US Academic Group Decries BDS and Legal Attempts to Squelch It

A man protesting against Israel in Melbourne, Australia, June 5, 2010. (Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The American Association of University Professors said it is as opposed to the movement to boycott Israel as it is to requirements that academics renounce the movement to boycott Israel.

The statement issued Wednesday called “on public universities to stop requiring speakers and others to pledge that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse a specific political movement known as boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) with regard to Israel.”

According to the statement, requirements for pledges to renounce BDS have increased as states – at least 17 so far – have passed laws prohibiting state-funded entities from doing business with those who boycott Israel.

“We oppose all academic boycotts, including an academic boycott of Israel, on the grounds that such boycotts violate the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas for which our organization has stood for over one hundred years,” the statement said. “It is precisely for this reason that our opposition to BDS is matched as resolutely by our opposition to these pledges, which are nothing short of an attempt to limit freedom of speech and belief.”

A number of academic organizations have in recent years adopted resolutions that make it policy to boycott Israel.

The AAUP, a group with chapters on more than 500 campuses that advocates for academic freedom and standards, also posted an Aug. 1 letter it sent to the Israeli ministers of the interior and strategic affairs protesting the barring of entry in April to Katherine Franke, a pro-BDS Columbia Law School professor.

In the letter, the AAUP decried recent laws passed barring entry to pro-BDS figures “as efforts at censorship that contravene the standards of a free society and basic principles of academic freedom, and consequently exclude Israel from the international community of scholars.”

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