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December 9, 2016 3:35 am

Academic Freedom Proponents Slam BDS Policy of ‘Anti-Normalization,’ Non-Engagement With Israel, Supporters

avatar by Lea Speyer

An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo: Students for Justice in Palestine at UTK Facebook page.

An anti-Israel ‘apartheid wall’ at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo: Students for Justice in Palestine at UTK Facebook page.

Two prominent pro-Israel academics slammed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s policy of “anti-normalization” and non-engagement with the Jewish state and its supporters in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Professors Cary Nelson and David Greenberg — members of the Alliance for Academic Freedom, an organization that rejects academic boycotts of Israel — argued that this policy has made shutting down Israel-related campus events acceptable, and that because BDS activists infuse it with “quasi-theological” justification, protesters are provided with a “transcendent reason to voice their contempt for academic freedom.”

They wrote that such a policy “as specific to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” also gives the BDS  movement “a new justification for singling out Israel’s supporters for silencing,” while doing nothing in the face of “far worse human rights violations.”

As a result, Nelson and Greenberg contended, the suppression of Israel-related speakers — regardless of their stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — has “proliferated” in recent years. Prominent examples include the October 2015 disruption at UC Irvine of a lecture by former Israeli Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak, himself an advocate of Palestinian rights, and the protest of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s speech at San Francisco State University in April.

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At times, the method has even crossed the line into outright antisemitism, Nelson and Greenberg added, as people are “prompted…to prevent a speech simply because it was co-sponsored by a Jewish student group.”

To combat the BDS movement’s “air of moral urgency and ethical superiority,” the professors said, universities must actively “create opportunities for students and faculty to hear and engage with ideas that they don’t share.”

A recent act of “anti-normalization” occurred earlier this week at Columbia University where, as The Algemeiner exclusively reported, some 50 students disrupted a cultural event featuring a Yemenite Jew speaking about his connection to Israel.

Demonstrators held up signs reading “Zionism is racism” and accusing Israel of “theft, displacement and ethnic cleansing,” before staging a mass walkout.

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