It was more than disturbing to learn that an American organization of professors earlier this week announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The announcement links this organization with those in Europe who have taken such stands of condemnation against Israel.
The American Studies Association has some 5,000 members. And while there are other much larger academic associations in this country, and while no American universities have signed on to the boycott, how troubling is it that those entrusted and responsible for educating our young people could be both so ignorant and so biased?
Having returned from Israel a few weeks ago, I experienced yet again at least two important realities. First, we heard from so many Israeli voices about attempts to treat Palestinians with honor and dignity. You hear this message from those in the political arena, the military, and the business leaders.
And the second reality we experienced: the help and support that Israel is prepared to give to the Palestinian population and to currently hostile Arab countries, if only they will accept Israel’s existence and commit themselves to peaceful coexistence. Yes, Israel has become a “blessing” unto so many people of this world in so many important fields of human advancement. But for me, there is a sense of tragedy that the leaders of so many countries continue to promote hate and resentment, and rejection of the benefits that Israel might yet provide to their people.
The comment by Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States says it well: “Rather than standing up for academic freedom and human rights by boycotting countries where professors are imprisoned for their views, the American Studies Association 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!”
Anti-Israel or Anti-Semitism? I’m not sure. Vicious and ignorant–of that I am sure.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom and hope that you will join with us this evening for our Shabbat celebration.
Rabbi David Greenberg