The Blog


BDS: The War on Campus

The next chapter in an informative series about BDS

November 09, 2016


image: Wikipedia


University campuses are a hotbed of Pro-BDS and anti-Israel activity. Many Jewish students complain that universities are fostering a climate of overt anti-Semitism and intimidation and faculties and student bodies hide behind the excuse of “academic freedom”.

University campuses are the frontline in the battle against BDS and many students feel too intimidated to outwardly identify as Zionist or Jewish.

In some universities, the threats are two fold – a very strong anti-Israel student activist body coupled with faculty that advocate boycotts or teach anti-Israel invective.

Fighting BDS on campus is probably the most important battle as this is where future thought leaders and opinion makers originate.

Anti-Israel Academics:

This is a very dangerous phenomenon as Professors and faculty are responsible for shaping future leaders and opinion makers. Academic freedom is used to justify courses and activism by faculty members that is anti-Israel and does not support being balanced or non-partial.

In the United States, legislation established by Congress under Title VI of the Higher Education Act and administered by the U.S. Department of Education, university-hosted NRCs nationwide receive more than 30 million dollars annually for the purpose of equipping students with a full and unbiased understanding of the regions and countries of the world that are vital to U.S. security interests. These Centers are also required by law to maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education that “contribute to the teaching and research of the Center.

Of the 20 universities which received federal funding to support Middle East Studies NRCs in the 2010 – 2014 grant cycle, faculty affiliated with 16 of them have shown their unambiguous anti-Israel bias by signing the petition to boycott Israeli universities and scholars: Columbia University, Duke University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of Chicago, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin, University of Washington Seattle, and Yale University.

NRC-affiliated faculty who have publicly vilified Israel and committed themselves to refusing ‘to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli institutions’ have violated both the letter and spirit of the federal law which funds their teaching and research.

Academic boycotts:

Proposals for academic boycotts of Israel have been made by academics and organisations in the Palestinian territories, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries to boycott Israeli universities and academics. The goal of proposed academic boycotts is to isolate Israel in order to force a change in Israel's policies towards the Palestinians which detractors say is discriminatory and oppressive, including oppressive to the academic freedom of Palestinians.

It must be noted that founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti studied at Tel Aviv University.

The ultimate goals and the mission of the academic boycott  is to align with those of the greater BDS movement, calling for international pressure to be placed on Israeli academic institutions, which are understood by PACBI to be implicated in the perpetuation of Israeli occupation, in order to achieve those goals.

The proposals have been opposed by many scholars and politicians, who describe the campaign as "profoundly unjust" and relying on what they consider to be a "false" apartheid analogy with South Africa. Proponents say that while Apartheid isn't officially the law in the occupied territories, in particular the West Bank, its systematically put in place; separate roads, sidewalks, disproportionate water resources, Jewish-only settlements, and "humiliating checkpoints" are often cited as examples. Opponents state that the boycotters apply "different standards" to Israel than other countries, that the boycott is "counterproductive and retrograde" and that the campaign is anti-Semitic and comparable to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s. Proponents however, reject the idea of anti-Semitism, noting that Jews have also called for boycotts due to what they perceive as discriminatory policies against Palestinians.Despite these oppositions, academic boycott initiatives have been undertaken, with limited success outside the Middle East. The academic boycott has also been termed a collective punishment of Israeli academia.

Israel Apartheid week

Every March, campuses become a staging ground for the annual anti-Israel hate festival known as Israel Apartheid Week.  The event takes place during different weeks and some of the most vocal anti-Israel critics are brought onto campus and the atmosphere becomes very tense and at times, inflammatory.

This is a critical week as it not only creates an environment where Jewish students are too fearful in some cases to wear their Jewish insignia such as kippot but has a profound impact on other students who may not be interested in the conflict. It in effect, the conflict is imported onto university campuses. When Jewish students air their grievances they are told it is in the interest of free speech.

In recent years, IAW programs have served as a platform for strategizing about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel because of the success of BDS efforts in dismantling the apartheid system in South Africa. Anti-Israel activists often call for various boycotts on Israel, including on Israeli academic and cultural institutions or on companies that do business with Israel, as part of the "action plan" to carry out following IAW.

There have also been several instances where more extreme messages, including expressions of anti-Semitism and support for terrorist groups that target Israeli civilians, including Hamas and Hezbollah, have been propagated during IAW programs.

Organisations like Stand With Us who do a lot of work with students around the world have trained a delegation of Israeli students from different sectors of society who dispel the myths of an Apartheid state. Their “Let’s talk peace” campaign in South Africa opened up opportunities for peaceful, constructive dialogue.

The most important work we can do is educate and equip students to feel proud of their identity and have the ability to articulate the facts logically and patiently.

Articles of Interest:


Stand with Us

Anti-Defamation League:

Israel Academia Monitor:


*This content was gathered and provided by Rolene Marks