A new report compiled by Dr. Shahar Golan of right-wing group Im Tirtzu has revealed that some 20 Israeli academics are encouraging the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israel in a vote that is expected to be tallied at the end of the month.
The AAA is the world’s largest professional body for anthropologists, with some 10,000 members, and it has just opened the polls for a vote on whether to sever all ties with Israel.
The 20 Israeli academics supporting the boycott are university lecturers and faculty members, some of whom receive their salaries from Israeli tax dollars, meaning that they are essentially supporting a boycott against themselves.
The boycott would end all cooperation with Israeli researchers, which could significantly damage the field in Israel. This in turn could have serious consequences on the economy and on Israeli industry, also affecting the country’s status on a global scale.
In an effort to stop the boycott motion, the Israeli Anthropological Association wrote a letter to its American counterpart. However, two weeks later, 20 Israeli academics who belong to various left-wing groups expressed support for the boycott in a second letter.
“We encourage an open and public discussion of BDS and other protest measures,” the letter reads. Among the signatories are Dr. Khaled Furani of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Yeela Raanan of Sapir College, Dr. Dafna Hirsch of the Open University, Dr. Dalit Simchai of Tel-Hai College, Chen Haklai of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Hanna Aviram, Noa Shaindlinger of the University of Toronto, Professor Daniel Monterescu of the Central European University, Matan Kaminer of the University of Michigan, Adi Moreno of the University of Manchester, Michal Ran-Rubin of the University of Chicago, and Eilat Maoz of the University of Chicago.
The letter was also signed by a number of Israeli researchers who apparently do not live in Israel, including Professor Uri Davis (who converted to Islam and married a Palestinian woman from Ramallah), Dr. Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Eliran Bar-El, Hadas Weiss, Barak Kalir, Hilla Dayan, Erella Grassiani and Nitzan Shoshan.
Another letter encouraging the boycott was published a few days before the AAA poll was opened. It was supported by 22 anonymous Israeli anthropologists.
The decision to hold a vote on boycotting Israel was first made at the AAA’s 2015 annual assembly. The resolution on the potential boycott states that “for decades, despite condemnation by the United Nations and other international bodies, the Israeli state has denied Palestinians — including scholars and students — their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, discrimination, and military occupation. … Israel has obstructed Palestinians’ right to education by destroying Palestinian universities and schools in military strikes.”
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg said, “The decision-makers and university presidents in Israel are struggling against the BDS phenomenon around the world, but they are completely ignoring the boycott phenomenon within, which is being led by Israeli academics. It is sad to see that the boycott leaders are cutting the branch upon which they are perched and working behind the scenes to critically harm the future of Israeli academia.”
The universities respond
Tel Aviv University released a statement in response to the report: “The university strongly opposes the academic boycott, and it works on many levels to fight against the phenomenon. In keeping with academic freedom and in accordance with the law in the State of Israel, the university does not intervene in the personal opinions expressed by faculty members.”
The Open University released a similar statement, saying, “The Open University opposes any boycott of Israeli academia, a stance we have expressed repeatedly. Faculty members are free to express their personal opinions on any topic, whether they align with the university’s stance or not.”
Following Tel-Hai College professor Simchai’s support of the letter encouraging the boycott, the college also released a statement. “Dr. Simchai is expressing her personal opinion alone. Tel-Hai College strongly opposes any boycott of the State of Israel and condemns those who call for a boycott.”
Similarly Sapir College addressed the stance of one of its professors: “Dr. Raanan does not represent the stance of Sapir College. The academic boycott of Israel and support of [the boycott] are unacceptable phenomena.”
Raanan defended her stance, saying, “The State of Israel’s decision will eventually lead to the destruction of the state, and certainly to the destruction of the state as a state for the Jewish people. … For this reason, it is very important to use all nonviolent means possible to save the country, as they did in South Africa. There are many anti-Semitic powers that use the boycott and give it a bad name. I am against this cynical use.”
Researcher Maoz said that “the American Anthropological Association boycott initiative is a response to Palestinian civil society’s call for non-violent struggle against the occupation and is in no way led by Israeli bodies.”
Meanwhile, Open University professor Hirsch explained that she signed the letter “not out of support for the boycott, but out of opposition to the letter from the Israeli Anthropological Association.”
No other responses had been received by press time.