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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Academic BDS Moves to Front Page


Editorial Note 

After years of neglect, academic BDS has become front page story.  On the 28th of May, academic leaders asked President Reuven Rivlin for an emergency meeting.  As Professor Peretz Lavie, the head of the Technion recounts, the participants told Rivlin that the growing academic isolation is a national security threat of the highest order.  The president agreed with the conclusion and promised to raise the issue with diplomats and heads of states.  

But, as IAM repeatedly stated, fighting academic boycott is not easy as it is a multifaceted phenomenon, involving faculty and students.  One of the most difficult issues to tackle is the so called gray or latent boycott, defined as a clandestine effort to undermine Israeli academics as they seek to publish their work in reputable journals abroad, obtain sabbatical positions, grants, invitations to conference or even get recommendations.

Professor Rivka Carmi, the President of Ben Gurion University spoke on the issue in an article in Maariv, thatacademic isolation is a real threat to Israel. She noted, "large part of these boycotts are not formal. They work behind the scenes and reflect, in part, on non-acceptance of post-doctoral positions in Israel, rejection of co-authored articles and awards.There is no formal boycott but a growing understanding among academic staff in Israel, that there is a kind of silent boycott".

Professor Asher Cohen, the rector of the Hebrew University asked his faculty to report on cases of latent boycott.

Still, because of the arcane rules in the academy and the lack of transparency, it is not easy to prove that one’s paper was rejected because of nationality.  Professional journals have a high rate of rejection and it is always possible to quote scientific reasons.   As Professor Zeev Zahor writes, it took him a couple of years to realize that his book reviews were rejected because of his nationality.  When he confronted the editor, the latter evaded the issue. 

So far the latent boycott has affected the liberal arts only.  As a rule, the sciences are less politicized and the chances of the boycott spreading are not high.  Still, even if confined to liberal arts, the latent boycott is a worrisome phenomenon.


The silent exclusion of Israeli academics

Op-ed: Under the protection of secrecy and lack of transparency, a barrier stronger than any boycott is slowly being built in the world of academic journals.

Ze'ev Zahor 06.06.15, 22:50

An academic's job includes first and foremost research and teaching. His other tasks are part of the academic routine: Editing academic journals, appraising doctoral students' theses and writing opinions, many opinions. 

He is asked to review professional colleagues from the moment they are admitted into the academic institutions through their promotions, and he mainly has to review the quality of their research. This applies to both Israel and the world. The university is universal.

During the review processes, a close and patronage relationship develops, cliques are created, there are negative biases, preferences and scores to settle. The academia is a living human system. Despite the scores – and perhaps because of them – the academia has set clear rules. A prestigious journal will never publish a poorly written article just because the researcher is associated with the editor – prestige is acquired slowly and with great effort, and one poorly written article can bring it down.

That's the reason why most of the esteemed publications in the world make sure that an article received for consideration will be reviewed anonymously. The person who knows who sent the article is the editorial board secretary. The editorial board decides who will review the article, and the person who is asked to write an opinion on the article and decide whether it should be accepted, rejected or request amendments, does not know who the writer is. The process is clear and does not include transparency.

I was lucky. At the beginning of my academic career, the reviewer of the first article I sent to an international journal asked for my name after writing a positive opinion. Since then, it has become my home journal. He later became the journal's editor. I was asked by him to write review articles on research books.

A review of a book that has already been published makes the secrecy unnecessary – a review article aims to point to the problematic aspects of the reviewed book, and sometimes to oppose its findings. The writer of the review creates rivals, and so there are not many people who are eager to publish a review of a colleague's book. Editors of important journals which only publish a small number of the research articles they receive court the writers of the review articles and gladly accept them.

On the backdrop of the shortage in review articles on books, every review article I have written was gladly received and published – up until two years ago, when I sent the journal a review article. I waited for its publication in the upcoming issue, and then in the next issue – and nothing happened. There was neither a publication nor a rejection letter. I sent the article again, in case there had been an email error, and got no response.

