Nobel laureates rip academic boycotts of Israel

(JTA) — Some 38 Nobel laureates have signed a statement condemning boycotts and divestment campaigns against Israeli academics and academic institutions.

A letter accompanying the statement, released Tuesday under the auspices of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, singles out for special concern the threat of a boycott by the University of Johannesburg in South Africa against Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The statement reads: "Believing that academic and cultural boycotts, divestments and sanctions in the academy are antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom, antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and may well constitute discrimination by virtue of national origin, we, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, appeal to students, faculty colleagues and university officials to defeat and denounce calls and campaigns for boycotting, divestment and sanctions against Israeli academics, academic institutions and university-based centers and institutes for training and research, affiliated with Israel."

"Furthermore, we encourage students, faculty colleagues and university officials to promote and provide opportunities for civil academic discourse where parties can engage in the search for resolution to conflicts and problems rather than serve as incubators for polemics, propaganda, incitement and further misunderstanding and mistrust."

Professors Roger Kornberg of Stanford University and Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin led the statement effort by the Nobel Prize winners who signed the statement, all of whom are from the United States. Many who signed the statement are not Jewish.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is a grass-roots network of more than 60,000 faculty and scholars on 4,000 campuses throughout the world.

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