Friday, July 23, 2010

Academic Boycott against Israel IS anti-Semitism, Part I

In the last few months, I've been forced to come to terms with the growing call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel in American higher education. I'm firmly opposed to the BDS proposition for a variety of reasons (which I will go into), but I am simultaneously opposed to the efforts inside Israeli society (endorsed most recently by the current Israeli Minister of Education) to demonize advocates of BDS. I acknowledge that BDS is a tactic that might be used against morally bankrupt societies. I simply believe that -- despite a growing sense that the current Israeli government is making a concerted effort to confound the peace process, and mounting evidence that this government is orchestrating a profoundly sour and contentious atmosphere of racism in Israeli civil society -- attacking the institutions of Israeli higher education is an empty  and vicarious way for American academics to register their objections to the ever darker turn of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And one other thing -- the academic boycott of Israel is anti-Semitic.

Here I will be as charitable as possible to the BDS proponents, Jew and gentile alike, of the academic boycott against Israel. I will stipulate that the foul anti-Semitism of BDS might be merely a matter of unintended consequences, though I think I am being far too charitable. Insofar as the academic boycott of Israel is tantamount to stopping the advancement of Jewish Studies in American higher education by advocating the severing of ties to Israeli universities and research institutions, the BDS movement is an open assault against Jewish culture and religion. I'll explain that too, knowing full-well that using the term "anti-Semitism" in reference to critics of Israel is often a red herring, a screed designed to close rather than encourage debate.

More to come in an upcoming post....(Part II now available)

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