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October 21, 2013 11:18 am

College Professors Shamelessly Promote BDS Movement

avatar by Alexander Joffe

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A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest against Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A potentially important BDS development occurred this month with the appearance of an issue of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Journal of Academic Freedom dedicated to the boycott of Israel.

The AAUP is the largest and most significant organization of academic faculty members in the United States, with more than 47,000 members. It was established in 1915 with the goal of defending academic freedom from outside pressure. The organization advocates for academic freedom, shared governance, and a variety of other issues. It operates both nationally and locally through some 450 campus chapters. A small number of campus chapters are unionized and represent faculty, staff, and others in contract negotiations.

The AAUP publishes several journals including Academe, a trade industry publication in which contributors comment on various issues, an annual bulletin summarizing the organization’s activities on academic freedom and other issues, and the annual on-line Journal of Academic Freedom.

Founded in 2010, the Journal “publishes scholarship on academic freedom and on its relation to shared governance, tenure, and collective bargaining. Scholarship on academic freedom is typically scattered across a wide range of disciplines; the Journal provides a central place to track the developing international discussion about academic freedom and its collateral issues.”

Most contributions can be characterized as complaints regarding the decline of faculty governance of universities, and perceived threats to academic freedom emanating from government and corporations.

Volume number four for 2013 is dedicated to the BDS movement.

The AAUP’s policy is not to support academic boycotts generally or a boycott of Israel specifically. This policy was articulated in2005 and reiterated in 2007 and May 2013. The rationale for dedicating almost an entire issue of their flagship journal to articles advocating the boycott of Israel may therefore appear unclear.

In his introduction, Journal editor Ashley Dawson of the Graduate Center/City University of New York writes that the “call for papers for this issue of The Journal of Academic Freedom was focused on the globalization of higher education and its impact on academic freedom.”

Though he expresses the AAUP’s concerns regarding academic freedom on satellite campuses of U.S. universities such as Yale-Singapore and the problems associated with massive online open courses (MOOCs), the “main response to the call for papers came in the form of a roundtable concerning the issue of academic boycotts in general, and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in particular.”

Six of the nine essays in the Journal issue support BDS, while one opposes it. Two additional essays discuss broader issues. Dawson’s role is shaping the content of the Journal is open to question.

Though an English professor, most of Dawson’s publications are political critiques of capitalism, imperialism, and the United States. As was pointed out by Jonathan Marks, Dawson is on record as supporting the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USCABI) and in 2012 edited a volume entitled “Why Boycott Israel?: A Dossier on Palestine Today.” This volume was apparently published in a series connected with the journal Social Text, where he is the web editor, but it is not available online. Arguably, the issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom advocating for BDS is Dawson’s second such product in a year.

Most of the essays in the issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom are standard restatements of BDS viewpoints. Israel is cast as the single worst abuser of human rights in the world, singularly worthy of a boycott. Failure to do so is, as one of the contributors puts it, is “the casual fetishization of academic freedom as part of a liberal hegemony that provides ideological cover for brutal acts of intellectual and political terror by Israel.”

Israel is so egregious that an academic boycott, or the Jewish state’s destruction, is effectively justified in the name of academic freedom.

The contributors are, as Marks puts it, “a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; a founding committee member of USCABI, an advisory board member of USCABI; an endorser of that same campaign who also signed the Association for Asian American Studies boycott resolution; a signatory of a 2009 letter to then President-Elect Obama, gently urging him to view Israel as the perpetrator of “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times;” a former contributor to the Electronic Intifada: and another Electronic Intifada contributor who wrote “Answering Critics of the Boycott Movement.”

It should be added that one of the Journal of Academic Freedom contributors, Malini Johar Schueller, a professor of English at the University of Florida, co-edited a special issue of Social Text on academic freedom with Dawson along with another book on “US Culture and the New Imperialism.” Dawson and Schueller’s special issue of Social Text also included an essay by Purdue University English professor Bill V. Mullen, who contributed to the Journal of Academic Freedom issue.

Several important observations may be made. The first is that global issues of academic freedom and the organization of academia were allegedly proposed for the Journal, but the final product is focused almost exclusively on Israel. The opportunity to explore global issues was lost, if not intentionally discarded, in favor of polemics again Israel.

