With the debate heating up in the US regarding academic boycotts of Israel (see the NY Times’ Dec. 17 report on the resolution approved by the American Studies Association, and today’s report in Haaretz citing the sharp criticism by the Association of American Universities of the ASA’s boycott call), we share below the letter on the subject submitted to the NY Times last week by our Vice President, Prof. Leonard Grob.
Unfortunately, the only two Jewish organizational responses published by the Times both came from the older, ‘mainstream’ establishment and offered comments that were almost identical. Regrettably, the Times made no room for a more nuanced or alternative perspective. Prof. Grob’s letter reads as follows:
In “Boycott by Academic Group Is a Symbolic Sting to Israel”(front page, Dec. 17), Richard Pérez-Peña and Jodi Rudoren conflate two very different boycott initiatives: the wholesale boycott of all things Israeli, promoted by the Global BDS movement, but opposed by almost all Israelis, supporters of Israel, and even the Palestinian political leadership; and the selective boycott of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The former is too often a tool used to unjustly target Israel’s very existence, while the latter correctly distinguishes between Israel’s legitimacy within its pre-1967 borders and the illegitimacy of its occupation beyond this ‘Green Line’.
This selective boycott enjoys growing support from those Israelis and American supporters of Israel who seek a two-state solution that will allow Israel to continue to exist as a democracy. The boycott announced by the American Studies Association, while rightly seeking to defend the academic freedom of Palestinians under occupation, errs in its failure to distinguish between, for example, Tel Aviv University in sovereign Israel, and Ariel University in the West Bank, which was created to promote Israel’s settlement movement.