personally, Smith also sent a written statement on the subject to the British Universities Union, which was approved in 2015, and which also strongly opposes an academic boycott of Israel.

 

"The British University Committee is committed to the free sharing of ideas between universities and in academia,” the statement said, “regardless of nationality and place. Therefore the committee strongly opposes an academic boycott on the grounds that it is hostile to academic freedom, including academic freedom to cooperate with one another."

 

 

It further stated that “the committee wishes to ratify its previous position regarding the boycott of Israeli universities."

 

 

Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter and the British Minister of Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Sam Gyimah published a joint statement emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the two countries.

 

"We welcome any statement condemning the phenomenon of an academic boycott of Israel," said Prof. Klafter, "and call upon the European university unions to adopt similar statements."

 

 

Last week, the Council for Higher Education approved the university's code of ethics, granting independence to Israeli academic institutions to apply it in accordance with their worldview. In this context, the most relevant section of the code is a ban on support by Israeli scholars and lecturers of academic boycotts of Israel. 

 

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Letter to participants in Jerusalem chemistry conference calls them to join the academic boycott
 

The following letter was sent to the participants in “The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences,” a conference taking place in Jerusalem from June 3-7, 2018. Sponsored by major Israeli academic institutions, including the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the conference is billed as a celebration of “the 70th birthday of the State of Israel.” Initiated by USACBI Organizing Collective member and mathematician Prof. David Klein and signed by many members of the OC, the letter urges participants to honor the call by Palestinian academics and civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel until it recognizes and implements Palestinian human rights:

 

Letter to Participants of the Conference, The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences, Jerusalem, June 3-7, 2018

May 27, 2018

Dear Distinguished Professor;

We write as representatives of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(USABCI) to urge you to reconsider your participation in the forthcoming conference, The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences to be held in Jerusalem next month.We ask instead that you consider acting in concert with thousands of academics and many academic associations and honor the call by Palestinian academics and civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel [1], until Israel:

1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Apartheid Wall;

2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

In 2013, the leading physicist, Stephen Hawking, honored requests from Palestinian scientists and cancelled his scheduled participation in an Israeli conference [2].

We call to your attention that the academic boycott of Israel is directed solely at Israeli institutions, not individual academics. It is regrettable that many in the scientific community have chosen to denounce the academic boycott of Israeli institutions utilizing the justification of protecting academic freedom [3]. That justification is misdirected. Participation in the academic and cultural boycott is not a denial of academic freedom, it is an exercise of academic freedom [4]. It is a choice not to participate in joint projects with Israeli institutions, which are deeply complicit with Israel’s program of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.

Rather than Israeli scholars, it is Palestinian academics who suffer denial of academic freedom in its most violent and extreme forms. Israel’s assaults on the right to education and academic freedom for Palestinians have been unrelenting. During the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, for example, there were 31 attacks on Al-Quds University from which 2473 people were injured, 5121 tear gas canisters and bullets were shot, and 276 people were interrogated by Israeli intelligence. During the 2013-2014 academic year alone, at Al-Quds University, 640 lectures had to be cancelled, more than 830 students were treated for tear gas injuries, 1000 students had to cancel registration attendance, and more than 12,000 students were forced to evacuate the university on three occasions because of Israeli-inflicted violence [5].

The University of Gaza has been bombed multiple times [6]. Birzeit University in the West Bank has been closed down at least 15 times by the Israeli military, and its former president, Dr. Hanna Nasir, a physicist, was deported and was forced to carry out his administrative duties in exile for 19 years [7]. Israel has destroyed or damaged hundreds of Palestinian schools, even kindergartens [8].

Israeli military authorities forbid students from Gaza to attend universities in the West Bank, and vice versa, and the system of Israeli checkpoints that crisscrosses the West Bank makes school attendance nearly impossible for Palestinian students. Palestinian researchers are regularly denied permission to travel abroad to attend conferences and participate in joint projects. And Palestinian students with Israeli citizenship face institutionalized discrimination [9].

