In Great Britain, there was an attempt to disrupt a session at the London School of Economics. While the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub was engaged in a conversation with students, some students walked out of the class and set off a fire-alarm.
However, the BDS campaign against Israel has triggered a countermobilization of groups, including the recently formed Academic Engagement Network that counts Mark Yudof, the former president of UCLA, and other university presidents and leading academics among its members.
The new group emphasizes that, in addition to harming Israel, the BDS movement touches upon the most fundamental issues of free speech and anti-Semitism on campus.
In Yudof's opinion as demonstrated in the article below, the attacks on Israel are a slippery slope that would hurt the public standing and legitimacy of the academy at large.
Egyptian politician Omar Salem ignored the calls of#BDS and went to Haifa university to discuss his book "The missing peace: The role of religion in the arab-israeli conflict"
This is how Palestinian students met him and cleaned the floor of the universtiy with his dignity!!
The missing peace: The role of religion in the arab-israeli conflict
Egypt in the sixties and seventies for the Salem family was a balance between keeping Islamic tradition at home and attending the secular system of public schools, which would provide us with the best of opportunities, and form us into what my parents considered model Muslims. Both traditional Islamic practice and a breadth of scholarship were to be revered, in line with the great Islamic thinkers that always inspired us like Imam Mohamed Abdu and M. Rashid Reda.1
I was first exposed to other cultures and peoples when I traveled on foot and auto-stop on a forty-day journey to Europe in the summer of 1974. I was only fourteen at the time, but that journey taught me many valuable lessons, including the importance of being independent, self-sufficient, relating to others and understanding between cultures and people. That journey to Europe was followed by three more journeys to Europe and the Middle East for the following three summers, before our family emigrated and settled in California in the late seventies. Having lived in three different countries on three different continents, I have had no choice but to consider many different points of view, not only in my own acclimation from Egyptian to American culture, and then to Indian culture and back to American, but in my desire to understand the Middle East conflict at its root. Many of my relatives and friends still reside in Egypt. Therefore, my interest in solving the conflict is both on an ideological and personal level.
My personal and global journey included study at Berkeley and Stanford universities, after which I established myself in a real estate investment business. I then embarked on a trek to the Indian subcontinent, where I spent some time with the pacifist Muslim Tablighi Jamaat movement and experienced again a taste of wandering, joined with outreach to other Muslims and simplicity in living. My passion for solving the conflicts in the Middle East led me to pursue a master’s degree at Yale Divinity School, then a PhD defended at AlAzhar University, Cairo, Egypt, which I was granted in 2015.
We must defeat BDS macro-aggression
DECEMBER 9, 2015, 2:12 PM
Mark G. Yudof
The phrase “connect the dots” originally referred to a children’s game in which a bigger picture was revealed by drawing lines among the points. In adult lingo it became a metaphor for teasing out salient relationships often overlooked by the less subtle. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, moving to integrate itself with nearly every progressive campus cause, has put the metaphor on steroids.
Consider: A Jewish University of Massachusetts-Amherst student attended the Million Student March to rollback college tuition. His enthusiasm was considerably blunted when the group broke out into a cheer: “Not another penny, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes.” Or, I recall a demonstration at UCLA, in which a group advocating disinvestment in fossil fuel companies joined forces with BDS advocates.
If you are worried about the cost of college or the well-being of the planet, Israel is high on the BDS list of culprits. Such an Orwellian turn is reminiscent of pogroms and annihilations when Jews were blamed for everything from famine and disease to the crash of markets and military losses. Just substitute “Israel” for “Jew” and the script is familiar.
But the BDS strategy is also a blatant attempt to co-opt the language of human rights: Israel is a settler nation, a bastion of white privilege, a racist and apartheid state, and a perpetrator of alleged genocide.
The road from alleged police misconduct against African-Americans in Ferguson and elsewhere is said to be connected to the plight of the Palestinian people. In student debates on BDS resolutions, it is shouted, not whispered, that Israeli soldiers deliberately kill children and harvest organs from living beings. In an age of exquisite sensitivity to subtle “micro-aggression” in choices of language, such macro-aggression largely goes un-noted.
BDS challenges not only Israeli policies, but also its legitimacy and right to exist. Doubtless, some Israeli policies aggravate and exacerbate the situation. But at bottom, BDS seeks demolition of the Jewish state and not reform of its policies. As Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of BDS, has stated, “Most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” No two-state solution here.
The symbolism should not be lost on anyone. University boards have not endorsed BDS, but that is not the overarching objective. The objective is delegitimization. The goal: not better policy, but no polity.
The BDS narrative also often strays into anti-Semitism. Jews are portrayed as privileged, powerful, rich and politically nefarious. They have too much influence with Congress, state legislatures, media, corporate sector and nonprofits.
When I was president of the University of California, a group of student leaders informed me that the First Amendment protected only marginalized peoples — self-defined — and not the privileged. Hence no problem if there is an attempt to silence campus speakers like the Israeli ambassador or the philosopher Moshe Habertal or an Israeli soldier — the “privileged” have no speech rights. And Jews (and college administrators and perhaps all with whom they disagree) are privileged. If the effort to silence pro-Israel speakers is defeated by police intervention, that intervention itself is viewed as a violation of the rights of the marginalized.
