As I look at my calendar, I realize that in only a few short weeks, we will bet heading into the new academic year. In light of last year’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza; the recent dustup over the Mavi Marmara affair; the many new initiatives to send a variety of “peace” flotillas to Gaza; renewed rhetoric from Hamas, Hizbollah and Syria about war in the region; and ongoing attempts to find ways to boycott Israeli leaders, goods, academics and whatever else, this could be an interesting fall semester for us.
SPME has not been asleep this summer. Our new part-time Director of Communication and Research, David Meir-Levy, has been learning the ropes and beginning to reorganize how our press releases are being distributed and has been tasked with the responsibility of enhancing our web presence. He and Sam Edelman, our Executive Director, have put together a number of grant proposals not only to past funders, but to new ones as well. In addition, Sam and Elizabeth Gaither our Director of Administration, have put into place a process for sending out regular calls for contributions from our readership, and sending out thank you letters or reminders as appropriate. In all, we are confident that this next year will be even more successful than last year in moving SPME to greater financial stability.
In addition to these internal efforts, we have continued to strengthen our communications with other organizations, including JNF (which helped make possible our Faculty Fellowship to Israel trip), the AJC, and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are also at the table with a new roundtable (dubbed the “dream team”) of major organizations dedicated to dealing with the BDS campaign in a coherent, coordinated and proactive way. To this end, we have established our own BDS task force, headed by Dr. Ed Beck, who has put together a stellar team to shape our own responses. In all these connections, we have stressed that we are an independent organization by, of and for faculty, and we have been accepted on those terms.
Speaking of task forces, our legal task force met this summer and did a splendid job of beginning to get its collective mind around the complex issues of academic freedom on the one side and harassment and intimidation on the other. Our medical task force has just sent off responses to a series of articles in the British medical journal Lancet. The articles focused on health problems among Palestinians and placed the blame on “the occupation” without reference to Palestinian-Israel cooperation nor to Palestinian corruption. mismanagement and lack of standards in its own health care institutions.
Finally, let me say that we have two very exciting international conferences coming up. The first, in January 16-18, 2011 will be focus on the US-Israel Special Relationship and will be held in conjunction with the University of Miami in Florida. The second, on human rights in Israel, is tentatively scheduled for November 2011 at the Columbia University School of Law. We are hoping to have good representation of SPME-ers at each of these. You will be hearing more about these shortly.
So as we head into the new academic year, we have a lot of resources and momentum behind us. I encourage all of you who are reading this and who believe in what we are doing to show your support, financially, through volunteer efforts, or in any way you can as we move forward with our important work.
Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies
Case Western Reserve University