Noted academics launch effort to counter anti-Israel sentiments on campus


(JTA) — A group of noted academics has launched an initiative to combat rising anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on campus.

Led by Mark Yudof, president emeritus of the University of California System, and Kenneth Waltzer, former director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University, the Academic Engagement Network aims to combat “Orwellian efforts” to tie Israel to everything from the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, to tuition rates.

“In the face of activities aimed at vilifying Israel, AEN members will facilitate robust and civilized discussions relating to Israel on campuses, promote academic freedom and freedom of expression, stand for human rights for Arabs and Jews, and engage colleagues and students to better understand these complex issues,” Yudof, the network’s chair, said in a statement this month.

The network, which is preparing a manual for university administrators addressing threats to academic freedom posed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, includes past Harvard University president and former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers on its advisory board. Also on the board is Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt and the former Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion chief, Rabbi David Ellenson.

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