The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has expressed outrage over calls by the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) to institute an academic boycott against the state of Israel.
The TUI, calling Israel an “apartheid state,” adopted a resolution yesterday at its Annual Congress that “requests all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as cooperation in research programs.”
AJC Executive Director David Harris responded to the resolution saying that the Irish teachers’ action “undermines the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace by singling out, unfairly and without reference to the facts, one side in the conflict for targeting and isolation.”
“Four consecutive Israeli prime ministers have called for a two-state accord with the Palestinians, only to be rebuffed time and again. It does take two to make peace,” Harris continued. “Meanwhile, we trust that the leaders of the Irish campaign, to be consistent, will seek to ensure that they do not benefit from any life-saving Israeli medical advance, technology in their computers, innovations in their cell phones, or other Israeli contributions to the world’s well-being.”
Harris called on academic leaders in the United States and elsewhere to speak out against the TUI’s shameful action. “Teachers should be dedicated to cooperating with colleagues in other countries, including Israel, and not shunning other teachers for narrow political agendas.”
Six years ago, when a British academic union considered a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, over 400 American University presidents endorsed a statement by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger blasting the idea of boycott as “utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.”
“In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas,” the statement read.
The presidents asserted that if the boycotters were determined to divide the academic world into two camps –Israelis who should be marginalized, and everyone else – they would stand united “against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.”