I met the editor in a conference held in the United States a while ago. He used crafty intellectual terms in order to explain the new trends in Middle Eastern research which led to the changes in the publication policy. He didn't say in any way that Israelis were not wanted.

A simple examination of the past two years' issues revealed that the change amounts to not publishing any article by an Israeli researcher. Under the protection of secrecy and lack of transparency, a barrier stronger than any boycott is slowly being built.

Prof. Ze'ev Zahor is the founder and former president of the Sapir Academic College


Translated from Hebrew

Stop the Snowball Effect of Academic Boycotts

Attempts to impose an academic boycott on Israel are an affront to the most important national resource, to its human capital. This resource is under attack by an international anti-Israel elements. An academic boycott means, harming the strategic advantage of the state of Israel and a real danger to its future and strength.

Prof. Peretz Lavie, Chairman of the Committee of University Heads and President of the Technion

An emergency meeting was held last week at the President's office on imposition of academic boycotts. The convergence of all the heads of the higher education institutions indicates the importance and seriousness of the matter. The President of Israel called it a first-rate strategic threat and is willing to be mobilized  "as a soldier in the fight," he said, to eradicate the phenomenon.

We are at a time when it is still possible to take action to prevent serious damage to research, industry economics and the future strength of the State of Israel. This is an issue of national importance. We are currently facing a significant danger ahead of us. It's a snowball effect at its beginning and we believe that if we do not act now it could pose a threat to research in Israel.

In recent years, we witness attempts, on the part of the world's anti-Israel elements, calling for academic boycotts to be imposed on academic institutions in Israel and on Israeli and Jewish scholars working in academic institutions around the world. The public calls in the world for an academic boycott, are an extreme manifestation of severe symptoms, based on anti-Semitism and anti-Israel, and mostly occurs behind closed doors. Behind the scenes of the academic world. The warning signs that are occasionally exposed are a tip of the iceberg of discovery of boycotts, most of which are undeclared.

Attempts to impose an academic boycott on Israel are an affront to the most important national resource of Israel's human capital. This resource is under attack by an international anti-Israel elements. An academic boycott means, harming the strategic advantage of the state of Israel and a real danger to the future and strength.

Academic research and the scientific development in the world use and depend on the exchange of information and cooperation among international institutions, its success is dependent on it. Boycotting researchers or academic institutions is a phenomena with serious consequences that could block scientific developments that are essential to the advancement of research. But the problem does not stop here, the research that faces attack today is the basis for high-tech companies and Israeli medicine, it is the basis for technological developments of scientific industry and exports, is driving the Israeli economy forward and put us at the forefront of international development.

Equally serious threat comes from student organizations on campuses in Europe and the United States. A number of anti-Israel resolutions that were promoted by student organizations at leading universities in the US, are evidence of distress of Israel-supporters students are facing, that population forms the next generation of political leadership in the US in the coming years. We urge the Israeli government to acknowledge the problem and harness the resources at its disposal to help those who are fighting this dangerous phenomenon, often in a hostile environment with considerable personal risk.

We must not stand idle while this snowball effect continues to grow. We must raise this important issue to the public agenda, recognize the issue as a matter of national importance and act together to prevent the spread of the phenomenon.

לעצור את כדור השלג של החרמות האקדמיים
הניסיונות להטיל חרם אקדמי על ישראל מהווים פגיעה במשאב הלאומי החשוב ביותר שלה, ההון האנושי. משאב זה נמצא תחת מתקפה בינלאומית של גורמים אנטי ישראלים. חרם אקדמי משמעו, פגיעה ביתרון האסטרטגי של מדינת ישראל וסכנה ממשית לעתידה ולחוסנה

פרופ' פרץ לביא
יו"ר ועד ראשי האוניברסיטאות ונשיא הטכניון

פגישת החירום שנערכה בשבוע שעבר בבית הנשיא בנושא הטלת חרמות אקדמיים, וההתכנסות של כלל ראשי מערכת ההשלכה הגבוהה מעידה על חשיבות וחומרת העניין. נשיא המדינה הגדיר זאת כאיום אסטרטגי מהמעלה הראשונה ונאות להירתם "כחייל במאבק" לדבריו, למיגור התופעה.

