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Anti-BDS Scholars Challenge Netanyahu Decision to Make US-Israel Relationship Partisan

By Scholars for Israel and Palestine

Oppose Policies that Promote the  Occupation and Demean Palestinians and Israeli Critics

February 26, 2015

Professor Steven M. Cohen —
Professor Mira Sucharov —
Professor Todd Gitlin —
Professor Irwin Sandler —
Professor Michael Walzer —

Yesterday, 65 leading progressive academics and scholars from across North America wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing recent actions – including his scheduled March 3rd Speech to Congress – for making the U.S. Israel relationship into a politically and ideologically partisan issue.

The letter, which was developed out of discussions of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) is part of the SIP’s campaign to promote a vision of peace, justice and empathy on North American campuses and in the broader dialog about Israel and Palestine.

“For members of the SIP, we see our efforts to combat the delegitimization of Israel — which is the primary goal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — as being inextricably linked to our work to help Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory, declared Professor Steven M. Cohen of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute for Religion and a co-chair of the SIP.  “Our passionate support for Israel, for many of us based on life-times of Zionist activity, demands that we challenge the Israeli Prime Minister when we believe his actions are threatening to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, as well as endangering Israel’s security as most retired IDF generals in effect have argued,” Cohen said.

“The SIP is currently working on a campaign to combat so-called “anti-normalization,” which will be initiated in the upcoming days.  This SIP effort will fight a movement that strikes at the heart of the mission of universities and the type of collaborative work between Israelis, Palestinians and their friends abroad that is needed to promote peace and reconciliation.  As academics and scholars we see first-hand the harm that “anti-normalization” is doing on campus and elsewhere. We challenge our fellow progressives – Palestinians, Jews and others – to completely reject this politics of division and to substitute academic, cultural and advocacy cooperation to jointly struggle for a peaceful and just future for Israel and Palestine,” Sucharov said.

Below is the text of the letter from academics and scholars sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We are university faculty and independent scholars in North America, mostly Jewish, who care deeply about the future of Israel and admire its highest traditions of democracy and justice. In the interest of justice, we have resisted the demonization and isolation of Israel, and toward that end, have consistently fought against the so-called BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.  By contrast, we strongly support a vigorous, democratic, inclusive, and secure state of Israel within its 1967 borders, with agreed modifications.

It is in the name of that very objective that we take issue with your policies, whose harshness, arrogance, and myopia undermine our work in defense of an honorable and defensible Israel.

We respect both Israeli and Palestinian narratives of their intertwined history and urge all to empathize with the sufferings of the other side.  We strongly support all efforts toward peaceful and collaborative relations between Israeli society and Palestinians who work to construct their own workable society. We strongly support the development of an independent Palestinian state living side by side, and in peace with, Israel. We strongly oppose and will not defend your policies of occupation and oppression on the West Bank. We renounce your policies that undermine the emergence of an independent Palestinian state. We renounce your rhetoric, which demeans and disrespects not only Palestinians but Israelis who oppose your policies.

We believe it was unwise to come to the United States in a partisan spirit, thereby undermining what was once bipartisan and near-universal support for Israel.  We believe that, while you ask the United States to strengthen Israel against its external enemies, you weaken Israel with your own shortsightedness and rigidity.

Letter Endorsed By:

Eric Alterman, Brooklyn College

Ernst Benjamin, Independent Scholar

Jonathan Berger, Stanford University

Michael Berube, Penn State University

Zachary Braiterman, Syracuse University

Rachel Brenner, University of Wisconsin Madison

David Brusin, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion

Avner Cohen, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Deborah Dash Moore, University of Michigan

Morris Dickstein, CUNY

Hasia Diner, NYU

Peter Dreier, Occidental College

John M. Efron, University of California, Berkeley

Peter Eisenstadt, Independent Scholar

Shelly Fisher Fishkin, Stanford University

Sam Fleischacker, University of Illinois, Chicago

Charlotte Fronrobert, Stanford University

Todd Gitlin, Columbia University

Chad Alan Goldberg, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Judith Goldstein, Vassar College

Harry Hellenbrand, California State University, Northridge

Bethamie Horowitz, NYU-Steinhardt

Robert Jennings, University of Chicago

Robert Johnson, University of Illinois, Chicago

David Kader, Arizona State University

Charles Kadushin, Brandeis University

Samuel Kassow, Trinity College

Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

Michael Kazin, Georgetown University

Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University

Elaine Leeder, Sonoma State University

Rebecca Lesses, Ithica College

Jennifer Lewis, Wayne State University

Joe Lockard, Arizona State University

Steven Lubet, Northwestern University Law School

Steven Lukes, NYU

Fran Malino, Wellesley College

Jonathan Malino, Guilford College

Jeffry Mallow, Loyola University, Chicago

Barbara Mann, Jewish Theological Seminary

Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Sharon Ann Musher, Stockton University

Cary Nelson, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Sharrona Pearl, University of Pennsylvania

Derek Penslar,Oxford University/University of Toronto

Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota

Michelle Rivkin-Fish, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Irwin Sandler, Arizona State University

Daniel Schwartz, George Washington University

Gershon Shafir, University of California, San Diego

Jeffrey Shoulson, University of Connecticut

Daniel Soyer, Fordham University

Heidi Steinitz, St. Francis Xavier University

Michael Steinitz, St. Francis Xavier University

Mira Sucharov, Carelton University

Irene Tucker, University of California, Irvine

Elaine Tyler May, University of Minnesota

Roger Waldinger, UCLA

Kenneth Waltzer, Michigan State University

Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Studies

Beth Wegner, University of Pennsylvania

Jeff Weintraub, Independent Scholar

Alan Weisbard, University of Wisconsin Law School

Beth Weitzman, NYU

Alan Wolfe, Boston College

Jonathan Zasloff, UCLA School of Law

Steven Zipperstein, Stanford University

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