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Former Israeli Ambassador to Congress: Ban Academic Boycotts

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, calls on Congress to outlaw academic boycotts against Israel.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 12/22/2013, 9:10 AM

Michael Oren (illustrative)
Michael Oren (illustrative)
Flash90

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren called on the US Congress to ban academic boycotts against Israel in an Op/Ed article published Friday in Politico Magazine.

The Op/Ed, entitled "Will Congress Stand Up For Academic Freedom?," began with Oren's denouncement of the recent anti-Israel boycott by the American Studies Association.

"By banning interaction with fellow scholars, the ASA is undermining the very academic freedom it purportedly represents," Oren wrote. "Moreover, by singling out Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and a country renowned for its liberal universities, by ignoring the Palestinian Authority's opposition to such a boycott, and overlooking vast human rights abuses in many other countries, the ASA is guilty of prejudice."

The ASA boycott has been accused before of singling out Israel by several Jewish leaders and Israeli politicians. Oren took criticism to another level, however, calling on the US to ban boycotts entirely, based on legislation in the 1970s outlawing businesses to boycott the Jewish State. 

"In 1977, Congress passed a series of laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel and imposing stiff penalties on those that did. The boycott, Congress concluded, was not only racist against Israelis but all Jews," Oren noted.

Interestingly enough, the legislation setting precedent for a national ban on Israeli boycotts was set forth by anti-Israel activist and former US President Jimmy Carter. 

Criticism of the boycott has been ongoing, even causing top US universities Brandeis and Penn State to quit the ASA over the move.