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December 26, 2013

University Presidents Across The Country Reject Academic Boycott Of Israel

The decision by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions has yielded a silver lining: a widespread condemnation of the decision – and the broader Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement – by university administrators across the United States.asa-harvard-statement

Since the ASA’s December 16th decision to support a boycott, which ADL decried as “intellectually dishonest and shameful,” there has been an increasing groundswell of rejection by university presidents, faculty and academic associations. These statements, which number in the dozens, have forcefully and responsibly affirmed the principles and societal benefits of academic freedom and open dialogue. 

University presidents of large and small colleges and universities have made pronouncements on the topic, including:

  • President Drew Faust of Harvard University, who said:  “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 recent resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities represents a direct threat to these ideals, ideals which universities and scholarly associations should be dedicated to defend.”
  • President Ronald J. Daniels  and Provost Robert C. Lieberman of Johns Hopkins University, who said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, of course, a complex matter on which many in our community hold passionate and competing views. We can all agree, however, that one essential ingredient to the resolution of that conflict will be the free exchange of information and open debate of ideas. This boycott is a contradiction, one that threatens what it purports to protect: the freedom of thought and expression that is the heartbeat of our academic community.”
  • President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Martha Pollack of University of Michigan, who said:  “The University of Michigan strongly opposes the boycott of academic institutions in Israel that was recently endorsed by several academic associations. While we affirm the right of individual faculty, faculties, and professional academic associations to hold and express different viewpoints, we believe that academic boycotts violate the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, which are fundamental to our missions of education and research. The University of Michigan is committed to continuing and strengthening its long-standing and productive institutional relationships with Israeli universities and institutes.”

Several American Studies departments have also resigned from the ASA.  

ADL has compiled a list of select statements which we are updating daily.  Other bloggers are also maintaining full lists of all university statements and actions. 

Here’s what you can do:

Check these lists to see if officials at your alma mater have spoken out.  If they have, write the president or chancellor to commend them. 

If they have not, contact the office of the president or chancellor and call on them to join their colleagues around the country in condemning the academic boycott of Israel and standing firm in support of academic freedom.

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December 11, 2013

University Of Michigan Latest School To Be Hit With Anti-Israel Mock Eviction Notices

Mock eviction notices were recently distributed at the University of Michigan by the pro-Palestinian student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.” More than one thousand students reportedly received the notices on their residence hall room doors on Tuesday, December 10, which warned them that their dormitory would be demolished by December 13.michigan-mock-eviction-notice

The notices were made to appear as though they were issued by the university’s Department of Housing and were designed to mimic the eviction notices received by some Palestinians in the West Bank if their homes were built illegally or needed to be demolished because of Israeli security concerns. The notices, however, claim that Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes for the purpose of “mak[ing] life so miserable for Arabs that they leave.”

Students affiliated with SAFE also published a “Viewpoint” piece on the university newspaper’s Web site calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and claiming that the eviction notices are a “tool of political satire.”

These notices, which have appeared on at least a half a dozen other campuses in the past few years, have previously made some students feel threatened or intimidated.

For example, after students at Rutgers University received the notices in October 2013, Esther Reed, the rabbi of Rutgers’s Hillel was quoted in the campus newspaper saying, “students were made to feel that they were not safe in their residence halls.” Similarly, at Florida Atlantic University, students reported feeling confused or scared after receiving eviction notices in March 2012, according to Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who spoke to a local newspaper shortly after the incident occurred.

Other students have criticized the tactic for failing to create dialogue. At Yale University, students wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper and called the mock eviction notices “offensive,” claiming that there was not “even the faintest attempt at building a constructive dialogue.”  

In the past few years, anti-Israel student groups at the following universities have circulated mock eviction notices on campus:

  • Rutgers University, October 2013 – Students from the Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP chapter posted mock eviction notices in residence halls throughout the campus to “educate” students about the experience for some Palestinians whose homes are demolished. Text on the mock eviction notices read, “your suite is scheduled for demolition in the next three days… If you do not vacate the premise within this time frame, we reserve the right to destroy all remain­ing belongings…This may seem like unre­al­is­ti­cally harsh treat­ment, but this is the actual state of affairs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
  • San Diego State University, March 2013 – Mock eviction notices were posted on students’ residence hall room doors by members of the SDSU SJP chapter. The notices, which claimed that “$30 billion US tax dollars have been used to fund Israeli apartheid in the past decade,” were meant to raise awareness over Israel’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
  • Harvard University, March 2013 – Members of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee posted mock eviction notices on students’ doors in freshman and upper class residence halls. The notices, which warned students that their residence hall rooms were “scheduled for demolition in the next three days” were posted in order to publicize “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus and to raise awareness about Israel’s policies.
  • Florida Atlantic University, March 2012 – Mock eviction notices were posted on nearly 200 student residence hall rooms. The action, organized by the FAU SJP chapter, warned students that their rooms were being demolished and that “anyone left inside is not our responsibility.” This episode attracted significant ire because the flier contained the official seal of university’s Hous­ing and Res­i­den­tial Life Department.  
  • University of Chicago, May 2011 – Over 200 mock eviction notices were distributed by the SJP chapter on campus. The notices stated that affected students would have their rooms demolished and that if they did not vacate them, “we reserve the right to destroy your housing unit. We do not maintain responsibility for anyone remaining inside.” 
  • Yale University, April 2011 – Mock eviction notices were distributed by SJP at Yale University to criticize “the actions of the Israeli state” and to promote the group’s upcoming events.

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February 28, 2012

Profile on Stephen Walt, Speaker at Upcoming “One State” Conference

Stephen Walt, an International Affairs Professor at the Kennedy School of Government, is scheduled to speak at this weekend’s one-state solution conference at the Kennedy School. Walt will participate in a panel discussion called “What Happened to the Two-State Solution?” The two other panelists, Ali Abunimah and Eve Spangler, are both supporters of a one-state solution, which would necessarily result in the dismantlement of Israel as a Jewish state. 
Walt’s anti-Israel positions were most prominently aired in his 2007 book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which he co-authored with John Mearsheimer. Since its publication, Walt has spoken to a variety of audiences about U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserting that the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. has excessive power and divided loyalties and uses its power to stifle criticism of Israel against America’s true interests. 
Walt also regularly focuses on Israel on his blog on ForeignPolicy.com. In the past year, Walt has authored more than a dozen posts about Israel, most of which focus exclusively on why the special relationship between Israel and the U.S. negatively affects American interests and should therefore cease to exist.
Walt’s framing of the issue makes it seem like pro-Israel forces in the U.S. engage in coercive tactics and compel U.S. policymakers to take harmful decisions on matters related to Israel. In a November 2011 post titled, “Is Israel REALLY a strategic asset?,” Walt writes, “Israel is the only country in the world that mainstream U.S. politicians (and most members of the foreign-policy establishment) cannot openly criticize.”

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