Israeli universities regularly cooperate with the military, reducing the occupied territories to giant open-air laboratories in order to test weapons, surveillance and biometric technology, develop crowd control and cyber warfare, and even study a so-called “Arab mentality”. The recent massacre of nonviolent protesters in Gaza, including shootings of medical personnel and even young children, underscores the need for international pressure to stop to the carnage.

In the words of Nobel Peace prize laureate Desmond Tutu, “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” [10]

All forms of international intervention thus far have failed to move Israel to comply with international law and to end its brutal repression of the Palestinian people. We ask for your help to bring this intolerable situation to an end.

Sincerely,

David Klein, (contact: david.klein@csun.edu)
Professor of Mathematics
California State University Northridge
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Ahmed Abbes, Mathematician,
Research Director at the CNRS, Paris
Liaison to USACBI from the Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine (AURDIP)

Richard Falk
Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Research Professor, Global Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Former Special Rapporteur, UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights in Occupied Palestine

Cynthia Franklin
Professor, Department of English
University of Hawai’i
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Terri Ginsberg
The American University in Cairo
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Charlotte Kates
International Coordinator
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Organizing Collective, USACBI

John King
NYU Associate Adjunct Professor/SPS
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine;
Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325
Organizing Collective, USACBI

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Sunaina Maira
Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis
Co-Director, Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Bill V. Mullen
Professor of American Studies
Affiliated Faculty Global Studies, Purdue University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Andrew Ross
Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis
New York University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

C. Heike Schotten
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts Boston

Organizing Collective, USACBI

References

[1] BDS Freedom Justice Equality, https://bdsmovement.net/academic-boycott, PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel, https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi/academic-boycott-guidelines

[2] “Top Scientist Joins BDS Movement Stephen Hawking Confirms He Is Boycotting Israeli Conference,”  Haaretz, May 08, 2013 https://www.haaretz.com/hawking-confirms-israel-boycott-1.5241535

[3] “Don’t boycott Israel’s scientists,” Nature417, 1 (2 May 2002) doi:10.1038/417001a

[4]Journal Of Academic Freedom, Vol. 4 (2013) https://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/journal-academic-freedom/volume-4

[5] “Israeli attacks on Al Quds University give new meaning to ‘academic freedom’,” Kamilah Moore, Mondoweiss,  November 17, 2014  http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/israeli-university-academic/

[6] “Israel-Gaza conflict: University hit as Palestinians endure more than 200 strikes in 24 hours, Lizzie Dearden,” The Independent, 2 August 2014
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-gaza-conflict-university-hit-as-palestinians-endure-more-than-200-strikes-in-24-hours-9644243.html

[7] History of Birzeit University, Birzeit University website: www.Birzeit.edu
http://sites.birzeit.edu/pas/content/history-birzeit-university
“Birzeit University rises up against Israel’s arrests,” Mariam Barghouti, Aljazeera, 11 January 2016
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/birzeit-university-rises-israel-arrests-160106083537743.html

[8] “Suffocating the Gaza Strip under Israeli Blockade,” Amnesty International report, January 2010; “Gaza crisis: a closer look at Israeli strikes on UNRWA schools,” Raya Jalabi, Tom McCarthy and Nadja Popovich, Guardian UK, 8 August 2014
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/08/-sp-gaza-israeli-strikes-unrwa-schools
“Israeli attack on Gaza damaged 75 kindergartens and day-care centers,” Mondoweiss, September 22, 2014 http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/israeli-damaged-kindergartens

[9] “SECOND CLASS: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools, Human Rights Watch, 2001 https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/

[10]  “Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing,”Times Live, Archbishop Desmond Tutu , 26 September 2010   http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/2010/09/26/israeli-ties-a-chance-to-do-the-right-thing

 
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Sam Gyimah: UK collaboration with Israel ‘a strategic priority’
Minister says the UK has much to learn from Israel’s scientific excellence and entrepreneurial flair

March 20, 2018
By Matthew Reisz

British academics are already partnering with Israeli counterparts in institutions such as the Weizmann Institute of Science under the BIRAX programme
UK universities minister Sam Gyimah has claimed that “collaboration with Israel is a strategic priority”, after signing a memorandum of understanding with his Israeli counterpart.

