A young academic activist organization has found success helping faculty members on campuses across the US promote what founders see as the “inherently connected” causes of supporting freedom of speech and Israel.
AEN in the News
Two American scholars called an anti-Israel motion being brought before the upcoming conference of the Modern Language Association (MLA) a “shameful maneuver” that highlights the worrisome politicization of academia.
Referring to a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that is being put to a vote at this week’s MLA 2017 Convention, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jubilee Professor Cary Nelson — one of many academics opposing the bill — told The Algemeiner that it reveals “deep and increasing corruption” in the humanities and social sciences.
While the University of California, Irvine is taking a series of “good first steps” towards combating antisemitism, the “proof will be in the pudding” of implementation, the heads of two leading campus organizations told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of campus watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, and Kenneth Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network — a group of American college faculty members who oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — were responding to a recent UC Irvine report that issued recommendations on how the school can align itself with and adopt the University of California Regents Principles Against Intolerance.
Academic freedom — the freedom to explore any subject wherever it leads and to exchange ideas with colleagues of one’s choosing — lies at the heart of the academic enterprise. Without this freedom, our universities would be servants of special interests and political ideologies. This would create the safe space some students seek in which students would be spared exposure to vigorous give-and-take on contentious issues. But this would be an education stripped of intellectual diversity.
These are the demands of the academic BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement — to cut off debate, stop the exchange of ideas with Israeli academics, and coerce faculty around the country to follow the dictates of a narrow political movement.
ZIMPHER: RATIONAL TUITION PLAN UNLIKELY THIS BUDGET SEASON— POLITICO New York’s Keshia Clukey: “State University chancellor Nancy Zimpher says she doesn’t think the state’s rational tuition plan will be a priority in the 2017-18 state budget. ‘We had two budget seasons to bring it back and there wasn’t either the collective will or the political will to do that,’ Zimpher said of the plan, also known as SUNY 2020. ‘I think the governor was supportive, I think he still is supportive, but the Legislature wasn’t able to roll it over, or prioritize it, I really don’t think I’ll ever know.’
The plan allowed SUNY and CUNY schools to increase tuition by $300 a year for five years — providing for more long-range planning for students and the universities, although the idea of annual increases has been controversial. Its extension was expected to be included in the 2016-17 state budget (an election year), but was taken out and instead the budget provided an $85 million increase in funding for the SUNY and CUNY systems and froze tuition for one year.
The American Studies Association (ASA) infamously endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions at its annual meeting in 2013. It was subsequently condemned by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Association of Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), and the leaders of some 250 American colleges and universities. Unfortunately, the program for the 2016 annual meeting scheduled November 17-20 in Denver, Colorado shows that the ASA’s obsession with vilifying Israel has, if anything, intensified.
Among the proceedings are ten panels focused at least in part on the perceived evils of Israel and Zionism. This would not be surprising at an academic conference devoted to Middle Eastern and North African Studies but it is unusually high for American Studies. The ideological conformity of the panels also raises serious questions about the ASA’s stated objective to serve as “a network of scholars, teachers, writers, administrators and activists from around the world who hold in common the desire to view US history and culture from multiple perspectives [emphasis added].”
Portland State University (PSU) President Wim Wiewel, in a timely statement in early June 2016, spoke out against a divestment motion pushed by adherents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The motion was about to be voted by the Associated Students of Portland State University. President Wiewel called the motion “ill-advised and divisive,” and worried openly about the tenor of the conversation stirred by BDS on campus.
Wiewel said: “The tone and tenor of the BDS movement has made members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome at PSU, and it is not acceptable to marginalize or scapegoat them. Antisemitism cannot and will not be tolerated on our campus.”
At Camp David in 2000, during the most hopeful discussions about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Palestinian representative at the table denied any Jewish historic connection to Jerusalem. Speaking of the Holy sites, he referred to the Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa mosques sitting on the Temple Mount, but labeled as fantasy the notion that there had ever been a Jewish Temple on that spot or in the city at all.
This allegation at a critical juncture undercut the aspiration of achieving a two-state solution — the Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state — and proved devastating to the left-of-center Israeli delegation seeking a compromise that would serve the interests of both peoples. With the hope that each side was finally willing to accept one another’s narrative, now the Israelis were being told once again that they had no legitimacy in their historic homeland.
The recent disruption of an Israel-related event at Georgetown University (GU) was a “flop,” due mainly to the quick thinking of its moderator, the head of an academic organization told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
Kenneth Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) — a group of American college faculty members who oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — was referring to a disturbance created by anti-Israel activists during a September 8 panel discussion on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s career, hosted by GU’s Center for Jewish Civilization.