Universities group raps ASA academic boycott of Israel


(JTA) — The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities issued a statement opposing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The statement dated Dec. 20 came a week after the membership of the American Studies Association in an online vote endorsed its national council’s call for a boycott of Israeli universities.

“Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general,” the Association of American Universities’ statement said.

The universities’ group is composed of 60 public and private U.S. colleges and universities, as well as two Canadian universities.

“Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint,” its statement said. “It is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom.”

The boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the statement said, “clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”

The Association of American Universities called on American scholars and scholars around the world to oppose the American Studies Association boycott against Israel and all other such academic boycotts.

Several individual universities also have condemned the ASA boycott, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland and New York University.

Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg withdrew their membership from the ASA in the wake of the vote.

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