1,200 academics sign anti-boycott petition

Move comes in response to statement by over 360 anthropologists urging sanctions against Israeli academic institutions

Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)
Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)

Nearly 1,200 academics from universities and colleges across the world signed an online petition to oppose any boycott of Israel and its higher education institutions.

The petition was posted October 5 on the Faculty for Academic Freedom website and had been endorsed by 1,185 signatories at time of writing.

“We, the undersigned academics… vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students,” the petition states.

The statement accused BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) supporters of discriminating against Israeli institutions, professors, and students “for no other reason than their nationality and the policies of their government,” and added that such a practice violated “the very principle of academic freedom.”

According to the petition, the BDS supporters’ position undermines the possibility of ever achieving a long-lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, as it completely isolated the Jewish state.

“The two-state solution – which guarantees to both parties mutual recognition – enjoys the endorsement of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League,” the petition reads.

“By demonizing and seeking to isolate one of the two parties to the peace process, the anti-Israel BDS movement sets itself apart from the global consensus for peace.”

The anti-BDS petition came in response to a statement posted on Oct. 1 on the website signed by more than 350 anthropologists which endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.

“As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments,” read the statement, which endorsed “boycott[ing] Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations.”

Israeli academic institutions, the statement said, “are complicit with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians” with “intimate connections between Israeli academic institutions and the military, security, and political establishments in Israel.”

Among the signatories were 13 academics from the City University of New York and 13 from Columbia University. Nine co-signatories were listed as being from Harvard University and eight from Yale University.

JTA contributed to this report.

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