Parsing An Academic Boycott of Israel

 

The New York Times
David Harris
December 17, 2013

 

To the Editor:

Re “Boycott by Academic Group Is a Symbolic Sting to Israel” (front page, Dec. 17):

The vote by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities casts a long shadow on this academic community. After all, how else to explain the fact that no other country in the world — not Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan or any other serial human rights violator — has been the object of such a boycott by the group?

Only Israel, which happens to be the one truly democratic state in the Middle East and which is engaged in an intensive and complex peace process with the Palestinians, after successful efforts with Egypt and Jordan.

Why the choice of Israel? The group’s president, Curtis Marez, explained that “one has to start somewhere.” But that hardly explains such a misguided action.

If Israel is so anathema to the majority of the association’s members, then presumably they will extend the boycott beyond Israeli universities to everything Israeli. If so, they may find themselves without computer laptops, cellphones and access to lifesaving medical technology and pharmaceuticals, among many Israeli contributions to advancing the frontiers of human knowledge and development. At least, let the association’s members show consistency in their regrettable behavior.

DAVID HARRIS
Executive Director
American Jewish Committee
New York, Dec. 17, 2013