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Liberal Scholars Take Stand Against Boycotting Israel

A newly formed group of liberal scholars has taken a stand against their left-leaning peers and formed a coalition to reject the increasingly popular call to boycott Israel and its institutions of higher education, saying it’s a polarizing topic that stifles academic debate and inquiry.

While many conservative scholars and organizations have denounced the boycott effort, this self-described group of “progressive scholars and academics” say their like-minded peers are off the mark.

The “Third Narrative Academic Advisory Council” is comprised of at least 55 scholars from 37 universities and colleges across the nation who “reject the notion that one has to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian,” according to its website.

It was formed by a Zionist group called Ameinu that supports “a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to its website.

The council’s leaders say supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement are accused of anti-Semitism, while opponents of the movement are accused of supporting Israel regardless of right or wrongdoing in the West Bank, council member Professor Michael Bérubé of Pennsylvania State University said in an email to The College Fix.

“There has to be room in this debate for people who believe that the occupation is profoundly immoral … but who do not endorse the one-state solution envisioned by BDS,” he said.

The American Studies Association late last year voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, listing grievances such as “Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions … (and) the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students.”

The Modern Languages Association then threw its support behind the boycott, and several student governments across the nation have passed resolutions to do the same.

The BDS movement aims to “increase a call for sanctions against Israel” for the country’s “activities in the West Bank, in Palestine,” explained Judaic studies Professor J. Edward Wright from the University of Arizona.

But not all members of the American Studies Association are in support of the decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions, with dissent even coming from the top levels of the organization’s membership.

Now the Third Narrative Academic Advisory Council joins the growing coalition against the boycott, divestment and sanction movement.

Scholars on the council, formed last month, said they find the boycott to be in direct violation of and a threat to academic freedom and academic inquiry, its leaders say.

Although the council affirms that the boycott is not a solution to the ongoing conflict, they denounce Israeli involvement in the West Bank because it “deprives Palestinians of their fundamental rights” and is “corrosive to Israeli society and is incompatible with the democratic principles upon which the State of Israel was founded.”

“We reject all attempts to undermine or diminish academic freedom and open intellectual exchange, including those cases associated with the Israel-Palestine debate,” the council states on its website. “Academic boycotts and blacklists are discriminatory per se and undercut the purpose of the academy: the pursuit of knowledge.”

Further, a boycott on this scale is counter-intuitive to resolving the conflict, according to Wright, an expert in the field of the Jewish history. He is not a member of the council.

College Fix contributor Julianne Stanford is a student at the University of Arizona.

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About the Author
Julianne Stanford -- University of Arizona