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MIT Head Rejects ASA's Boycott of Israel

"An academic boycott is antithetical to MIT values," says President Rafael Reif after ASA decides to boycott Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/30/2013, 5:45 AM

Boycott sign
Boycott sign
Flash 90

The head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has expressed opposition towards the academic boycott of Israel that is being promoted by the American Studies Association (ASA), the Israel Hayom daily newspaper reported on Sunday.

In justifying its decision to boycott Israel, the ASA said the boycott was “in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom, and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.”

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement published last Friday that his university opposes the academic boycott against Israel.

"On Dec. 16, 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. MIT is not a member of the ASA and has no connection to this boycott," Reif said in the statement quoted by Israel Hayom.

"The concept of an academic boycott is antithetical to MIT values. It fundamentally violates the principles of academic freedom that are central to the excellence of MIT and American higher education," he declared.

In the weeks since the boycott was declared, at least four universities have already quit the ASA in protest. So far, no universities have actually come out in support of the boycott.

Top schools including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Boston University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut and University of Texas, among others, have already slammed the boycott.

The head of the ASA, Curtis Marez, has admitted that many nations, including many of Israel’s neighbors, have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s but has justified the boycott by saying that “one has to start somewhere.”

Meanwhile, two New York lawmakers are fighting the boycott by proposing a bill that would give colleges and universities in the state of New York 30 days to withdraw their support from groups boycotting Israel - or lose state funding. 

Last Sunday, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called on Congress to legislate a bill against academic boycotts of Israel.