Whether deliberate or not, a rash of indefensible, anti-Semitic behaviors is stirred by the BDS movement: phony eviction notices to Jewish students in residence halls, calls for an intifada in America, swastikas on Jewish fraternities, questioning of Jewish students suitability for student government offices, efforts to disqualify students from elected office if they received a free trip to Israel, and the like.
The distinction between Israel and Jewish people is frequently lost. No wonder the constant refrain at discussions of BDS with Jewish audiences: Where is it safe to send my children?
In this light, a large group of distinguished academicians and administrators at leading American universities recently launched the Academic Engagement Network (AEN). Its purposes and principles include catalyzing robust campus debates on Israel and BDS, and defending academic freedom against assaults from those who would shout down speakers.
A key part of the AEN agenda must be to reestablish bridges between the Jewish community, communities of color on campus, and progressive organizations. All too often, largely because of the strategy of the BDS proponents to treat the road to perdition as lined with Israelis — whether in immigration reform, police misconduct or global warming — to be a campus progressive is to be anti-Israel. To engage in dialogue with Jewish students and organizations over the issues that divide them is a tacit recognition of the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Hence they often refuse to join in robust debate.
My principle fear is not that the BDS movement on campuses will injure the Israeli economy or isolate Israeli universities. My greatest fear is that the future leaders of America will be viscerally anti-Israel because of the distorted discourse on today’s campuses. What happens on campus never stays on campus.
In the end, universities should be safe from mindless ideological conformity — not from varying perspectives on Israel. That is the primary mission of the Academic Engagement Network.
Mark Yudof serves as the chair of the Academic Engagement Network advisory board. He is president emeritus of the University of California. He previously served as chancellor of the University of Texas System and as president of the University of Minnesota.
Influential Academics Seek To Counter 'Orwellian' BDS on Campus
December 22, 2015
(Washington Jewish Week) — Alarmed by what they called “Orwellian efforts” to link Israel with a multitude of free-speech issues now roiling American college campuses, a group of influential academics has launched an initiative to combat anti-Semitism and facilitate constructive dialogue about Israel.
Led by Mark Yudof, president emeritus of the University of California system, and Kenneth Waltzer, former director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University, the Academic Engagement Network has taken it upon itself to combat “Orwellian efforts to link Israel with a multitude of issues, from the shootings in Ferguson to high levels of student tuition.”
“In the face of activities aimed at vilifying Israel, AEN members will facilitate robust and civilized discussions relating to Israel on campuses, promote academic freedom and freedom of expression, stand for human rights for Arabs and Jews, and engage colleagues and students to better understand these complex issues,” Yudof, the network’s chair, said in a statement this month.
Network members will act as resources on their campuses and provide advice to academic colleagues on how to address anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities without trampling on free speech.
A manual titled “Academic Freedom and BDS: A Guide for University Presidents and Administrators” is in the editing stages, with an intended release date of early January, in time for the spring semester.
Stephen Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., described the network as a group of concerned academics who “have devoted themselves to making it possible for people from all points of view … to speak candidly and without disruption.”
In recent years, student protesters have taken to shouting down invited Israeli guest lecturers. In early November, Assi Azar, an Israeli television personality and LGBT rights advocate, was interrupted during a discussion of his film “Mom, Dad, I have Something to Tell You” at Goucher College in Baltimore. Last winter, masked protesters wielding electronic noisemakers and carrying signs reading “Ferguson, Pittsburgh, Gaza, Fight Back,” disrupted a talk by a former Israeli army medic on gender roles during wartime.
Preventing invited guests from speaking and spreading misinformation are among the methods Trachtenberg and his fellow AEN board members describe as “anti-intellectual” and harmful “for peace and for academic freedom.”
“On some campuses, certainly, issues that are either popular or unpopular off campus in the larger community sometimes find a way to the campus and it causes no small degree of indigestion, if you will,” said H. Patrick Swygert, president emeritus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. “But I’ve never been one to be persuaded that silence or simply just going along [is the right response].”
Swygert, who has been an academic for nearly four decades and has taught at Israeli universities, said he has heard “obvious untruths about the State of Israel with no rebuttal.”
It is a university president’s duty, he said, to “be clear in the sense that the university has values and one of them is free speech in contrasting and opposing ideas.”
There is a space for serious debate on Israel if “the president is able to articulate what the reality is of Israel as an open democratic society in a volatile part of the world,” Swygert said.
Trachtenberg agreed, saying he would like to see robust debate on campuses, perhaps in the same vein as the 2015 Oxford University debate on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, that pitted American lawyer Alan Dershowitz against British human rights activist Peter Tatchell. Dershowitz was declared the winner.
“We ourselves are critical of Israel. We don’t claim perfection for Israel and no one expects us to do that,” said Trachtenberg. “We’re not afraid of fair criticism of Israel. … We simply think that the kind of behavior that BDS advocates is bad for universities, bad for scholarship, [and a] bad way for advocating their position.”
For Trachtenberg, his affiliation with AEN “transcends the issue of Israel.”
“It has to do with what I’m focusing on, which is the American university,” he said. “[We need] to enable deliberations which are based on facts rather than opinion.”
AEN’s national advisory board members include psychologist Steven Pinker of Harvard, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt of Emory, and Lawrence Summers, a past president of Harvard and former secretary of the Treasury.