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May 30, 2016 6:53 pm

Universities, Academics in Italy, Scotland, Canada and US Pushing Back Against BDS Movement

avatar by Lea Speyer

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An anti-Israel protest at a college campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

An anti-Israel protest at a college campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

In response to widespread efforts to isolate Israel spearheaded by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a number of universities around the world have taken a stand this past week in support of the Jewish state. 

On Monday, it was reported by Israeli daily  Haaretz that Italy will bring its largest ever delegation of academics to Israel in what Italian officials say is a move aimed at countering BDS. The joint academic initiative comes on the heels of a petition signed by some 300 Italian academics who called on Italian universities to cancel agreements with their Israeli counterparts.

“It’s an unprecedented effort to respond concretely on a very delicate issue. We believe that research and universities should be free and open to dialogue and exchange,” Francesco Talo, Italy’s ambassador to Israel, told Haaretz. “We thought that the best answer would be action: to concretely do exactly the opposite of what some people ask us to do and bring a significant number of Italian researchers and academics to Israel. Everybody is free to say what they want, but we will respond with actions.”

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The Italian academics and their Israeli peers will take part in a series of joint conferences and cooperative events to be held across Israel between Tuesday and Friday. On Thursday, the entire delegation is expected to gather at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv where three cooperation agreements in the areas of biophysics and material sciences will be signed between Israeli and Italian universities.

Meanwhile, in Canada, over 150 professors from Montreal’s McGill University signed an open letter condemning BDS, the Canadian Jewish News reported on Friday. The informal letter came on the heels of a statement by McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier denouncing the passage of a BDS motion at the Students’ Society of McGill University Winter 2016 General Assembly in March. Fortier said the BDS movement “flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university. It proposes actions that are contrary to the principles of academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse.”

The letter endorses Fortier’s statement against the BDS movement, with signatories congratulating the McGill official for her “courageous stance.” The letter states, in part:

While we as signatories have many different opinions about Israel and we affirm the need for a robust debate about any country’s policies, including Israel’s, the tone and tactics of the BDS movement echo traditional antisemitic obsessions and tropes. As educators, we are distressed when we hear our students telling at us how uncomfortable they have been made to feel by an increasingly aggressive pursuit of the anti-Israel boycott, reflected by the repeated attempts to vote it in, no matter how many times the supporters fail.

We all need to affirm our commitment to fighting bigotry of all kinds, even when masked behind human rights rhetoric or even if allied with political positions we might support. We fail when our students don’t feel genuinely safe in our university and the BDS movement has made McGill students feel unsafe, unsupported, and unwelcome in their and our academic home.

Over in Scotland, the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Trustee Board declined to adopt a BDS motion passed in March by the school’s Student Council. In a statement released by EUSA last week, the Trustees announced that “the BDS motion as it is written cannot be legally implemented by EUSA.”

The University of Edinburgh’s Israel Engagement Society (IES) praised the EUSA’s decision, saying in a statement, “IES strongly believes that BDS is a dangerous, divisive and discriminatory campaign tactic that risks undermining peace talks and cohesion on campus, and made this clear in its representations to EUSA in conjunction with other groups of concerned students. EUSA’s dropping of the policy follows a precedent set by other universities, recognizing the illegality of BDS and the significant risk of increasing intolerance against minority groups on campus that it poses.” While the BDS motion will not be enacted, IES said, the EUSA’s website will continue to display that the Student Council’s referendum passed.

In New York, Cornell Tech announced last week the appointment of a new director to the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute. The center — to be headed by world renowned artificial intelligence computer scientist Ron Brachman — was launched as an academic partnership in 2011 between Cornell University and the Technion Israel-Institute of Technology.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) strongly condemned the partnership in 2012, stating it was “deeply disturbed” by the collaboration and called on Cornell to break ties with the Technion. PACBI accused both institutions of being “complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians…all New York City residents should, rightfully, be outraged that their tax dollars are being apportioned in the service of such an endeavor.”

In recent years, the BDS movement has seen a surge of support from institutions of higher learning and academics around the world. Prominent academic organizations, such as the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Teachers Union of Ireland and the National Women’s Studies Association, have expressed support for academic boycotts against Israel.

