American Jewish Studies Professors Slam List of 'anti-Israeli' Lecturers

Attempts to blacklist professors for their opinions are 'deplorable,' academics say of AMCHA initiative calling students not to take classes with 'anti-Israeli' professors.

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A mural calling for a boycott of Israeli goods in the al-Azzeh refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem
A mural calling for a boycott of Israeli goods in the al-Azzeh refugee camp near the West Bank city of BethlehemCredit: AFP

Forty Jewish studies professors from the United States and Canada issued a statement posted on the Jewish Daily Forward slamming an initiative of a American Jewish campus group AMCHA calling students to boycott 218 Middle Eastern studies lecturers that they said were biased against Israel.

"AMCHA’s tactics are designed to stifle debate on issues debated in Israel and around the world, and the presumption that students must be protected from their own universities is misguided and destructive," Jewish studies professors wrote in their statement. "Efforts such as these do not promote academic integrity, but rather serve to deaden the kind of spirited academic exchange that is the lifeblood of the university."

Among the Jewish studies professors were Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley, Bernard Avishai, Dartmouth College, David Biale, University of California, Davis, Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College (New York), Hasia R. Diner, New York University, and Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College (Los Angeles).

AMCHA Initiative – Protecting Jewish Students announced on its website that it "posted a list of 218 professors identifying themselves as Middle East scholars, who recently called for the academic boycott of Israel in a petition signed. Students who wish to become better educated on the Middle East without subjecting themselves to anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric, may want to check which faculty members from their university are signatories before registering."

The website went on to accuse these professors of breaking U.S. law: "It’s bad enough that these professors have revealed themselves to be wildly biased against one, and only one, Middle Eastern country. Even more troubling, however, is the fact that many of these patently biased boycotters of Israel are affiliated with government-designated, taxpayer-funded National Resource Centers (NRC) on their campuses. Clearly NRC-affiliated faculty who have publicly vilified Israel and committed themselves to refusing ‘to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli institutions’ have violated both the letter and spirit of the federal law which funds their teaching and research."

The website then lists the professors and their universities.

In their statement the Jewish studies professors wrote that "It goes without saying that we, as students of antisemitism, are unequivocally opposed to any and all traces of this scourge. That said, we find the actions of AMCHA deplorable."

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