Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz blasted attempts to impose an academic boycott on Israel, saying that such efforts encouraged terrorism and were an obstacle to peace.
Delivering the keynote address at Bar-Ilan University's conference on academic freedom this week, Dershowitz said that divestiture sends a message to Palestinian extremists "to just wait 20 years" before sitting down to negotiations, while telling the Israeli public that no amount of concessions will ever be enough.
"People who advocate boycotts and divestiture will literally have blood on their hands," he said. "They encourage terrorism and discourage the laying down of arms."
Dershowitz suggested that an objective panel put together a list of countries and their human rights records to avoid what he called a double standard. "If you're going to engage in divestiture, you go according to the list," he said, adding that Israel would rank "low" on such a list.
Dershowitz, who does not oppose divestiture per se, said that one "must distinguish between the mechanism itself and the way it is used."
He also argued that given Israel's scientific and technological advancements, boycotting a country so actively engaged in research would make "all the world would be victim of an Israeli boycott."
Though Dershowitz admitted that Israel's human rights record was hardly stellar, he said that it performed well, given the "internal and external threats" it faces. He also showered the Israeli Supreme Court with praise, saying that its justices have managed to find a "balance" between protecting against terrorism and maintaining civil liberties.
"No court has ever intervened so regularly in the middle of battle," he said. "One must look admiringly from outside at the Israeli Supreme Court ."
Also at the conference, British Ambassador Simon McDonald criticized the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the British higher education union that imposed a short-lived boycott on Israeli academia last April.
The AUT was taken over by a "highly motivated minority," he said, who captured the large organization to further their agenda.
"We had success in May," he said of the decision to overturn the boycott one month after it was first passed. "But it won't necessarily continue and vigilance is vital to renewing that success."
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