Speaking to journalists during an event to mark the launch of BIRAX Ageing, a new £5 million fund for bilateral Anglo-Israeli research projects, Mr Gyimah said that he is planning to visit the country to “deepen our collaboration in scientific research and innovation”.

The new fund, which will put out a call for proposals in April, is a joint initiative of the British Council, the UK Science and Innovation network, the British Embassy in Israel, the Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal, and will be overseen by a group of 26 leading scientists making up the UK-Israel Science Council.

The new research will explore the ageing process and innovative approaches, often involving big data and precision medicine, to tackling the diseases of ageing. It will also build on the success of earlier projects devoted to degenerative medicine, financed by the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange since 2012.

The complex issues raised by an ageing society were flagged up as a grand challenge in the UK government’s 2017 industrial strategy. There are several reasons why the minister welcomed collaboration with Israel in addressing them.

One is developing a wide range of partners at a time when collaboration and funding in the European Union may well come under pressure.

“Collaboration with the EU, while deep, is not the only area where we do scientific collaboration,” Mr Gyimah explained. “Our universities are global institutions. You don’t need to be in the EU to solve lots of problems…It’s about maximising your opportunities. Brexit is forcing us to look beyond our comfort zone. Now it’s about maximising the programmes available to us, rather than correcting for a deficiency.”

But if the UK and Israel made natural partners as “scientific superpowers”, Mr Gyimah also thought that the UK might be able to learn from the way Israelis do science and incentivise entrepreneurship.

“Something that Israel is particularly good at is commercialising new technology,” he argued. “If you are funded on the basis of excellence, as scientists are here, that mainly happens in universities. Saying ‘I’m going to fund products going to market’ is a very different criterion for research funding.”

Mr Gyimah hoped to visit Israel to get a better sense of “the expectations of public funds going into universities”, as “that’s probably what drives the incentives for getting products to market”.

“Rather than entrepreneurship sitting in one box and academic research somewhere else, we could do more to bring those together,” he said.

“I want to understand the entrepreneurial culture and how incentives drive that, and also disruption – you need disruptive businesses as well. There are some of them in the UK, but if we’re going to survive and thrive post-Brexit we need a lot more.”

 

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Book Review: Anti-Zionism on Campus

Anti-Semitism by another name.
Posted by Miriam Elman Monday, May 28, 2018 at 6:00pm

The demonization and delegitimization of Israel and bigotry directed toward Jewish faculty, staff, and students is increasing at dramatic rates on university and college campuses.

In these supposedly intellectual spaces, virulently anti-Israel “scholars” and student-activists connected to, and supportive of, the global BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement regularly:


In dozens of posts we’ve highlighted this negative impact of BDS and its anti-Israel activism on contemporary academia in the U.S. and around the world. In our posts we’ve especially pointed out how this movement, and its associated student organizations and faculty promoters, is against peace and willing to destroy academic freedom and campus free speech in order to achieve its goals.

Now a new collection of essays, Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS, co-edited by professors Andrew Pessin (Connecticut College) and Doron S. Ben-Atar (Fordham University), documents just how bad things have become on many American, Canadian, UK, and Australian, and South African campuses.

Below I provide an overview of the book; highlight its three main takeaways; and note some of its key recommendations for changing the campus climate for Jews. Posts from Legal Insurrection are cited throughout Anti-Zionism on Campus, so I also note those in a separate section below. A statement by co-editor Andrew Pessin is also included at the end of the post. All page numbers appearing in parentheses refer to pages in the book.

The book can be purchased at this link.

Overview of Pessin and Ben-Atar, eds., Anti-Zionism on Campus

This 438-page book, with contributions from 24 faculty and staff and 7 students who teach and study at 31 different private and public universities and colleges, shows exactly what it’s like to be on the “front lines” of what “seems to be turning into an all-out assault on Jewish identity on campuses.”

Published this month by the prestigious Indiana University Press for its Studies in Antisemitismseries, the book is primarily geared for those who have little familiarity with BDS or the ways in which students (and even faculty) who believe that Jews have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland are being silenced, marginalized, and targeted with vicious smear campaigns.

But even those who know how large the campus problem is should read it.

