New York, NY – September 4, 2014
CONTACT: Professor Cary Nelson
212 366-1194 (After hours 347-583-7277)
Biased Approach Attacks Academic Freedom and Does Nothing to Create Peace and Justice for Israelis and Palestinians
The AAC rejects the letter signed by more than a hundred Middle East scholars and librarians and submitted on August 6, 2014, to the Jadaliyya website that endorses what is misleadingly called a “boycott” of Israeli academic institutions. A boycott of Israeli academic institutions is more accurately described as a blacklist, since its intended effect is to isolate and exclude Israeli academics from international academic and intellectual life. As such, it threatens the vital professional interest of all scholars and librarians in academic freedom and open intellectual exchange. These are principles that the Middle East Studies Association previously upheld when it condemned the decision in 2005 by Britain’s Association of University Teachers to blacklist two Israeli universities and their faculty. We call on Middle East scholars to reaffirm their commitment to academic freedom and open intellectual exchange today in the face of renewed calls for institutional blacklists. To deny these freedoms to one group of scholars on the grounds that others are deprived of them is logically inconsistent and morally indefensible. We believe these fundamental principles must be defended and upheld for all scholars, everywhere in the world.
Furthermore, the AAC rejects the imbalanced nature of the letter, which is silent about (and therefore, according to its own reasoning, complicit in) the murderous hatred of Jews that Hamas practices and publicly extols, as well as the bloody assaults upon Israeli civilians and the violations of human rights and international law perpetrated by some Palestinian leaders. We reject the simplistic, Manichean worldview that such an imbalance implies, as well as the corresponding willingness of the letter’s signatories to engage in collective punishment of their Israeli colleagues, including those whose criticism and protests of the Israeli government they applaud. We reject the underlying assumption of this worldview that one must be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Standing in direct opposition to this false choice, we oppose both the persecution of Palestinians and the academic blacklists that would hurt scholarship, hurt freedom of expression, hurt inter-ethnic education and peace-building, and do nothing to help Palestinians suffering on the ground. We reaffirm our belief that empathy for the suffering and national narratives of Israelis and Palestinians alike is essential if there is to be a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The AAC currently has nearly 100 members with new members joining our ranks every week. We invite all academics, independent scholars, and graduate students to join the AAC as we support the aspirations of those Israelis and Palestinians working toward a just and peaceful resolution of their conflict, and we promote the free exchange of ideas upon which both scholarship and constructive problem-solving depends.