Thursday, April 28, 2011

US campaign for academic boycott of Israel

One of the things that is so distressing about the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel (U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) is that people whom I respect are participating in it, and I simply don't understand how they can add their names to a campaign that denies academic freedom, and in particular denies the right of scholars of Jewish Studies to work with colleagues in Israeli universities. Israel is one of the world centers of Jewish Studies, and if the academic boycott succeeded in the United States, it would strike an enormous blow to it. It's for this reason that I call the campaign for the academic boycott antisemitic.

Scholars and writers whom I respect who have signed on include: Ammiel Alcalay (poet and scholar), Judith Butler (gender theorist, UC Berkeley), Marilyn Hacker (poet whose work I first encountered as quotes in the novel "Babel-17" by Samuel R. Delany), Barbara Ehrenreich (well-respected feminist and political author of among other books, "Nickel and Dimed"), and Adrienne Rich, a Jewish lesbian poet whose work I have loved for decades. I feel betrayed by them - however bitter their criticisms of Israel, is it necessary to be part of a movement that is contrary to all of the academic values that we claim to hold dear?

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