MK Moshe Gafni
MK Moshe GafniIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The American Studies Association (ASA) decision to support an academic boycott of Israel was a subject of debate in Knesset on Tuesday. The Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee discussed the decision and its implications for Israel and the world.

Committee head MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) expressed the opinion that all such boycotts are a bad idea. “There is no place for an academic boycott or for any involvement of politics in academia,” he declared.

“It’s important for Israel, but no less so, this principle is important for the advancement of humanity,” he continued. “Political debate should take place elsewhere.”

MK Nachman Shai (Labor), who called for Tuesday’s discussion, expressed concern over the lack of a coordinated Israeli response to the boycott.

“The phenomenon of boycotts against Israel is not a new one, and in practice, has been around for more than a few years,” he said. “Israel must not brush aside or ignore this latest occurrence.

“This could take on new dimensions, because one act can lead to action from other organization as well,” he warned.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) argued that the main cause of the boycott phenomenon is Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria (Shomron), which he termed an “occupation” that leads others to question Israel’s legitimacy.

The Chancellor of Ariel University, former MK Yigal Cohen-Orgad, argued, “Whoever encourages harm to, or a boycott of, Ariel University harms scientific research in general, but also the Palestinian scientists and researchers who are working with us to improve all of our lives.” Ariel University in particular has faced boycotts due to its location in Samaria, east of the 1949 armistice line.

The ASA's boycott decision has been controversial among its members. Several universities have withdrawn from the organization over the boycott. No universities have actually come out in support of the boycott, which remains purely symbolic.