Despite the fact that I am among those who have expressed deep concern about the violations of human rights which occur under Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, I believe that the recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities because of human rights abuses is misguided, inappropriate and offensive.
Singling out Israel for human rights abuses unfairly targets Israel. The fact that there are nations which have worse human rights records doesn’t release Israel from the responsibility of addressing those human rights issues and those of us who are concerned about those issues must continue to speak out against the occupation. But, it makes no sense to me that an academic body would seek to “punish” academics in Israel (many of whom also speak out against the occupation) for the government’s human rights abuses especially given the state of the world in which so many people in countries not singled out by groups such as the ASA suffer deeply from government action.
I am opposed to what is called the BDS movement: Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. I do not believe that this is an effective way of addressing the situation involving Israelis and Palestinians. But, this particular boycott strikes me not only as being ineffective and biased but also as being illogical and simply wrong. Israel’s academic institutions which are open to so many have provided the world with such important scientific advances and academic research should not be the target of a boycott. There are more effective ways of expressing opposition to policies of a government than to boycott educational institutions.