Some of the chilling, disturbing, and highly personal case studies of intimidation and harassment included in the volume will probably be new even to those well-versed in how unhinged anti-Israel hostility is corrupting the academy on just about every level—from scholarship and the production of knowledge to teaching and the free exchange of ideas. For example, I didn’t know about:

  • Ronnie Fraser’s multi-year travails with the UCU, the British teachers’ trade union;
  • Larissa Klazinga’s “two year odyssey” defending progressive Zionism at Rhodes University;
  • Denise Nussbaum’s ostracism and demotions at Mt. San Jacinto College in Southern California after she challenged the virulent anti-Israel programming of its campus chapter of Amnesty International; or
  • Dan Avnon’s rejection from a fellowship at the University of Sydney’s Center for Peace Studies “just because he is an Israeli.”

Those engaged in formulating effective strategies for combating campus anti-Israelism and its insidious champions, will also find useful the essays by leading anti-BDS scholars and activists.

Anti-Zionism on Campus meticulously documents how anti-Israelists promote their cause on college and university campuses, and the deleterious effect that they have had on the campus environment over the past 15 or so years. In particular, the book shows how this hostility often spills over into straightforward antisemitism.

It includes heart-breaking accounts written by undergraduate students at the University of Michigan, UCLA, Stanford University, Oberlin College, CUNY’s John Jay College, Brown University and the University of Missouri. They each  recount their own painful experiences during their college years, especially how toxic anti-Israel BDS campaigns tried to turn their Jewishness into a source of shame—“an inescapably innate sin and stain” (p. 7).

The bulk of the book (24 of its 33 chapters) though deals with faculty-on-faculty abuse.

The book shows how pro-BDS activism on the part of faculty corrodes scholarship, teaching, and basic collegiality and civility without which an institution cannot run. At least on some campuses, it’s turning intellectual arenas allegedly devoted to the free exchange of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge into ideologically-driven activist training grounds that suppress all dissent.

Central Themes

Four key themes emerge from the collection of essays.

  1. The anti-Israel BDS movement on campus targets individual faculty, staff, and students for harm—and isn’t only directed toward Israel’s institutions of higher learning.

One of the enduring falsehoods peddled by pro-BDS campus proponents is that the campaign to boycott Israel’s universities and colleges isn’t aimed at individual faculty or students and so doesn’t cause them any harm.

Nearly every chapter in Anti-Zionism on Campus shows exactly how absurd this claim is. The book offers a litany of devastating personal experiences.

Chapter authors describe being professionally harmed by BDS smear campaigns and subjected to emotional and psychological duress—in some cases seriously so. Even in instances where there were no long-term consequences for careers or reputations, the contributors write that the venomous attacks they experienced left their mark (p. 159).

Many of the smear campaigns revolved around anti-Israel faculty and/or students—sometimes joined by administrators and always amplified by social media—taking criticism of their programming, courses, or writings as evidence of censorship and speech suppression, rather than as academically appropriate critique (pp. 71, 111, 207, 312). As Pessin remarked in a recent interview:

What they essentially want is unlimited freedom of speech to slander and defame Israel and pro-Israel faculty and students, while rejecting the freedom of speech of others to respond to them.”

In this regard, it’s important to note that the vast majority of the contributors to this book are not on the conservative side of the political spectrum when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—or any other political issue. Most self-define in their chapters as progressive, supportive of the Palestinian cause, and highly critical of Israeli policy. Collectively, they show that just being a Zionist Jew or an Israeli is enough to become “radioactive” (pp. 84, 88-89), to be targeted by anti-Israel “self-righteous moralists” and to be “put through the wringer (p. 87).

  1. Anti-Israelism on campus frequently blurs into antisemitism, creating a hostile learning and work environment for Jewish faculty, staff, and students.

The connection between anti-Israel expression and antisemitism on campus seems obvious—when Israelis are dehumanized and Israel is demonized, held to standards applied to no other country on the planet, it’s not all that surprising that this hate also begins to manifest itself towards the Jewish community on campus, and not just towards Israel.

As Canadian retired political scientist Julien Bauer claims, “Many people who combine blind support for anything Palestinians (including Hamas) and hostility to Israel are at ease with antisemitic tirades” (p. 64).