Two sequential sets of editorial decisions may thus be posited – to cast a wide net but settle on Israel, to not seek out additional contributions, and to proceed with publication – or, as appears more likely, to ostensibly cast a wide net in order to focus on Israel. Either way, the decision to focus overwhelming on boycotting Israel has been endorsed by the AAUP.

A second observation is that BDS supporters eagerly responded to the call for papers, in this case from someone in their own camp who has again used an editorial position for BDS purposes. This shows the extent to which BDS supporters readily politicize editorial positions, the degree of preparedness on the part of BDS supporters to contribute lengthy calls for Israel to be boycotted, and their readiness to contribute quickly to almost any forum.

In 2006, with the support of the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the organization had planned to undertakea conference on BDS, featuring a majority of prominent BDS supporters, at the Rockefeller Foundation facility at Bellagio, Italy. The papers from the conference, including those of anti-boycott participants, were later made available on the AAUP web site.

After this event was publicly criticized as imbalanced, and the accidental distribution of a paper from a neo-Nazi publication, anti-boycott participants refused to participate and then the foundations withdrew their support. The conference foundered.

In the current issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom the co-organizer of the 2006 conference, Joan Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, states that she is now a strong supporter of BDS. Her piece is a lengthy bill of particulars against Israel and its supporters and she declares that a boycott of Israeli institutions, not individuals, is “a strategic way of exposing the unprincipled and undemocratic behavior of Israeli state institutions; its aim might be characterized as ‘saving Israel from itself.'”

Scott’s curious defense is somewhat belied by the severity of her accusations against Israel.

The current issue of the Journal nevertheless completes the work of using AAUP as a platform for BDS, despite the organization’s stated opposition.

Two additional essays have now appeared on the Journal of Academic Freedom web site voicing opposition to BDS by Cary Nelson, the journal’s founder, and Ernst Benjamin, formerly the AAUP’s general secretary and a consultant to the organization. Both defend the AAUP’s stance against boycotts (although Benjamin calls for a boycott of Israeli institutions across the “Green Line”) but refrain from criticizing the pervasive misrepresentations of Israel by the contributors.

Interestingly, press coverage of the AAUP Journal has been minimal. The organization’s reiteration of its opposition to boycotts in May 2013 received some attention from sources focused on higher education issues. In contrast, the September issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom has only been noted by BDS supporters (from whom the Journal’s contributors are drawn). Not surprisingly, their response has been positive.

It is also necessary to note that efforts to use professional societies and journals as vehicles to promote BDS are becoming routine. Another recent incident was the 2013 declaration of support for BDS by the Association for Asian American Studies. This marginal organization is one of the only ones to adopt a BDS resolution, but such efforts have been successful in British and more recently Irish academic unions.

Boycott proposals in other U.S. organizations, notably the Modern Language Association, have been proposed but to date have failed.

The Journal of Academic Freedom BDS issue demonstrates the extent to which American academic organizations continue to be an arena for BDS activists, many of whom move from one platform to another. This usefully demonstrates again the organized nature of BDS and the determination of activists to penetrate all aspects of academia. The use of “academic freedom” as a means to vilify and expel Israel from the global academic community is certain to intensify.

Alex Joffe is the Editor of the SPME BDS Monitor, where this report originally appeared.

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  • Peter Korman

    It would be helpful to compile and publish a list of these BDS promoters and propagandists, their sponsoring institutions, and their published articles. If someone can compile a list of grants they have received, that, too, would be helpful. Boards of Trustees at each of these institutions need to be confronted, as a boycott and divestment campaign of those who employ, support, and sponsor BDS propagandists can and should be a natural response.

    Also, each of these BDS propagandists should be encouraged to surrender their computer and Internet security, wi-fi connections, cell phones, and any other technology, including prescription drugs, that was developed in Israel. These people are hypocrites of the lowest order, need to be confronted and have their academic cover removed.

