In response to recent serious attempts by faculty at the University of Michigan and Pitzer College to thwart American students from studying in and about Israel, more than 100 national and local organizations on Dec. 4 called on the same 250 college and university leaders who in 2013 issued statements opposing the American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott to sign the “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel.”
The University Leaders Statement condemns “in the strongest terms” faculty who would attempt to implement an academic boycott of Israel on their campuses.
“Following the American Studies Association’s adoption of a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities in 2013, leaders of 250 U.S. colleges and universities, including your own, issued statements opposing the ASA resolution. However, in light of recent reprehensible attempts by faculty at University of Michigan, Pitzer College and elsewhere to implement an academic boycott that thwarts their own students’ academic freedom and their own colleagues’ scholarly activities, it is imperative that university leaders speak out once again, this time even more forcefully,” wrote the groups in the letter organized by AMCHA Initiative.
Some of the national organizations that signed the letter include the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Academic Engagement Network, B’nai B’rith International, American Zionist Movement, Association of Reform Zionists of America, Mercaz USA, Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Jerusalem U, CUFI on Campus, Hasbara Fellowships, Iranian American Jewish Federation, National Council of Young Israel, NCSY and Rabbinical Alliance of America, as well as numerous student and faculty groups.
The Dec. 4 action launches a larger effort to educate university leaders and whole campus communities about the very real harms the academic boycott of Israel will cause students and faculty on American campuses if it is permitted to be implemented, as faculty are now trying to do. Each week over the next month, AMCHA will release new information about the direct harms of the boycott, including the results of a student survey and a comprehensive study about how the academic boycott of Israel is being implemented in classrooms across the country. AMCHA will also launch a multi-pronged grassroots letter-writing campaign and a university stakeholder petition, as well as a social media video blitz exposing faculty strategies.
While long portrayed as an effort aimed at Israeli universities and scholars, the implementation of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel will directly violate the rights of, and harm, students and faculty on U.S. campuses. Its tactics include having faculty on American campuses shut down their own school’s study abroad programs in Israel; refuse to write letters of recommendation for their own students who wish to study in Israel; scuttle their own colleagues’ research collaborations with Israeli universities and scholars; and cancel or shutdown student- and faculty-organized educational activities about Israel or featuring Israeli scholars or leaders to take place on their own campus.
Acting on political grounds, college instructors have recently begun attempting to implement the PACBI guidelines and prevent their students from studying in Israel. Earlier this fall, two University of Michigan faculty refused letters of recommendation to Michigan students applying to Israel study abroad programs, and last week it was reported that Pitzer College faculty attempted to shut down Pitzer’s Israel study abroad program altogether.
Just as these 250 university leaders condemned the ASA resolution boycotting Israeli academic institutions, the groups are calling on them to publicly condemn any faculty members who would attempt to implement the academic boycott of Israel on their campus. The University Leaders Statement acknowledges that these tactics “will not only inflict serious harm on Israeli academic institutions, but on faculty and students at our own schools as well,” and it affirms that implementation of the academic boycott of Israel subverts the scholarly and educational opportunities and curtails the academic freedom of students and faculty on U.S. campuses. It also puts faculty on alert that behavior that treats students, “as collateral damage to a political agenda is wrong and violates the principles of collegiality and academic integrity central to our institutions,” and will not be tolerated.
AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. It is the only organization that documents incidents in real time on its website for the public. AMCHA recorded 469 known anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, 639 in 2016, 652 in 2017, and 541 so far in 2018. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.