Taken as a whole, the chapters in Anti-Zionism on Campus underscore just how far pro-BDS faculty are willing to go to in order to engage in a type of morality play, where Israel shifts into a uniquely evil and demonic category vis-à-vis the absolute goodness of the Palestinians. These days, as the book demonstrates, abrogating liberal ideals and the bedrock principles of the academy, including free speech and open intellectual inquiry, apparently isn’t too high a price to pay for the opportunity to signal one’s own virtue.

  1. BDS and the anti-Israel movement on campus constitute attacks on the very norms and values of the university.

Anti-Zionism on Campus maintains that anti-Israel hostility isn’t just a threat to Israel or even just to Israeli academics—but poses a danger to “our ability to operate as an intellectual community” (pp. 4-5).

In terms of undermining campus civility and collegiality, the various chapter authors discuss the divisive nature of these BDS campaigns. Jubilee Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign notes that “With surprising frequency, people are willing to sever personal relationships over their differences about Israel” (p. 197).

But particularly important to underscore is how pro-BDS faculty undermine the norms that govern scholarship—including marshalling facts and evidence to substantiate claims, and carefully reasoned argument.

Over the last eight years, Richard Millett documents that he has heard on UK campuses

Israelis compared to the German citizens who failed to confront their Nazi government at the time, and constant Holocaust minimization in the form of comparing the Palestinian and Bedouin of today to the Jews in Nazi Germany” (p. 185).

Ernest Sternberg at the University of Buffalo also offers some breathtaking examples of “slanderous claims about Israel and Israeli Jews” made by various guest speakers to his campus (pp. 333-347).

They weren’t “ordinary” claims to be addressed through evidence and reason but “solidarity-building rituals of execration” (p. 333). For instance, at one “evening of hate” a guest speaker claimed that Israelis want to be like Nazis, so they name their kids Ari which is “short for Aryan” (in fact, Ari is the diminutive for the Hebrew name Aryeh which means lion). Sternberg puts it well:

The assertion that Jews would name a child Aryan or would want to become Aryans is imbecilic. Yet there it is. A professor invites a professor to say such things on an American campus, a distinguished professor uses State University of New York money to cosponsor the event, and students applaud” (p. 335).

  1. Faculty, staff, and students who challenge the anti-Israel orthodoxy on their campuses often stand alone—most members of the campus community won’t provide public support.

As I argued in a prior op-ed, successfully confronting anti-Israel boycotters ultimately depends on whether individual faculty and staff are willing and able to take a stand. Outside anti-BDS groups and organizations can’t take the place of academics and staff members who need to put aside their research and other work-related commitments for a period of time in order to take on the challenges of ‘campus politics’, Syracuse U Pro-BDS Faculty Issue Call to ‘Resist’ Events Co-hosted with Israeli Institutions.

Anti-Zionism on Campus reinforces this central point. Nearly ever chapter attests to the fact that in confronting anti-Israel BDS activism on their campus, Jewish faculty, staff, and students had to expend enormous amounts of time and energy.

In many of the personal stories recounted, they also stood alone as they were increasingly cast as campus pariahs. With few exceptions, the chapter authors tell how administrators either failed to provide timely and meaningful support or (unbelievably!) actually enabled the BDS harassers and “fed the assault” on their characters.

Basically, Anti-Zionism on Campus highlights a shocking degree of incompetence as well as cowardice and even sometimes complicity on the part of university administrations.

As for fellow colleagues, nearly all the book’s contributors remarked that they would privately get some encouragement and that very close colleagues often remained loyal friends. But for the most part even close friends on campus were just too fearful for their own careers and professional prospects to offer up any public support when it came to these politically-motivated witch hunts and character assassinations (pp. 64, 72, 197).

Tellingly, this was true of Jewish faculty too.

In case after case, other Jews on campus simply refused to join in the effort to combat the anti-Israel campus atmosphere—even though they would benefit from the situation being turned around, a situation that reflects free-riding and the classic dilemma of collective action.

Luckily, for most of the chapter authors there’s been a somewhat happy ending. Most of those who were falsely accused and smeared were eventually exonerated. Some faculty tell about moving on to new and rewarding jobs or to having found new allies (p. 82).