  • For all of the base lies of the BDS adherents, their bias and hostility, these good facts remain:

    Chinese wealthiest man in Asia, Li Ka-shing has donated $130 million to Israel’s Technion U. to build a joint venture with Shantou U. – expanding cooperation

    India -2013 trade with Israel, $5 Billion (non-military)

    Germany – delivered 5th nuclear sub to Israel – committed to Israel’s security

    Christian Arab Israelis tripled enlistments in IDF in 2013

    50,000 Black Sudanese/Africans have sanctuary in Israel

    These “odds and ends” facts, beside ones more well known, prove that BDS promoters still have formidable facts that confront them. Fight their fictions – advertise the thousands of positives that exist.

  • Reality Check

    The problem is, nothing bad is happening to these pro-BDS professors. Nobody is insulting them. They aren’t faced with hate campaigns on Twitter. Nobody is calling their offices to voice displeasure. People should be emailing the department heads and complaining. People should be emailing other professors to point out what these pro-bigotry professors are doing and why it’s wrong. I’ve noticed that the pro-Israel side complains TO ITSELF about this, but isn’t going OUTWARD and flooding these professors with the hate they deserve.

    The anti-Israel side reaches OUTWARD to promote their cause, and promote their hate.

    The pro-Israel side writes articles, and then sits and complains to their buddies quietly on message board, and then does nothing. I check the @ feeds on Twitter to see who is tweeting at these professors, and there’s no HATE coming at them. They are fine. They get support.

    The pro-Israel side needs to expand and have groups of people who GO ON THE ATTACK (I don’t mean illegally or with violence) and speak OUTWARD and express how evil this stuff is.

    There’s this scumbag professor at Brooklyn College in NYC, Corey Robin. He is one of the darlings of the pro-BDS movement. I do searches for his twitter feed “and you click ALL, to see ALL the tweets at him, not just Top Tweets) and the anti-Israel peole all reach out to him and support him, while the pro-Israel people just tweet to their own followers and don’t reach outward, and accomplish next to nothing

    The pro-Israel side has to start rounding people up and make life DIFFICULT for these anti-Israel scumbags. But nobody is doing it. YOU have to start doing it. Use secondary twitter accounts if needed. Start emailing. Round friends up. Take 10 minutes a day and make these pro-BDS scumbags uncomfortable, in every creative way you can think of that is legal and non-violent

  • I. Breshinski

    This response was published in

    Isaac Barr MD FACC (not verified)

    Mon, 10/21/2013 – 10:17pm


    This was published in the JOURNAL of ACADEMIC FREEDOM vol 4 dedicated to BDS

    BDS is hypocrytical, antisemitic, irrelevant

    A series of car bombs killed 61 people in Iraq yesterday. Today 57 were killed making the regime of Saddam Hussein look not as bad. 110.000 were killed in Syria many by chemical weapons. Criticizing Israel requires comparative analysis with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi etc. Israel’s neighbors. What are the rights of women, gay/lesbian, what is the attitude to minorities, Jews and Christians etc. Saudi Arabia, a big progressive country, has no churches. The percentage of Saudi citizens who are Christians is officially zero, as Saudi Arabia forbids religious conversion from Islam-Apostasy and punishes it by death. One cannot wear a cross when coming to Saudi….Religious tolerance? You can talk about an Arab Israeli who was refused a “falafel”, but Amnesty International study of executions in the Arab/Muslim world shows: 139 countries, including Israel, signed treaty that makes capital punishment illegal. 23 countries did not sign this agreement. In 2010, before Syrian civil war, Amnesty International reported executions in Iran of more than 257, Palestinian Authority 5, Saudi 27, Syria 17 etc. As a matter of fact out of 67 countries that allow executions there are 21 Arab/Muslim countries (32%). Israel did not execute anybody except for Adolph Eichmann who was executed in 1962 for crimes against humanity. More, two Palestinian Arabs premeditated slaughter of a 5 members of Fogel family including a 3 months, 3 years and 6 years children, leaving a Shabryah in the heart of the baby got life imprisonment, not death penalty that US courts would have given them. BDS makes Israel the only villain in the world deserving any possible punishment. This malicious hypocritical attitude laced with anti Semitism coming from academics in USA and EU is astonishing. Recently EU could not account for 3,5 billion dollars given to the Palestinians. BDS has enough money to spread around in providing propagandists, teachers, lecturers etc. AAUP fell in the trap of Islamofascism. American Academia is loosing the Israel Nobel prize Laureates and Israeli high tech. Most computers and telephones have Israel chips and Israeli start ups are bought by American and European technology for hundreds of millions. Warren Buffett bought ISCAR for 8 billion dollars, how significant will BDS damage Israel? Israel Technion will join Stanford in creating a university in New York and Chinese investor gave 150 million dollars to the Israeli Technion etc, etc. BDS harms USA more than it harms Israel. As an American Academic I want to tell the BDSers Go to Syria, Iraq or Saudi and protect human rights there.