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  • Reform School

    Jews are left alone only when the other nations fear them. People who mindlessly watch (like bumps on a log) Israel’s enemies begging it for protection from Iran’s nuclear bombs deserve degees in Ignorance, taking it from art to science. Advances in Medicine, Mathematics, Engineering and History facilitate civilization’s advance. Majoring in feelgoode subjects like Race and Gender Studies or Journalism may be easier for those with low IQs, but how do they contribute?

  • Ron L

    jakob
    i think you have it backward. The palestinian refusal to recognize israel as the jewish state is one of the big obstacles of peace. If the palestinians would be as obsessed with building their country like they are obsessed with destroying israel the conflict would have ended years ago.
    Israel has long recognized palestine but until they stop trying to destroy israel and teach their children hatred there will always be an israeli presence in the west bank.

  • shoshana

    I have one question to all these BDS supporters and activists. How is it that they do not see or hear the sufferung og the people of Syria, they are killed by their own government.

  • Am Yisroel Chai Rebuilt the Temple of Yerushalayim

    Am Yisroel Chai Rebuilt the Temple of Yerushalayim

  • A Zionist

    A few years ago, a British anti-Zionist Jew, established the UK-Palestinian Mental Health Network. At its inaugural meeting, a slew of Israel haters attended. They included doctors, psychiatrists, psychoanalytic clinicians and academics. The only “mental health professionals” from the Middle East were from Gaza and were therefore Hamas supporters.

    Recently, an open letter has been sent to the Society for Psychotherapy Research condemning it for having its Conference in Jerusalem. The list contain academics and clinicians from the UK and the USA.

    On its website, there is a section devoted to helping the political activists, to counter claims that singling out the only Jewish country is antisemitic, to the how anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.

    Behind this humanitarian organisation, is the real agenda: the demonisation, delegitimisation and double-standards of antisemitism. These good clinicians remain silent EXCEPT when it involves Israel.

    It seems that despite my best efforts,no one seems to be interested in exposing this organisation and the way in which political activists within the “Jewish science” are using psychoanalysis to attack anyone who is pro-Israel.

    It is ironic that these UK psychoanalytic clinicians who claim that “talking” is important make an EXCEPTION when it comes to the pro-Israel voices.

    Will Algemeiner help expose the hypocrisy of this dangerous, malicious and malevolent organisation?

    • shoshana

      these “distinguished” psychoanalists have forgotten that psychoanalysis has been invented by dr.Sigmond Freud, a jewish doctor during the first half of the 20est century. He had to fly away from Germany to England in the early thirties because ofthe nazis

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    I do not have any doubt that Israel represents goodness in moral choice and values. It will take the succour of a legion of academics and academic institutions to bolster the Israeli effort to bring decent, ethical relations among the nations of the world to the level that people will respect one another for the simple fact that they are all human beings, albeit with differences in faith, cultures, political views, moralities, and historical visions. In the end, the real tragedies which took place in Chicago with six fatalities and more than seventy wounded in just one city could be felt by the world community as massive injustices, losses and suffering beyond comprehension. The great loss of life due to migrant drownings of late in the Mediterranean Sea also should remind people everywhere of the sacrosanct value of every single life, no less so the life of a single Jew or a single Israeli. Dialogue is still by far the best way to ameliorate distressed relations; where violence or processes of abandonment, extreme stress via undue taxation, tariffs, labelling, separation, or alienation only exacerbate relations among people. The syncretised treatment of differences would remediate the suffering manifested by polarised differences.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    From the beginning of the BDS hate campaign against Israel, H M Govt has made it clear that it rejects all BDS activities in UK Universities. It is impossible in a genuine academic setting to reject genuine advances in science, technology, medicine or any other field of research. From a purely commonsense view any boycott of a regime because of human rights issues would have to include boycotting any any regime that stones women, beheads those who disagree with the govt, hangs gays from cranes or throws them off high buildings, allows female genital mutilation, amputates arms and legs, denies women the right to drive, have equal education or walk in public without a male guardian and a burkha. Any BDS movement based on human rights issues would have to include all Arab countries and many other countries where ethnic and religious minorities and/oe women are victimised.

  • But not the hypocrites from Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland & Spain!

