TEL AVIV - Yisrael Ba'aliya has sharply criticized a group of intellectuals for joining in a call for Ann Arbor, Michigan, to "divest from investments it may hold in companies or funds which do business in Israel."
A group of residents has begun a movement to call on their town to divest, in the same way that it once divested from investing in countries investing in South Africa during the days of apartheid.
"We hope you will pass the strongest possible resolution to divest Ann Arbor from any investments, transactions, or pension funds it may hold in companies or funds which do business in Israel," the support letter states.
The letter was signed by 11 people, including Tanya Reinhart and Rahel Giora, both professors of linguistics at Tel Aviv University; Anat Matar, associate professor of philosophy at TAU; and Jacob Katriel, a professor at the Technion.
The "fury and anger" of Yisrael Ba'aliya executive director Eli Kazhdan is aimed particularly at them, and he believes their universities should take action against them.
"We believe the people who run the institutions should ask them to stop using their names as calling cards. It is one thing for them to publish articles in Yediot Aharonot criticizing the government.
"Going to the US, calling us an apartheid state, and calling for disinvestiture - using the names of institutions that receive funding from abroad - it's infuriating.
"Israel has enough problems to deal with right now without this new detrimental and harmful strategy," he said.
But Giora said that "if the government can go and seek American aid, I have just as much right to tell the Americans not to help us.
"Remember, there were plenty of people in South Africa who supported the call for divestiture - just because I'm Israeli does not mean I can't support it.
"And I can criticize something that supports my institution. I'm not getting paid to shut up."
Giora said the initiative in Ann Arbor was inspired by her colleague Tanya Reinhart, who is currently residing in Holland. In late October, Reinhart published an article, widely distributed on the Internet, in which she called for opponents of Israeli policy to take economic as well as political action.
In addition to voicing their opposition at every opportunity, Reinhart wrote, "there is one simple thing that anybody can do: Boycott Israel - join, for starters, the consumer boycott which has been going on for a while in various places in Europe.
It is easy to do - just don't buy 'Made in Israel' products. But it is also a useful means of political activity and education.
"In the days of the South Africa boycott, people used to sneak into supermarkets and paste 'South Africa' stickers on the relevant products. Leafleting outside supermarkets, explaining why we boycott Israel is a good way to get the information through.
Israel is not the US. It is a small country with hardly any economy and with a self-image completely detached from reality. It can be stopped."