“There is no place for an
academic boycott of Israel or any political involvement in academia,” MK Moshe
Gafni said on Tuesday.
He was speaking at a Knesset’s Science and
Technology committee meeting on the consequences of the recently announced
academic boycott by the American Studies Association against Israel.
committee considers the fact that there is no government body in Israel
coordinating the efforts of the struggle against the academic boycott a national
failure. Such a body must be established, because the phenomenon will only
worsen, regardless of the source of the problem, anti-Semitism or occupation,”
said Gafni (United Torah Judaism).
MK Nachman Shai (Labor Party)
initiated the committee discussion that included representatives from government
and educational institutions, among them the Science, Technology and Space
Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Association of University Heads, the Council
for Higher Education, the US and British embassies, the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, Ariel University and the National Union of Israeli
“The phenomenon of boycotts against Israel is not a new
phenomenon, and in fact this phenomenon has been with us for many years. Israel
should not take this lightly or pass over the current event on the
This event may develop into larger dimensions as one activity
leads to the activities of other organizations,” said Shai.
debate ensued as representatives voiced differing opinions on the reasons for
and the consequences of the boycott. Nearly everyone was in agreement that the
American Studies Association boycott, no matter how insignificant, could not be
“The current academic boycott is not a part of the central
discourse in academia or in the Western world in general. It comes from fringe
and radical organizations; yet at the same time we don’t just close our eyes,”
said Amir Sagi, a representative of the Foreign Ministry.
Horowitz (Meretz) blamed the delegitimization efforts on settlers and the
extreme Right in Israel.
“Settler organizations play into the hands of
the world call for a boycott of Israel. Boycott initiatives that arise with
increasing frequency in the world stem from the expansion of settlements and the
impasse in the peace process,” he said.
“Settler groups and the extreme
Right are pushing government institutions in Israel into a dark corner of
addressing each of these boycott initiatives as anti-Semitic, delegitimizing and
opposing Israel’s very existence.
Such a move would only strengthen the
radical and trivial organizations in the world that really do oppose Israel’s
existence,” Horowitz said.
MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu) responded
that the boycott constitutes “anti-Semitism in every respect. This is a global
campaign, but we cannot win this war out there if we cannot win the battle first
in our country against those who view the government’s policies as
Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi said, “the
Association of University Heads opposes any kind of academic boycott that harms
the basis of science and research. Academic research in the world is based upon
cooperation between institutions and nations, and a detachment from ideological
or political requests, and its success is contingent on this.”
Ziegler, chairman of the Inter-Senate Committee of Universities, agreed and
warned the committee that “state or government intervention could cause more
harm than good, because it could be perceived as inappropriate political
involvement in the academic world.”
The Knesset members concluded the
committee hearing by issuing a joint statement and agreeing to meet in three
months to discuss any progress on the matter.
“The Science and Technology
Committee sharply condemns all academic boycotts against any country in the
world and against Israel in particular. Academia should stay out of politics. We
call upon heads of state and universities to stop the phenomenon of boycotts.
The committee has the impression that this is not a marginal issue but a
phenomenon that should not be allowed to continue,” the legislators said.