An American organization of professors on Monday announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest
’s treatment of Palestinians,
signaling that a movement to isolate and pressure Israel that is gaining ground in Israel Europe has begun to make strides in the . United States
Members of the American Studies Association voted by a ratio of more than two to one to endorse the boycott in online balloting that concluded Sunday night, the group said.
With fewer than 5,000 members, the group is not one of the larger scholarly associations. But its vote is a milestone for a Palestinian movement known as B.D.S., for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions, which for the past decade had found little traction in the
. The American Studies Association
is the second American academic group to back the boycott, movement organizers
say, following the Association for Asian American Studies, which did so in
April. United States
“It’s almost like a family betrayal,” said Manuel Trajtenberg, a leading Israeli scholar. “It’s very grave and very saddening that this happens, particularly so in the
,” he said. U.S.
Dr. Trajtenberg, an economics professor at
, earned his doctorate at Harvard
and like many Israeli academics has had frequent sabbaticals at American
universities. Tel Aviv University
In April, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland endorsed an academic boycott of
, and several times in recent years
there have been strong efforts within Israel ’s largest professors’ group, the
University and College Union, to do the same. Britain
Israelis have long seen
Europe as more hostile — even anti-Semitic in some pockets — but a slap from
the has a particular sting. United States
“Rather than standing up for academic freedom and human rights by boycotting countries where professors are imprisoned for their views, the A.S.A. chooses as its first ever boycott to boycott Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, in which academics are free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they want,” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said Monday.
Next month, the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting will debate a resolution calling on the State Department to criticize
for barring American professors
from going to Israel and the Gaza West Bank when invited by Palestinian universities.
People on both sides of the issue acknowledged that despite the heat it generates, the requested boycott will have little practical effect, at least for now. The American Studies Association resolution bars official collaboration with Israeli institutions but not with Israeli scholars themselves; it has no binding power over members, and no American colleges have signed on.
In fact, the American Association of University Professors, the nation’s largest professors’ group, said it opposed the boycott. A number of American scholars, while angry at Israeli policies in the
West Bank, say they oppose singling out over other countries with far
worse human rights records. Others say it makes little sense to focus on
Israeli universities where government policy often comes under strong
“O.K., so a couple of Israeli researchers will not be invited by a couple of American researchers,” said Avraham Burg, a leftist former Labor Party lawmaker who was one of the founders of Molad, a research group that recently published a report on Israeli isolation. “That for me is awful, because the academic community is the last one with the freedom of thought and freedom of expression.”
But Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and a founder of the B.D.S. movement, said the boycott vote shed light on the close collaboration between
’s universities and its government
and military, and it put those universities on notice that they will become
unwelcome in international academic circles. Israel
“It is perhaps the strongest indicator yet that the B.D.S. movement is reaching a tipping point, even in the
, the last bastion of support for U.S. ’s unjust system,” he said. Israel
President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has publicly rejected a boycott of
. While pro-boycott forces draw
parallels to the sanctions movement against Israel during the apartheid era, Mr.
Abbas, who was in South Africa last week for the funeral of Nelson
Mandela, restated the Palestinian Authority’s longstanding position of
supporting a boycott only against products made in South Africa West Bank settlements, but not institutions
that operate within ’s 1948 lines. Israel
“We are neighbors with
, we have agreements with Israel , we recognize Israel , we are not asking anyone to
boycott products of Israel ,” Majdi Khaldi, an adviser to Mr.
Abbas, said in an interview on Monday. “The problem is two things: occupation,
and the government of Israel continuing settlement activities.” Israel
On Dec. 4, the 20-member national council of the American Studies Association voted unanimously for a boycott resolution, but decided to put the matter to a full membership vote. The group said that of 1,252 members who cast ballots, 66.05 percent voted in favor and 30.5 percent against, with the rest abstaining.
The American Association of University Professors, with 48,000 members repeated its position that while economic action against a nation might be warranted, academic boycotts stifle academic freedom and are likely to hurt people who are not the intended targets.
But the American Studies Association’s online forum filled with comments rejecting that logic, like this one from David Palumbo-Liu, a professor at Stanford: “People who truly believe in academic freedom would realize protesting the blatant and systemic denial of academic freedom to Palestinians, which is coupled with material deprivation of a staggering scale, far outweighs concerns we in the West might have about our own rather privileged academic freedoms.”
>The above article is by Richard Perez-Pena and Jodi Rudoren. It is reprinted from the
New York Times. Richard Pérez-Peña
reported from , and Jodi Rudoren from New York . Jerusalem