Regular readers of Eclectecon know that I have championed academic freedom for decades. They also know that beginning with very early posts, I vehemently opposed any attempts to ostracize or boycott Israeli scholars. I went so far as to obtain academic affiliation (albeit nominal) with Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa, just to make the point that anyone who wanted to boycott scholars from Israeli universities would have to include me in the boycott.
On January 16, 2016, the American Association of Universities re-issued the following statement, opposing any boycotts of Israeli universities or Israeli scholars [h/t Canadian Academics for Peace [CAP] in the Middle East]. Even if you disagree with what Israel does in the west bank, this is the right position.
The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such a boycott. 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.
Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint. 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.
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. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.
The CAP notification reads:
As many of you know, the Association of American Universities (AAU) represents 60 U.S. and two Canadian public and private research universities, including McGill University and the University of Toronto. On January 14, 2016, AAU’s Board of Directors re-released their 2013 statement in opposition to academic boycotts of Israel.