By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel will fail because various countries “are flocking to Israel” wanting Israeli technology. According to leading pro-Israel professors and academic leaders, on a practical level Netanyahu is correct. But that doesn’t mean BDS isn’t causing any apprehension.
Ilan Troen, director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, tells JNS.org that professors are now asking themselves, “Will the fact that I am Jewish—that I visited Israel—impinge upon the way I am perceived?”
On the one hand, “We don’t see anything on the ground that one can say, ‘This is a result of the boycott,’” explains Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). Yet Carmi says that while there is no “open boycott,” there is “something underlying, something silent. … It is creeping on you, it is insidious.”
Moreover, there is increasing infiltration of BDS supporters in American academia, and local thought leaders say this could have a long-term and heinous impact. Last week, for example, the student government of Chicago’s Loyola University passed an Israel divestment resolution, while similar student government resolutions at Arizona State University and the University of Michigan were tabled indefinitely.
Click photo to download. Caption: Israeli Apartheid Week in May 2010 on the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Credit: AMCHA Initiative.
In April 2013, the Association for Asian American Studies voted to boycott Israeli and academic institutions. The American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association both followed suit last December. Soon, the American Anthropological Association will have the same debate on boycotting Israel. In January, the Modern Language Association delegate committee passed a resolution condemning Israel for alleged denials of entry for U.S. academics into the West Bank, though the group did not endorse a boycott of Israel.
The actual effect of such efforts is minimal, said Brandeis’s Troen. Yes, there may be a doctoral student who is not admitted to a post-doctorate position when he was sure he would get in. There might be a keynote address that a fitting Israeli academic will not be invited to deliver. It may be more difficult to get a journal article published. But as long as “the loss of scientific contribution from Israel would be too harmful for the ultimate driving force of science and medicine,” collaboration with Israeli scholars will continue, said Abraham Zagen, an associate professor at BGU.
Yet Dr. Samuel Edelman, director of the Academic Network of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), said that in his role, he has heard many junior faculty members voice apprehension about being vocal in support of Israel on their …read more