Association of American Universities denounces Israeli boycotts

The Association of American Universities (AAU) reaffirmed its opposition to boycotts against Israeli academic institutions after a dozen organizations expressed support for the boycotts, including the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which has more than 10,000 members.

In a statement released on Thursday, AAU said it was re-issuing its executive committee’s 2013 statement in response to a resolution approved by AAA in support of boycotting Israeli academic institutions. The resolution will be put to a vote in April on the organization’s spring ballot.

“For decades, despite condemnation by the United Nations and other international bodies, the Israeli state has denied Palestinians — including scholars and students — their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, discrimination, and military occupation,” the resolution states.

Since 2013, 12 American scholarly associations have voted to join the boycotts against Israeli academic institutions The Washington Post reports. When the American Studies Association decided to join the boycott in 2013, AAU issued an opposing response for the first time. Now, after many academic institutions have joined the campaign to isolate Israel militarily and economically, the AAU is once again condemning political bias in academic institutions.

AAU is a non-profit research institution made up of 62 public and private universities, including six schools in the University of California System. Over the past year, at least seven student governments in the California system have voted to divest from Israel. Five of these universities are directly associated with AAU, and likely receive funding for research from the organization.

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It is unclear whether AAU supports investing in Israeli companies and military operations, as many schools in the California system do, but it clearly rejects severing academic ties with Israel for political reasons.

“Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom,” AAU said in its statement.

Some academic organizations, like the National Women’s Studies Executive Committee, have passed resolutions similar to that of the AAU, but are calling for a complete boycott of Israel.

“Therefore, in keeping with these principles and the strong consensus of the majority of our 2014 conference participants, let be it resolved that the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) endorses the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel,” the resolution states.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Ethnic Studies Department and the University of California Student Workers Union are among the groups boycotting Israel.

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