The Academic Boycott of Israel

Despite the fact that I am among those who have expressed deep concern about the violations of human rights which occur under Israel’s occupation of the West Bank,  I believe that the  recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities because of human rights abuses  is misguided, inappropriate and offensive.

Singling out Israel for human rights abuses unfairly targets Israel. The fact that there are nations which have worse human rights records doesn’t release Israel from the responsibility of addressing those human rights issues and those of us who are concerned about those issues must continue to speak out against the occupation.  But, it makes no sense to me that an academic body would seek to “punish” academics in Israel (many of whom also speak out against the occupation) for the government’s human rights abuses especially given the state of the world in which so many people in countries not singled out by groups such as the ASA suffer deeply from government action.

I am opposed to what is called the BDS movement: Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. I do not believe that this is an effective way of addressing the situation involving Israelis and Palestinians. But, this particular boycott strikes me not only as being ineffective and biased but also as being illogical and simply wrong. Israel’s academic institutions which are open to so many have provided the world with such important scientific advances and academic research should not be the target of a boycott. There are  more effective ways of expressing opposition to policies of a government than to boycott educational institutions.

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One response to “The Academic Boycott of Israel

  1. George Garcia

    Rabbi Dobrusin,
    I would like to thank you for your deep concern about the violations of human rights in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. I also commend you for being a member of the board of Rabbis for Human Rights. I do; however, differ with your opinion about the BDS movement and academic boycott in particular. Please allow me to make a few points. The call for an academic boycott of Israel is focused only upon the academic institutions and does not call for a boycott of any individual academic. The academic institutions in Israel are extremely complicit in maintaining the military occupation of Palestinian territories. They have taken part in developing technologies and strategies for the occupation. This makes them legitimate targets for peaceful, non-violent, resistance to the occupation. BDS was used to great effect to protest the South African Apartheid system. If BDS cannot be used to express opposition to the policies of the government of Israel, then what non-violent means are there left to do so? I would very much like to hear your suggestions about those “more effective ways”.

    I believe that the massive power differential between the government of Israel and the Palestinians puts the moral burden of action on the government of Israel. If BDS cannot be used to pressure the government of Israel to “Do Justice and Right” then what can be done? The continuing expansion of the settlements is just one concrete example that the government of Israel will not do justice and right until coerced.

    Thank you for “listening”.

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