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August 31, 2018 5:02 pm

Forty Academics to Headline Two-Day ‘Israel at 70’ Conference at Michigan State University

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A Michigan State University sign. Photo: Ken Lund.

Michigan State University will host a two-day conference next month that aims to offer a multifaceted exploration of Israel as the country celebrates its 70th Independence Day.

“Israel at 70: Complexity, Challenge, and Creativity” — scheduled to take place on September 16-17 — will feature 40 scholars from MSU and more than a dozen American and Israeli schools, including Notre Dame University, University of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University, Syracuse University, University of Wisconsin, Smith College, Monmouth University, Lafayette College, and Kalamazoo College.

Roundtable and panel discussions will center on topics including Israeli society and culture, US-Israel relations, boundaries of Israel criticism, Israeli-Palestinian peace lessons and prospects, and Israeli innovation in agriculture, medicine, and business.

Conference organizer Yael Aronoff — director of MSU’s Jewish Studies program and its Michael and Elaine Serling chair in Israel Studies — told The Algemeiner on Friday that while the school has hosted prior conferences on Israeli literature and environmental management, this gathering will be the largest.

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She expressed hope that it will result in “intellectually stimulating discussions about the complexity of Israel,” including within the university and broader community, as well as “interactions that may lead to future research collaboration between Israeli and American scholars, and MSU and Israeli universities and institutions.”

The conference has received “tremendous support,” Aronoff added, including in the form of sponsorship by 13 different MSU colleges, departments, and programs.

Attendance is free and open to the public, and more than 100 guests representing “a real mix of students, faculty, and community members” have already signed-up, she noted.

Backers include the Academic Engagement Network, a group of American faculty members who oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which has gained a foothold in university campuses and academic associations globally. BDS says it seeks to turn Israel into “a pariah” until it accedes to a number of Palestinian demands, while critics say it aims to dismantle the Jewish state — a position supported by the movement’s co-founder, Omar Barghouti.

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