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University of California chancellors oppose anti-Israel boycott efforts: ‘direct and serious threat’

But decline to sign more strident statement on ‘personal assault’ by students

The 10 chancellors of the University of California system are willing to publicly oppose the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and scholars – to a point.

In response to pressure from more than 100 pro-Israel academic and other organizations, the chancellors released a statement “reaffirm[ing] our longstanding opposition” to such a boycott.

The AMCHA Initiative, which organized the letter to university leaders across the country, said in an email blast the UC was the first to issue a systemwide “condemnation against any attempts by faculty to implement an academic boycott of Israel on campus.”

The statement the chancellors issued was far narrower than the statement the pro-Israel groups asked them to sign, however:

Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as
Palestinian colleagues, colleges, and universities is unwavering. We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.

The pressure effort was spurred by a boycott vote by faculty at a non-UC campus, Pitzer College, as well as the refusal of two University of Michigan professors to provide letters of recommendation for students because their study-abroad programs were in Israel.

The “University Leaders Statement Against the Implementation of an Academic Boycott of Israel,” which was sent to 250 schools that opposed a 2013 academic association boycott, goes much further than the UC chancellors’ statement.

It distinguishes between the free speech rights of faculty and students to “declare their public approval of an academic boycott of Israel,” and their work to implement 2014 guidelines that will “inflict serious harm” on Israeli institutions and American faculty and students.

The guidelines include working to cancel events, agreements, projects or anything that promotes “the normalization of Israel in the global academy.” In practice this means undermining colleagues’ collaborative research, discriminating against graduate-program applicants and lobbying to shut down Israel study-abroad programs, the AMCHA-led statement says.

MORE: Pitzer faculty vote to end Israel study-abroad program

“Some of the actions above, along with other forms of personal assault, are carried out
by students as well,” it continues in bold:

Treating one’s own students or faculty colleagues as collateral damage to a political agenda is wrong and violates the principles of collegiality and academic integrity central to our institutions. We condemn such behavior in the strongest terms.

The groups are also organizing a petition drive to pressure university leaders to sign the more strident statement.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, told The College Fix the UC system statement was a major victory even though the chancellors declined to sign the original statement.

It’s the first to do so and “the most prestigious public university system in the country,” and it gives the pro-Israel groups “leverage” to convince “other university leaders to sign the statement or issue their own” in coming weeks, she wrote in an email:

We’re very pleased with UC’s statement. It goes right to the heart of this serious problem by recognizing the direct threat an academic boycott poses to the rights of U.S. students and faculty. Long portrayed as a boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions of higher education, academic [boycott, divestment and sanctions] on campus would directly harm students and faculty on U.S. campuses.

Read the chancellors’ statement and statement they declined to sign.

MORE: UMich bans profs from withholding ‘academic support’ over anti-Israel views

IMAGE: Jerusalem U/YouTube

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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