Michael Oren to Congress: Boycott the boycotters

In op-ed in Washington political magazine, former ambassador suggests US lawmakers could help ‘fight back’ against BDS movement

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Michael Oren (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-Anne Mandlebaum)
Michael Oren (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-Anne Mandlebaum)

Former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has asked the US Congress to consider withholding government funding for academic institutions that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In an opinion piece published Friday in Politico, a Washington political journal and website, Oren wrote, “Laws could be passed withholding federal or state funding from any academic program that knowingly blacklisted Israeli scholars or institutions or cooperated with associations that did.” Such a move would prevent “prejudicial boycotts” and ensure that “scholarly interaction essential for academic freedom” continues, he added.

The recent “abhorrent decision” to boycott Israeli academia by the American Studies Association, a “bigoted” organization, has been “broadly and passionately condemned, and rightly so,” Oren wrote, but Congress could provide “a way to fight back.”

“In 1977, Congress passed a series of laws making it illegal for US companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel and imposing stiff penalties on those that did,” the former ambassador noted. These efforts were instrumental in eventually breaking the Arab boycott of companies that did business with Israel and, “by 1994, six Gulf Arab states announced that they were backing off the embargo, and the following year, Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders pledged ‘all efforts to end the boycott of Israel,'” Oren noted.

Israeli-American Oren, who served as Israeli ambassador to the US from 2009-2013, a position for which he gave up his US citizenship, is also a noted historian and author. In 2010, while giving a speech at the University of California at Irvine, anti-Israel protesters attempted to disrupt the event and squash the “right to discourse,” Oren recalled, but the speech went on and “11 of those demonstrators were arrested, tried and found guilty of disrupting free speech.”

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