But many of the chapter authors also confess that they feel a lingering disappointment because of the lack of support they received from colleagues and university administrators. In most cases described in the book, there’s also an expressed frustration that no disciplinary action was ever taken against the students and/or faculty who sought to bully and defame them and other Israel-friendly members of the campus community.

Most state that they’ve been left “battered and scarred” by their ordeals (p. 23).

Recommendations for Combating Anti-Israelism on Campus

Anti-Zionism on Campus doesn’t only accurately diagnosis the problem on campus when it comes to the anti-Israel BDS attack against civility and collegial engagement, free speech, and rigorous scholarship. Its contributors also suggest a host of remedies.

To their credit, neither the co-editors nor any of the chapter authors argue in favor of banning pro-BDS organizations, like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) or the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), from campus or having their speech suppressed. On the contrary, the contributors write that while antisemitism should be swiftly and forcefully called out and condemned (the “lies should be countered”), campus hate speech shouldn’t be restricted or punished (pp. 2, 146).

Pessin, for example, takes issue with Fordham University’s recent decision to bar SJP from forming:

while I deeply respect the courage of that decision, I’m not sure in the end it was the right decision…they should let the group form, but then closely observe its activities (as they observe all student groups) to be sure that it operates within appropriate academic and community norms.”

Instead of censorship, Pessin recommends an equal playing field, where faculty and students can “criticize Israel all they want” as long as they don’t also work to “suppress the other side of the story, to pretend there is no other side, to silence those who see the other side” (p. 404).

Other suggestions for dealing with anti-Israel activism on campus and remedying the sorry state of affairs include:

  1. ensure that the curriculum as a whole is representative of viewpoint diversity on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (rather than micromanaging specific courses)—p. 198
  2. adopt the U.S. State Department’s or IHRA’s definition of antisemitism and work to increase the OCR’s protections of those who use Title VI on behalf of Jewish students—pp. 118, 310.
  3. develop academic programs in Israel Studies and teach “dozens and dozens of courses” about Israel—pp. 143, 146.
  4. always expose and dispute the “over-the-top” anti-Israel claims—p. 160.
  5. when faced with a smear campaign by “exaggerators, fantasists, and conspiracy theorists” never “apologize, retract, or delete” and be sure to quickly and widely disseminate your side of the story—pp. 160, 277.
  6. encourage campus administrations to form task forces for new social media so that they can effectively counter smear campaigns launched against their faculty—p. 250.
  7. get a lawyer and “be ready to sue”—p. 278.

References to Legal Insurrection Posts

The contributors to Pessin and Ben-Atar’s co-edited volume raise plenty of accusations against their pro-BDS tormenters. None of the charges are false because they’re all copiously sourced.

From chapter to chapter there’s a staggering amount of evidentiary material that’s brought to bear to prove just how harassing and intimidating BDS activism really is, and its negative impact on the lives of those it targets. Anti-Zionism on Campus contains 611 footnotes providing readers with the documents (and, where available, the hyperlinks) used to make their case.

In so doing, articles from Legal Insurrection are utilized throughout the book (by my count there are some 26 citations to LI posts).

There are a number of references to Prof. Jacobson’s coverage of the disruption of a University of Texas academic event in 2015 sponsored by its Institute for Israel Studies and featuring a Stanford University faculty member:


Other LI posts about the campus atmosphere at Vassar College are also referenced by several of the chapter contributors:

In the final chapter of the book (“Concluding Thoughts”), co-editor Andrew Pessin devotes the volume’s last two pages to Prof. Jacobson’s inability to find a single Vassar faculty member, from among the 39 professors there who  signed a pro-BDS letter, willing to “accept the challenge” to publicly debate him.

When Prof. Jacobson eventually did give a lecture in 2014 at Vassar, “The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom”, only a small number of faculty and students attended (most of the audience was community members), and one professor who declined the debate invitation actually said that Jacobson should be boycotted.