  • Miri Y

    The AAUP has finally shown its true colors and has proven just how insignificant it is. It was / is considered the most important organization among academics, but now it’s shown itself to be equal to all racist, bigoted and backward minded organizations around the world. Next they’ll team up with the KKK.
    Shame on any academic for allowing such a publication to see the light.

  • pinchas baram

    I wish the author would have listed the authors, their affiliated schools, and the titles of the pro-BDS articles, so one could google the articles and make it easier to selectively respond to these academic dregs. Perhaps he can write up a “Part Two” article for this journal.

  • The libera left in this country has always ignored or excused leftist fascism and tyranny e.g. Stalin, Mao, Fidel and others and pointing out any and every fault of the democracies. For a publication dedicated to academic freedom would fill an issue with articles condemning the only nation in its area of the world that guarantees academic freedom and supports a “cause” that as long with every other nation in that area of the world borders on the surreal (or just plain rediculous). Any academic who believes in rationality and facts should divorce themselves from this organization.

  • joe ozer

    I agree with David Most about Arab oil money. Let’s trace the money trail behind these BDS shills.

  • David Most

    Doesn’t the scent of Arab money dripping oil permeate the writings of these BDS academics?
    An interesting study would be to determine just how much Saudi petrodollars are being spread among these ‘academics’.

  • artcohn

    Anyone who advocates for BDS, who thinks that he/she is a liberal, is not! He/she would feel at home in the Germany of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

  • Andria Spindel

    Authors and contributors to such a journal demonstrate serious lack of integrity and honesty, ignorance of history and facts, prejudice and bigotry. If the want to create freedom in academia, then why are they totalitarian in their approach to Israel? If they want to support peace in the Middle East why not condemn the dictators who rule the Islamic nations including Abbas? Saudi Sheiks? Basharat Assad? Erdogan? There is nothing resembling equality for minorities, gays, women in these countries and they support in many ways, for the annihilation of Jews, so is that what these American up academics also support?

  • Mort Moooze

    After all this academic BDS (aka BS) blah. blah. blah is KILL THE JEWS! ! ! !

  • Bernard Ross

    The problem is that there is a coordinated worldwide campaign agianst Israel and the Jews emplying many media and organizations. This requires tons of money and it needs to be determined from where that money is coming. I do not for one moment believe that this massive effort is coincidental.

  • Carl

    How any “academic” can advocate boycotting one of the most intellectually fertile countries on the planet just boggles the mind! Half of this year’s Nobel prizes went to Jews, several of whom are Israeli and conducted much of their research in Israel. Where is the moral outrage of these so-called academics against the actual brutality of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and countless other countries, instead of elevating what is essentially just political differences with Israel to such a level? Hopefully U.S. academia will respond to this scurrilous publication appropriately.

    • Liz Wagner

      The entire BDS movement, and nearly all of the anti-Israel movement is founded upon distortions and omissions of facts about Israel and Zionism. The undermining of Israel’s position in the world has required these “intellectuals” to resort to desperate tactics that include (trying to) change the meanings of words, such as “occupation” and “apartheid” for the sole purpose of dishonestly portraying Israel as an aggressor and dishonorable nation. I find it interesting that these people, in all their arrogance and ignorance, deem themselves to be morally superior to Israel and Israelis. Apparently, they imagine this moral superiority makes them intellectually superior, too. What’s so pathetic is their infinite obsession with debasing Israel merely reveals their envy of the Jewish People and their resentment and frustration over never having succeeding at separating Jews from Israel or the love of Torah.

    • shelly leibowitz