The case of Orange, the French mobile phone company that is considering abandoning the Israeli market, was on the front pages of all major newspapers. But there is a silent boycott of the Jewish State which is more insidious, latent and even more dangerous because it undermines Israel's cultural superiority and cuts Israel's link with the rest of the world.
In 2002, the year of the beginning of the academic campaign against Israel, Paul Zinger, the head of the Scientific Association of Israel, revealed that more than seven thousand scientific research projects are sent from Israel abroad every year. Dozens of scientific papers were returned that year, with the terse explanation: "We refuse to examine any document from Israel". That phenomenon now seems out of control.
"The academic boycott is illegal according to all academic organizations in the world," says Professor Zvi Ziegler, a mathematician at the Technion (Institute of Technology in Haifa) and head of the main scientific forum fighting the boycott. "It is against progress, so you will not find universities or European academics who officially boycott Israel. But many do silently, behind the scenes".
Among the silent measures taken by the boycotters is refusing to participate in conferences held in Israel, ignoring requests to write letters of recommendation for Israeli scholars looking for promotions, and refusing contributions from Israeli scholars.
This happened to Oren Yiftachel, a leftist Ben Gurion University scholar, whose publication, sent to the magazine Political Geography, was refused by their saying that they did not accept anything that came from the state of the Jews. ......
Proposals for academic boycotts of Israel have been made by academics and organisations in Palestine, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries to boycott Israeli universities and academics. The goal of proposed academic boycotts is to isolate Israel in order to force a change in Israel's policies towards the Palestinians which proponents state to be discriminatory and oppressive, including oppressive to the academic freedom of Palestinians.
The ultimate goals and the mission of the academic boycott align with those of the greater BDS movement, calling for international pressure to be placed on Israeli academic institutions, which are understood by PACBI to be implicated in the perpetuation of Israeli occupation, in order to achieve those goals.
The proposals have been opposed by many scholars and politicians, who describe the campaign as "profoundly unjust" and relying on what they consider to be a "false" apartheid analogy with South Africa. Proponents say that while Apartheid isn't officially the law in the occupied territories, in particular the West Bank, its systematically put in place; separate roads, sidewalks, disproportionate water resources, Jewish-only settlements, and "humiliating checkpoints" are often cited as examples. Opponents state that the boycotters apply "different standards" to Israel than other countries, that the boycott is "counterproductive and retrograde" and that the campaign is antisemitic and comparable to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s. Proponents however, reject the idea of anti-Semitism, noting that Jews have also called for boycotts due to what they perceive as discriminatory policies against Palestinians. Despite these oppositions, academic boycott initiatives have been undertaken, with limited success outside the Middle East. The academic boycott has also been termed a collective punishment of Israeli academia.
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The Israeli Anthropological Association issued a public statement on behalf of its members opposing an academic boycott of Israel, and calling for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and end to the occupation.
The resolution, a product of the association’s general assembly last week, was passed by a majority of those in attendance and was published on Sunday.
In its announcement, the organization, which includes senior lecturers at Israeli universities, explains that the statement contains three different calls that are separate but related.
The first is aimed at the Israeli government, asking it to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip and to aid in the Strip’s rebuilding, to end the occupation and advance a diplomatic solution, to recognize the rights of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens to full equality, and to work on a fair resolution of the refugee problem.
The second part is aimed at the world’s anthropologists, asking them not to associate academic institutions with the policies of governments.
“Recognizing the important role that moderate segments in Israeli society, including academics, have played over the years in the difficult struggle for peace in the region, the IAA calls on anthropologists and academics abroad to resist conflating academic institutions with government policies and actions, and to oppose initiatives to boycott universities in Israel,” the statement said. “Associating academic institutions with the political regimes they operate in flies in the face of anthropology’s most enduring contribution to intellectual and political sensibilities: its ability to recognize and articulate nuance, deal with social and cultural complexity and avoid essentialism.”
The statement by the Israeli association comes as a debate is being conducted by the American Anthropological Association about a boycott on Israel. Three weeks ago a special task force came to Israel on behalf of the U.S. association to evaluate the state of affairs in the region. This task force will help determine whether a motion to boycott Israeli institutions will appear on the agenda during the association’s next annual meeting in November.