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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Part II: The Committee of University Heads Moves on BDS - Role of Israeli Academics
Editorial Note

As noted, the Committee of University Heads has recently decided to create a special forum to track academic BDS.  According to the article below, authorities have been worried that the BDS campaign – largely confined to liberal arts - will spread to sciences.  

Professor Zvi Ziegler (Emeritus, Technion), the head of the new forum, outlined its goals: “to examine and map out the scope of the threat, gathering information on potential boycotts as well as coordinating with relevant parties and institutions in Israel and abroad to minimize the damage.”  Such information, in his view, can provide warnings about pending “boycott endeavors,” and “will help us thwart the initiative before it stews.”   He added that “we see the importance of information regarding cases of discrimination against Israeli researchers such as rejecting articles for illegitimate reasons, refusal to take part in conferences alongside Israeli researchers or discrimination against inviting Israeli researchers to conferences.”

Over the years, IAM has reported on this and hundreds of other instances of BDS in Europe and the United States and has amassed the largest database on the issue.

This is the second of a four-part summary of some points to consider when dealing with academic BDS.

The Role of Israeli Academics in the BDS Movement
Israeli faculty have played a leading role in the BDS movement from its very inception. Indeed, BDS organizers are well aware of the benefits of Jews and especially Israeli Jews among their ranks - it legitimizes the movement and offers protection from charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

  • Post-Zionist scholars have provided the the theoretical justification for the BDS campaign - based on the model to fight apartheid in South Africa.   Oren Yiftachel and Neve Gordon (both from BGU) were the first to produced research that “proved” Israel to be an apartheid state.  Adi Ophir and  Moshe Zuckermann (both from TAU) and Moshe Zimmermann (HUJ) developed the theory that Israel treats the Palestinians in ways comparable to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.  Ariella Azoulay, who describes herself as a lexicographer at the Minerva Humanities Center, TAU produced pictoral evidence that makes the Holocaust–Palestinian Nakba equivalences.
  • Post-Zionist scholars have contributed greatly to the movement by helping to organize the various BDS drives.  For instance, Rachel Giora, Anat Matar (TAU) and Kobi Snitz (Weizmann Institute) were among the founders of Boycott from Within (aka BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within). The Boycott group collaborated with Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).  In August 2009 Neve Gordon called for boycott of Israel in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times
  • The 2011 Knesset anti-boycott law did not put a total end to this activity.  In 2012  Anat Matar took credit for persuading the British director Peter Brook to cancel his participation in a Kameri Theater workshop on the grounds of Kameri performance in Ariel.  In April 26, 2014 Neve Gordon traveled to Belgium to speak before a group that supports BDS.   In April 13, 2014 Kobi Snitz spoke to a group at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver Canada in favor of BDS.    Additionally, Snitz a wrote an open letter to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA to urge it to adopt BDS.  Many of those who voted for the resolution to boycott Israel that passed in June 2014 cited the encouragement received from “progressive Jews.”
  • Academic authorities have refrained from taking steps against these and other scholars because of the very broad definition of academic freedom in Israel.  According to Academic Freedom in Israel: A Comparative Perspective, Israeli faculty far surpass the degree of academic freedom of their  counterparts employed in public universities in Germany, Great Britain and the United States.  The Maltz Committee and other government panels created to bring the Israeli academy in line with tertiary education institutions in Europe and the United States have largely failed because of strong resistance from faculty. It is noted that a combination of case law and contractual agreements makes it impossible for public university faculty to call for boycott in western countries.
  • Academic authorities are highly reluctant to censure BDS supporters.  In 2009 BGU refused to fire Neve Gordon in spite of pressure from donors.   In 2010 TAU refused to fire Rachel Giora and Anat Matar in spite of pressure from its Board.  If anything, the backlash against efforts of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) to close down the Department of Politics and Government at BGU has increased the reluctance to act.    As widely known, following the appeal of the leaders of BGU to the international community, an unprecedented campaign was organized on a short notice.  A large number of professional associations, universities and hundreds of individual scholars wrote letters of protest to the Ministry of Education and the CHE.  
  • The 2011 anti-boycott law is being currently appealed to the Supreme Court.  The law has never been applied and it is not clear whether it will be tested. As it stands, the law is too broad-based; its key term "call to boycott" does not cover the range of support that Israeli academics offer to BDS.

Israel Hayom


Israel fights academic boycott

Committee of University Heads announces forum to examine and fight academic boycott of Israel worldwide • Hebrew University President Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson: "This is a growing phenomenon with the sole goal of harming Israel."

Yael Branovsky

The Committee of University Heads in Israel on Tuesday announced the establishment of a forum against academic boycotts of Israel.

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