BDS gains trac­tion among academics

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Henry Sre­brnik Guest Opin­ion Henry Sre­brnik is a pro­fes­sor of political sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

Like a snow­ball rolling down­hill, the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment aimed at Is­rael keeps grow­ing — es­pe­cially among those who teach at univer­si­ties.

The global BDS move­ment was ini­ti­ated by Pales­tinian or­ga­ni­za­tions in 2005, and is co-or­di­nated by the Pales­tinian BDS Na­tional Com­mit­tee, a group of 27 or­ga­ni­za­tions es­tab­lished in 2007.

It urges var­i­ous forms of boy­cott against Is­rael un­til it ends its oc­cu­pa­tion of the lands oc­cu­pied in June 1967; dis­man­tles the wall di­vid­ing the West Bank from Is­rael proper; and makes Arab cit­i­zens of Is­rael fully equal.

It also de­mands that Is­rael al­low post-1948 Pales­tinian refugees and their de­scen­dants to re­turn to their homes and prop­er­ties within present-day Is­rael, as stip­u­lated in UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly Res­o­lu­tion 194, passed in De­cem­ber 1948 fol­low­ing the first Arab-Is­raeli war.

Were all of this to come to pass, it is highly un­likely that Is­rael would re­main a Jewish-ma­jor­ity state, or even con­tinue to ex­ist at all.

Is­raeli aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions are par­tic­u­larly tar­geted due to what the Pales­tinian Cam­paign for the Aca­demic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Is­rael (PACBI) calls their “per­sis­tent and deep com­plic­ity in plan­ning, im­ple­ment­ing and white­wash­ing crimes against the Pales­tinian peo­ple.”

Their de­mands are res­onat­ing in the United States. On Nov. 27, the Na­tional Women’s Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion (NWSA) voted to sup­port the boy­cott; 653 peo­ple ap­proved, while only 86 op­posed.

One week ear­lier, the gen­eral con­fer­ence of the Amer­i­can An­thro­po­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (AAA) voted to boy­cott Is­raeli aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions. The res­o­lu­tion, which passed with 1,040 votes in favour and 136 votes against, will go to a vote of the full mem­ber­ship in the spring.

The AAA is the largest Amer­i­can aca­demic as­so­ci­a­tion to date to pass an aca­demic boy­cott res­o­lu­tion.

Th­ese two as­so­ci­a­tions join a grow­ing list of schol­arly as­so­ci­a­tions and academics which ap­prove of this form of pun­ish­ing Is­rael.

They in­clude the Amer­i­can Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Asian Amer­i­can Stud­ies, the African Lit­er­a­ture As­so­ci­a­tion, the Crit­i­cal Eth­nic Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, the Na­tive Amer­i­can and In­dige­nous Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Chi­cana and Chi­cano Stud­ies, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Hu­man­ist So­ci­ol­ogy, and the Peace and Jus­tice Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion.

Some Amer­i­can academics are push­ing back. 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 (AEN) has been formed to com­bat what it calls “Or­wellian ef­forts” to dis­credit Is­rael.

Stephen Tracht­en­berg, pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, DC, 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.

“We our­selves are crit­i­cal of Is­rael. We don’t claim per­fec­tion for Is­rael and no one ex­pects us to do that,” stated Tracht­en­berg. “We’re not afraid of fair crit­i­cism of Is­rael.”

Also, the BDS move­ment suf­fered de­feat at the Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual con­fer­ence. On Jan. 9, by a vote of 111-51, the AHA’s busi­ness meet­ing re­jected a res­o­lu­tion to sanc­tion Is­rael over al­leged vi­o­la­tions of Pales­tinian aca­demic free­dom.

“They un­der­stood that this was part of a political cam­paign and an at­tempt to use the Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion for political pur­poses, and they re­jected that,” re­marked Prof. Jef­frey Herf of the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

“The mem­bers of the AHA have very high stan­dards. They were not go­ing to vote for a res­o­lu­tion like this that was mak­ing fac­tual as­ser­tions that they couldn’t ver­ify them­selves.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.