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Professors' Group Tells Academics to Reject Boycott of Israel

December 9, 2013 By:
JTA
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The American Studies Association passed a vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where students are shown in Oct. 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/JTA.

The American Association of University Professors called on members of the American Studies Association to vote down a resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israel.

In an open letter to American Studies Association members published Dec. 6, two days after the ASA’s 20-member national council approved the boycott resolution, the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, wrote that it “recognizes the right of individual scholars to act in accordance with their own personal consciences.”

“No scholar should be required to participate in any academic activity that violates his or her own principles. In addition, faculty members have the right to organize for or against economic boycotts, divestment, or other forms of sanction,” wrote the professors’ group, which says it opposes academic boycotts as violations of academic freedom.

“However, an organized academic boycott is a different matter. In seeking to punish alleged violations of academic freedom elsewhere, such boycotts threaten the academic freedom of American scholars to engage the broadest variety of viewpoints.”

The letter was signed by AAUP's president, Rudy Fichtenbaum, and its first vice president, Henry Reichman, who is also the chairman of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

The AAUP, a group of American college and university faculty that defends academic freedom, said it does “not have the organizational capacity to monitor academic freedom at institutions in other countries, nor are we in a position to pick and choose which countries we, as an organization, might judge.”

If a majority of the ASA’s voting members do not vote to endorse the boycott resolution by Dec. 15, the national council said it would withdraw the resolution and determine the next steps. Voting is being undertaken electronically by the body’s 5,000 members.

The boycott is not binding on ASA members, meaning it would apply principally to the activities of the ASA as an organization.




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