Latent Academic Boycott Is Spreading, Israeli Professors Tell Knesset

'The world has a problem with academic institutes beyond the Green Line. We don’t feel boycotted, but there’s no doubt we feel a rumbling in the ground.'

AP

University heads and researchers said on Wednesday that a hidden academic boycott is being imposed on Israel at campuses abroad.

Speaking at the Knesset’s Education Committee, the academics spoke of an anti-Israeli atmosphere building up on foreign campuses.

“Each one of us has run into colleagues who react in various ways toward Israel – some of them cooperate with me in my research work, but won’t come to visit Israel or attend conferences here,” said Professor Dan Oron of the Israeli National Academy for Sciences.

“Israel must act wisely and enable scientists freedom of movement,” he said. “The world has a problem with academic institutes beyond the Green Line. We don’t feel boycotted, but there’s no doubt we feel a rumbling in the ground.”

Professor Menahem Ben Sasson, president of the Committee of University Heads in Israel, said, “At present universities aren’t boycotting [us] and the biggest researchers are here, but there’s a latent boycott. I expect the officials sitting here to allocate funds and bring international researchers and students to visit Israel and expand the cooperation with academies in the world.”

Professor Shlomo Grossman, chairman of the Council of Colleges’ Heads committee and president of the Ashkelon Academic College, said, “There’s ferment in campuses rising from the students upward to the lecturers. The problem is that students get organized and generate a general anti-Israeli atmosphere aimed at the Israeli academy. I suggested sending students with scholarships abroad to form groups to act against the boycott organizers.”

Dr. Liat Maoz of the Council for Higher Education said the council has not encountered problems with academic institutions abroad or difficulties on the ground.

MK Masud Ganaim (Joint Arab List) told the committee that it was ignoring the real reason for the boycott. “A boycott is a legitimate political means to pressure people toward a certain position,” he said. “I don’t accept an anti-Semitic boycott. You don’t want to hold Israel responsible for failing to advance the peace process.”

MK Hanin Zuabi (Joint Arab List) said the boycott was the world’s way of acting against the occupation. “There’s a crime called occupation that the whole world recognizes. There’s suffering of two million people in Gaza – an entire generation hasn’t left Gaza and doesn’t know Europe or the West Bank,” she said. “There’s an entire generation that is forbidden to travel and study. Israel has no self-criticism and the world has lost all confidence or belief that Israel will criticize itself. So it has taken it upon itself to advance a solution [to the conflict] by means of a boycott.”

MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) said to Zuabi: “You had a lot of money to build schools and hospitals and instead they built tunnels there. The BDS is creeping terror.” She suggested allocating funds and resources to students to minimize the damage on foreign campuses.

MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) said, “We’re in a political debate stemming from Israeli governments’ policies and conduct. Some people here say that Omar Barghouti, who founded the BDS, wants one state [for both Israelis and Palestinians]. Some people in Habayit Hayehudi also want one state. It’s not a matter of public diplomacy but of policy.”

Committee chairman MK Yaakov Margi (Shas) called on the government to set up an inter-ministerial committee to examine ways of combatting the academic boycott, Israel’s delegitimization in the world and BDS.

He also called on all state officials to raise the anti-Israel academic and cultural boycott in their meetings with every head of state and parliament member who visits Israel. He further called for the funding of projects for student and faculty exchanges between Israel and abroad.