Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Israeli academia narrowly escapes massive boycott

Yair Altman, News Agencies, and Israel Hayom Staff, israelhayom.com

American Anthropological Association motion to boycott Israeli academics rejected with a razor-thin majority of 1% • Strategic affairs minister says vote reflects a "dramatic change of policy," credited to Israel's intensive public diplomacy efforts.

Image from article, with caption: An anti-Israel protest in the United States | Photo credit: Reuters

An anti-Israel boycott resolution by one of the most prestigious academic groups in the United States was rejected Monday by a very narrow majority, effectively sparing Israeli researchers from a potential domino effect with very serious implications for multiple local industries.

The American Anthropological Association voted on the resolution, introduced in November, late Monday night, after a widely contentious campaign. The move was rejected by a razor-thin margin of 1%, or 39 votes, as 2,384 members voted in favor of a boycott, while 2,423 members voted against the measure.

The resolution would have precluded the AAA from engaging in any formal association or collaboration with Israeli universities or research centers, and would have prevented Israeli academics from participating in the organization's activities.

Had the motion passed, the 10,000-member organization would have been the biggest American institution to exercise such measures against Israel. A boycott of this magnitude could have seriously impaired not only Israel's academic ties overseas, but various Israeli industries outside academia, affecting Israel's status on a global scale.

In a statement on the boycott campaign's website, the anthropologists pushing for the resolution vowed to continue their efforts and promote academic sanctions, including a boycott, against Israel.

Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan welcomed the Anthropological Association's decision to reject the motion, saying it reflected a "dramatic change of policy," which he credited as the result of Israel's intensive public diplomacy efforts.

"I would like to congratulate the Israeli and American anthropologists who worked against the decision, and the academic and pro-Israel organizations in the United States that led this effort, including anti-BDS legislation in many states. This is another major achievement in our fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement," he said.

Meanwhile, the support expressed by 20 Israeli academics for the AAA resolution is scheduled to be the focus of an emergency session convened by the Knesset's Education, Culture and Sports Committee for Wednesday.

The meeting was called by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, and MKs Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), Sharren Haskel (Likud), and Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) are expected to attend.

"When it comes to fighting boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts there is no Left and Right. The fact that Israeli academics would be party to such calls is nothing short of dangerous. I urge the presidents of all universities to shun these boycotters and cut off any payments subsidized by public funds," Forer told Israel Hayom on Monday.

Matan Peleg, who heads the right-wing group Im Tirtzu, which exposed the Israeli academics' involvement in the AAA boycott resolution, said, "The fact that MKs from all factions have rallied together to fight a boycott promoted by Israeli academics reflects an important change in how decision-makers view delegitimization efforts against Israel."

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