Israeli academia, often seen by the right as a bastion for left-wing, dovish sentiment, has been stung by a vote to boycott higher education in the country by an American academic association in protest against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“This boycott is saying ipso facto if you are an Israeli academic or ipso facto at an Israeli institution you are ipso facto immoral,” said Galia Golan, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv and a founder of the Peace Now movement after the American Studies Association (ASA) made their decision.
“This is lumping into one big group all academic endeavours in Israel to say it’s politically tainted,” she said.
Although ASA is a small body, the vote was seen by Palestinian academics as a major gain for the international movement known as BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) because it emanates from the US, an area where the campaign has previously had little influence.
“This gives a lot of legitimacy to the issue of boycotting and will initiate a very wide debate in the US. Issues that were taboo will now be debated,” said Lisa Taraki, a sociologist at Birzeit University and a founder of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. But Gabi Solomon, who co-chairs Sikuy, an organisation to advance the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, said the boycott was “misplaced and will boomerang”.
“The people who passed this don’t know the Israeli mentality which enters into a siege mentality when attacked, criticised or boycotted. We close our ranks and the result is entrenchment. This is definitely not an effective tool for ending occupation,” she said.