אנו נמצאים בעיתוי בו ניתן עדיין לפעול על מנת למנוע נזק כבד למחקר, לתעשייה לכלכלה ולחוסנה העתידי של מדינת ישראל. זהו נושא בעל חשיבות לאומית. אנו עומדים כיום בפני סכנה משמעותית הניצבת לפתחנו. זהו כדור שלג בתחילת גלגולו ואנו אנו מאמינים כי אם לא נפעל היום הוא עלול להוות איום על המחקר במדינת ישראל.

בשנים האחרונות אנו עדים, לניסיונות, מצד גורמים אנטי ישראליים בעולם, הקוראים להטיל חרמות אקדמיים על מוסדות אקדמיים במדינת ישראל, על חוקרים ישראלים ויהודים במוסדות אקדמיים ברחבי העולם. הקריאות הפומביות בעולם לחרם אקדמי, הן ביטוי קיצוני לתופעה חמורה, הנשענת על אנטישמיות ואנטי ישראליות, ושרובה מתרחשת בחדרי חדרים. מאחורי הקלעים של העולם האקדמי. תמרורי האזהרה הנחשפים מדי פעם הם קצה הקרחון של גילוי החרמות שברובם כלל אינם מוצהרים.

הניסיונות להטיל חרם אקדמי על ישראל מהווים פגיעה במשאב הלאומי החשוב ביותר שלה, ההון האנושי. משאב זה נמצא תחת מתקפה בינלאומית של גורמים אנטי ישראלים. חרם אקדמי משמעו, פגיעה ביתרון האסטרטגי של מדינת ישראל וסכנה ממשית לעתידה ולחוסנה.

המחקר האקדמי וההתפתחות המדעית בעולם מתבססים ותלויים בחילופי ידע ובשיתוף פעולה בין מוסדי ובינלאומי והצלחתם מותנים בכך. הטלת חרם על חוקרים או על המוסדות האקדמיים הינה תופעה בעלת השלכות חמורות שעלולה לבלום ולעצור פיתוחים מדעיים החיוניים לקידום המחקר. אך לא כאן מסתכמת הבעיה, אותו מחקר, הניצב כיום בפני מתקפה, הוא הבסיס לחברות ההיי-טק ולחברות הרפואה הישראליות, הוא הבסיס לפיתוחים הטכנולוגים והמדעיים בתעשייה ובייצוא, הוא העומד בבסיס הכלכלה, הוא המניע את המשק בישראל והוא ששם אותנו בחזית הפיתוח הבינלאומית.

איום חמור לא פחות ומידי הרבה יותר, מגיע מצד ארגוני הסטודנטים עצמם בקמפוסים באירופה וארה"ב. מספר החלטות אנטי ישראליות שקידמו ארגוני סטודנטים באוניברסיטאות מובילות בארה"ב הם עדות למצוקה בה נמצאים ישראל ותומכיה בקרב אוכלוסיית הסטודנטים שם, אותה אוכלוסייה ממנה עתידה לצמוח ההנהגה הפוליטית והציבורית של ארה"ב בשנים הקרובות. אנו קוראים לממשלת ישראל להכיר בבעיה ולרתום את המשאבים העומדים לרשותה על מנת לסייע לאלו שכבר נאבקים בתופעה מסוכנת זו, לא פעם בסביבה עוינת ותוך סיכון אישי בלתי מבוטל.

אסור לנו לעמוד מנגד בזמן שכדור השלג הזה ממשיך לצבור תאוצה. עלינו לעלות את הסוגיה החשובה לסדר היום הציבורי, להכיר בנושא כעניין בעל חשיבות לאומית ולפעול בכוחות משותפים לבלימה שלו ולמניעת התפשטות התופעה.

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