    Silence = agreeing!

  • BDS is economic terrorism. How about some boycotts of Saudi Arabia, Iran and in fact the whole anti social and hate filled Muslim world??

  • Gary Dalin

    If BDSers spent even a fraction of their time attempting to get the Pals to simply accept and declare that Israel is the Jewish state, they could achieve peace. But peace is not their goal. It’s goal is extermination of Jews.

  • citizenstat

    Must be my time for prattling. This piece recalls the “prophet” Balaam.

  • May all the Israel and Jew haters be neutralized and/or disintegrate.

  • Mike

    Why do my posts await moderation. The truth may be disliked or sometimes extreme but it is never immoderate.

  • Steven Gruenstein

    Bravo a tutti I profesori Italiani Che soon contro il movimento BDS. Siete coragiosi. Durante la seconda guerra mondiale il popolo italiano ha sempre protetto I Loro cittadini ebraici. Vi ringrazio. Ho vissuto in italia per tanti Anni e non ho Mai sentito l’odio che c’e’ in europa adesso come in germania Nei Anni 30.

  • Mike

    How about a BDS against China for occupying Tibet, or Taiwan for occupying an Island of China, or Russia for occupying the Ukraine, or the Ukraine for occupying part of Russia, or South Sudan for occupying part of Sudan, or Nigeria for occupying northern Nigeria, or South Korea for occupying North Korea, or North Korea for occupying South Korea, etc., etc., etc.. Or how about Palestinians for occupying the west bank of Israel and Gaza? The only reason these students are talking about or supporting BDS has nothing to do with north or south, east or west, China or others. It clearly is antisemitism and mostly Islamic antisemitism. It also speaks poorly of those supporting it as they feel these situations are beyond their understanding so they find it simpler to just accept and believe the Islamic propaganda and antisemitism.

  • It’s refreshing to read about intellectually honest academics supporting Israel. The Italian ambassador to Israel wisely said, “….We believe that research and universities should be free and open to dialogue and exchange.” And the BDS Movement is the antithesis of academic freedom.

  • Ephraim

    It is good to see that at least a few academic organizations recognize the reprehensible bigotry of bds, and are willing to take a stand. I note that,unlike in Canada and Italy, the US is not taking a stand against this antisemitism. I suspect having an antisemite in the White House ensures that this will not occur.

  • Rabbi Emily F. Korzenik

    I am pleased to see that the BDS movement is beginning to lose its steam. In addition to the Italian academics, the leadership of McGill University, and the academic partnership between Cornell University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology noted above the student body at Vassar college, my own alma mater, has voted against having BDS on the campus.

  • Rita Crespi

    This is a no brainier…..take away their cell phones, iPads and computers plus any electronic device created in Israel. Do not give them access to any of the new medicines developed in Israel. That ought to give them something to think about………..providing they have a functioning brain

  • jakob wasi

    Cherry picking data doesn’t make DBS disappear. If anything the movement has gone from strength to strenght, for the simple and plain reason: it’s Israeli polivy that has fuelled worldwide criticism against the reactionary Zionist ideology and ultra nationalism that punishes Palestinians and refuses to come to terms with the existence of a Palestinian state.

    • Jay Bertram

      Your thinking is as faulty as your spelling.

    • Ron L

      May 31, 2016
      4:14 pm
      jakob
      i think you have it backward. The palestinian refusal to recognize israel as the jewish state is one of the big obstacles of peace. If the palestinians would be as obsessed with building their country like they are obsessed with destroying israel the conflict would have ended years ago.
      Israel has long recognized palestine but until they stop trying to destroy israel and teach their children hatred there will always be an israeli presence in the west bank.

    • Reform School

      Thank you for weighing in, President Muhammad Obama!

    • Mike

      Picking sour grapes will not make a Palestinian state appear. There had never been a Palestinian state in history and still hasn’t been. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan came out of the Arabian peninsula and took 80% of what was to be Israel, not Palestine. The Hashemites were going to name their new country Palestine but the Arabs objected as that might negate their claim over making Israel Palestine. Thus the name Jordan was chosen, a state that also had never existed. The Palestinian claim is all a desert mirage to help in destroying Israel and even Jews.

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