It’s not hard to see why Pessin would close Anti-Zionism on Campus with this “anecdote” about Jacobson’s Vassar experience. As Pessin notes, it

perhaps perfectly expresses the current situation on our campuses, for those who do not hate Israel—and I think it too offers a ray of hope, in these dark times, for those who believe in the fundamental values of the university.”

Here are the other LI posts that are also cited in the book:

Statement from Co-editor Andrew Pessin

Like the other faculty, staff and students who recount their (in many cases harrowing) personal experiences confronting BDS and campus anti-Israelism on their campuses, co-editors Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar also have  horror stories to tell.

For Ben-Atar, a Professor of History and then a member of Forham’s American Studies program, the story dates back to 2013 when at a faculty meeting he objected to a decision to pass a pro-BDS resolution.

He soon found himself the subject of a “Kafkaesque campaign” of vilification and intimidation launched by faculty and students. Some within the administration failed to support his right to articulate his opinion on BDS, and he was investigated for a range of “secret” and ever-shifting charges (pp. 66-74).

In the case of Pessin, a philosophy professor who now also serves as the Campus Bureau Editor for the Algemeiner, the problem started back in 2014 when he wrote a Facebook post critical of Hamas and was subsequently subjected to a horrible smear campaign that ended up engulfing him and his family for months. Like other authors in the book, Pessin saw close colleagues turn against him; he also received death threats.

The campus administration failed to offer help or meaningful support and actually egged-on the hysteria and the condemnations. Eventually, Pessin became so distraught that he had to take a medical leave of absence.


I reached out to Pessin to find out more about why he decided to work on this project and the impact that he and his co-editor hope that the book will have. Here’s his reply, which I received via email:

When you look at what’s been happening on campuses in the past few years, and even the past few months, it’s clear: Jewish students (and faculty), in particular those who believe that Jews have the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, are being shouted down, targeted for abuse, marginalized, and ostracized, and even—physically assaulted.

This is not the 1930s in Europe. This is happening here, in 2018, in the United States and Canada and elsewhere—week in, week out, getting louder, scarier, more violent. Not only does it amount to an offensive onslaught against Jewish identity, but as it goes on it will produce the next generation of thought leaders whose minds are thoroughly poisoned against the Jewish state. Jewish groups have thankfully mobilized, begun to speak up and to speak out, but the campus problem is large, we are generally outnumbered, and we’re all a little late to the game. There are many good organizations you should support in this battle, but the first step is information: people must know what’s going on, and try to understand it, in order to formulate effective strategies for responding to it.

And that is why we produced our book.

It’s a start, and only a start. The hope of course is that it will motivate more concerned citizens—not merely Jews but anyone concerned about Israel and even anyone concerned about the state of the university today—to learn more, to stand up, to speak up, and refuse to be shouted down.”

Conclusion

Anti-Zionism on Campus is a tour de force. It accurately exposes the depth of anti-Israel bias on campuses (primarily in the U.S., but with several insightful chapters also focusing on the British, Australian, Canadian, and South African campus climate). It also underscores the high price and personal risk that comes with taking on this rising tide of anti-Zionism.

It’s hard to select a single chapter which I would say makes the strongest impression—all of them are well-written and meticulously researched and documented. But if I had to choose one to highlight, it would be Judea Pearl’s (pp. 224-235).

Pearl is the father of journalist Daniel Pearl who was brutally murdered on account of his Jewishness by jihadists in Pakistan back in 2002, Daniel Pearl was murdered 15 years ago today.


He doesn’t research or teach on the Middle East. But he’s a Jew whose Zionism is deeply integral to his sense of self, and his writing on BDS is “particularly decisive” in this volume and elsewhere (see for example here and here).

In his chapter, Pearl persuasively reinforces the book’s key claim about BDS:

a racist movement that shows no respect for truth or other people’s identity can hardly be expected to respect the sanctity of academic freedom” (p. 224).

Bottom line: Many anti-Israel faculty and students who advocate for the academic boycott of Israel are contributing to a nasty atmosphere for Jews on their campuses. Administrators, trustees, alumni, parents and others who care about fostering learning environments supportive of the Jewish campus community and open to robust intellectual inquiry should take note of Anti-Zionism on Campus.

[Featured Image: Video The True Face of BDS]


Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman

 



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