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June 3, 2016 3:59 am

Academics Across the World Sign Petition Condemning BDS for Double Standards, Anti-Israel Bigotry

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A BDS protest. Over 1,000 academics signed an anti-BDS petition. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

More than 1,000 academics across the world signed an anti-BDS petition. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

More than 1,000 academics from all over the world signed a petition condemning all forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

“Boycott is always wrong, I think. People must talk to each other, not shun the other for any reason,” signatory Yale School of Music Professor Boris Berman told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “In case of a boycott of Israel, the country that struggles every day for its existence and still manages to live as close to a normal life and actually manages to flourish, I think that boycott is not only wrong, but unconscionable and despicable.”

The anti-BDS letter, published by the Academic Council for Israel (ACfI) and released on Tuesday, includes signatures from college and university faculty, administrators, staff and trustees. The academics hail from universities across the globe, including New York’s Yeshiva University, Australia’s University of Sydney, Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the University of Chile and Turin University in Italy.

The letter states that ACfI and its partner organizations released the petition to “fight the bigotry of the boycott movement, which seeks to apply a double standard against Israel and Israeli nationals, as well as anyone who supports Israel….We stand united in our condemnation of calls and campaigns for boycott, divestment from, and sanctions against Israeli academic institutions, professors, products, and companies that do business in or with Israel.

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“We are calling upon all academics of good conscience to join more than 1,000 of your academic colleagues in opposing anti-Israel BDS resolutions being considered or already voted on by some academic professional associations.”

Richard Belson, an associate professor at Adelphi University, told The Algemeiner that he signed the petition because he thinks “Israel should be supported by every democracy in the world.” He said BDS supporters are “anti-Israel, and therefore we should do everything possible to defeat them.”

Professor Robert Abzug from the University of Texas at Austin, who also signed the petition, said he condemns the BDS movement because of the number of “lies, misconceptions and just outrageous things that are said by BDS supporters,” as well as their “unwillingness to debate issues, and their willingness to support disruptions of freedom of speech, disruptions of academic programs and speeches.”

“Not only on the basis of what they stand for, but how they go about things, is a very bad development,” he added. “As bad a development for American academia as I think it is for Israel. Israel can probably take care of itself, but the incursion of these sorts of tactics and misrepresentations and misinterpretations on campuses that are supposed to be dedicated to freedom of speech and academic inquiry and debate, just has no place.”

Professor Abzug said he believes that among many BDS supporters, there is an undertone of “traditional antisemitism.” He added that many of their theories and charges against Israel — including those of colonialism — are gaining traction among anti-Israel supporters because they seem appealing to people who don’t know any better, or who either don’t know — or don’t want to know — the history of Israel.

“People are looking for simple answers and simple enemies. I think BDS is part of that,” he explained. “We’re not all experts on everything and if friends make compelling cases, at least rhetorically, it’s easy to think that’s what’s true.”

Professor Berman said he “hates to blatantly accuse people of antisemitism,” but, “People who are blindly calm when discussing or hearing about atrocities in some of the most horrible regimes in the world are jumping to accuse Israel of the slightest provocation. I cannot help thinking that antisemitism is the most logical explanation for this,” he said.

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