January 2019 -- Tevet-Shevat 5779,  Volume 25, Issue 1

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AMCHA Anti-Academic Boycott Education Campaign

In response to recent attempts by faculty to implement an academic boycott of Israel on campus and thwart student rights in the name of politics, thousands of parents, students, faculty, rabbis, educators and stakeholders have called on university leaders to sign the “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel” or to issue their own statements condemning the boycott’s implementation and the harm it causes to students and faculty on their campuses.

 

In December, in a letter organized by AMCHA Initiative, 101 national and local organizations called on the 250 college and university leaders, who in 2013 had issued statements opposing the American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott, to sign this statement that condemns “in the strongest terms” faculty who would attempt to implement an academic boycott of Israel on their campuses and makes it clear to faculty that behavior will not be tolerated. Some of the organizations are B’nai B’rith International, NCSY, the Academic Engagement Network, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, many Conservative and Reformed national organizations, and the American Zionist Movement.

 

Since launching the grassroots component of this national education effort, nearly 2,000 individuals have already signed the national petition and hundreds have written letters to their respective college and university leaders urging them to sign the University Leaders Statement or to issue their own statements that recognize the very real harms the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel will cause to students and faculty on American campuses. This  action is part of a larger effort to educate university leaders, campus communities and the public about the harms that will ensue if an academic boycott is permitted to be implemented, as faculty are currently trying to do.

 

“While the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has long been understood as an effort aimed at Israel and Israeli universities and scholars, that is only a piece of the actual picture. An academic boycott, if allowed to be implemented, will directly violate the rights of, and substantively harm, students and faculty on U.S. campuses, many of them Jewish students. And this is where AMCHA comes in,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s founder and director. “If this was just about Israel, we would not be involved, as we are not an Israel advocacy organization. However, this is about protecting the academic freedom and educational rights of Jewish students, which will be violated if an academic boycott is permitted.”

 

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 month it was reported that Pitzer College faculty attempted to shut down Pitzer’s Israel study abroad program altogether, as the PACBI boycott calls on faculty to do. Other PACBI guidelines include having faculty scuttle their colleagues’ research collaborations with Israeli universities and scholars and cancel or shutdown student- and faculty-organized educational activities about Israel that take place on their own campus.

“Now that professors are actually attempting to implement PACBI’s academic boycott and curtail American students’ rights, the statements issued in 2013 are no longer sufficient,” stated Rossman-Benjamin.  “University leaders must sign the University Leaders Statement immediately and put a stop to faculty who are putting their own political interests above their own students.”

 

Through the petition and individual letters, concerned community members are adding their voices to the demand that university leaders publicly condemn 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 562 so far in 2018.