In This Issue

  • Latest Updates
  • Member Writings
  • US-Israel Academic Collaboration           
  • Campus Issues
  • Upcoming Initiatives

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December 2016 Newsletter

Latest Updates

AEN now has 357 members across 135 campuses across the country. We recruited 2 members in November and 3 members so far in December.

AEN Atlanta Convening
AEN held a convening for faculty members at Southern institutions on December 9-10 in Atlanta, GA. The convening featured a reception and dinner with AEN Advisory Board member Deborah Lipstadt, sessions on various topics (including anti-BDS work on campuses in the Southeast, BDS within the context of global political challenges, and members' personal experiences with BDS), and an action and planning session about strategizing an AEN Southern initiative.
National Speakers Bureau
AEN has established a National Speakers’ Bureau, consisting of 15 AEN members who are experts on one or more relevant issues, including the BDS movement, academic freedom and free speech on campus, Israeli history, society, and contemporary governance, Israeli diversity, the relationship between Israel and its Arab citizens, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel and the post-1967 occupation, US-Israel relations, the challenge of antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism, and strategies for opposing the BDS narrative.

These speakers will be available to give public talks – followed by a class or seminar with faculty and students – on campuses across the country based on invitations from AEN members. Honoraria for speakers will be covered by AEN.

The complete list of speakers, including their areas of expertise, can be found here. If you are interested in inviting a speaker to your campus, please fill out the form on our website here.

 
Podcast and Pamphlet Series
AEN is pleased to announce the launch of two new initiatives – a pamphlet series and a podcast serial – that we hope will make a vibrant contribution to the intellectual discourse on the issues integral to AEN’s mission.

Our pamphlet series will address a variety of subjects, including academic freedom, the BDS movement, anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and contemporary campus culture, through adapted articles, lectures, and speeches. Our podcasts will feature interviews with scholars and thought leaders on these and other related issues.  

The first pamphlet in the series, "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and Antisemitism," was adapted from the keynote presentation at AEN's first national conference by David Hirsh, Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. The pamphlet can be viewed on our website here.

In our inaugural podcast, "Making Democracy Sexy: David Hirsh on Combating BDS and Antisemitism by Rediscovering Democracy" AEN Executive Director Ken Waltzer interviews Hirsh, who explains how BDS, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism relate to one another, and how the political left and right often engage in the same defensive tropes. You can listen to and download the podcast on our website here

Please note that not all future pamphlets will be accompanied by a podcast, and vice versa.

Please enjoy and share!


Guide and Resource Book for Administrators
AEN began distributing its new publication, Academic Freedom, Freedom of Expression, and the BDS Movement: A Guide and Resource Book for University Leaders. The Guide aims to help educate and prepare university presidents, chancellors and other senior administrators on how to respond to BDS resolutions on campus and attempts to disrupt Israel-related speakers on campus. The Guide also seeks to encourage and facilitate proactive measures to develop, strengthen, and enforce student codes of conduct and related policies and protocols. To date AEN has mailed copies of the Guide to more than 100 university leaders at campuses at high risk for pro-BDS activities. All AEN members should have received an online version of the Guide - please e-mail raeefa@academicengagement.org if you do not have access to the Guide.

Microgrant Events
On November 8, AEN member Jaime Grinberg, Professor and the Chairperson of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, hosted a showing of the documentary Hate, about contemporary antisemitism on the extreme left and extreme right. This was followed with a discussion with Israeli reporter and filmmaker, Nadav Eyal, and a panel of scholars from different academic departments. Over 100 people attended the event, mostly students. 
 

 
On November 1, AEN member Steve Resnicoff of the Center for Jewish Law and Judaic Studies at DePaul University hosted a lecture entitled, “Islamic Antisemitism: An Obstacle to Arab Israeli Peace,” featuring Israeli historian Benny Morris and Salim Mansur, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario who specializes in international relations and comparative politics of South Asia and the Middle East.  The event focused on the history of Islamic antisemitism rooted in the Islamic tradition, the influence of European antisemitism during and after World War II, and considered what are the implications of Islamic antisemitism for Arab-Israeli peace. The video from the event can be viewed here.

Hillel International Global Assembly
At the Hillel International Global Assembly, which took place December 5-8 in Orlando, AEN Advisory Board Chair Mark Yudof and Tracy Turoff, Vice President and General Counsel of Hillel International, shared strategies on methods to proactively and reactively combat anti-Semitism and the BDS movement on college campuses.

Member Writings

In Tablet Magazine, Deborah Lipstadt emphasized the necessity of condemning antisemitic rhetoric from both the right and the left, particularly in the wake of the recent presidential election. "Yet it’s not only anti-Semitism from the right, but also anti-Semitism from the left, that should have been met with steel, not mush...Sadly, given the tenor of recent events, Jewish organizations from all ends of the political spectrum will probably have other opportunities to stand up. Let’s hope they do. Far more than just their already wounded credibility is at stake."

In the Algemeiner, Josef Olmert praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's interview with "60 Minutes" and Israel's current geopolitical situation. "Netanyahu outlined Israel’s great diplomatic achievements and growing international relations, despite all the talk these days about boycotting and marginalizing the country." Earlier, in the Times of Israel, Olmert put the Balfour Declaration in historic context - "Here is a point not always mentioned; NOT the Balfour Declaration made Zionism, but Zionism, even in its pre-Herzellian version made the Balfour Declaration possible."

In the Washington Post, Cary Nelson and David Greenberg warned against the growing trend of hostile students shouting down Israeli and pro-Israel speakers on campus. "The growing practice of silencing pro-Israel speakers — of denying them the right to be treated as equals in campus debates — constitutes a dire threat to academic freedom. In our deeply polarized times, it is more important than ever that universities create opportunities for students and faculty to hear and engage with ideas that they don’t share." 

In Commentary, Jonathan Marks first spoke out against firing professors with extremist and offensive views, including the case of Joy Karega, an Oberlin professor who had made multiple antisemitic statements. "There is no question that Karega’s views should be condemned as they eventually were by a majority of Oberlin’s faculty and by the Board of Trustees. But if Oberlin fired her merely for her loathsome opinions, then Oberlin made a mistake." Marks later wrote another article criticizing the excesses of the campus left.

In Syracuse.com, Miriam Elman provided background into the BDS movement and the threats it poses to campus dialogue and Jewish identity.
"BDS is often presented as a nonviolent social justice movement. But the movement's origins and tactics tell a more sinister story."

In Tower Magazine, Thane Rosenbaum wrote about changing perceptions and cultural representations of the Holocaust, including those that demonize Israel. "So appealing and inexorably long lasting is anti-Semitism that it can all too easily reconstitute itself into a vile movement where the Holocaust becomes not a tragedy but a weapon against Jewish continuity and the very existence of the Jewish state."

US-Israel Academic Collaboration

A new report released by the Samuel Neaman Institute for Policy Research at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (and commissioned by the Israel on Campus Coalition) demonstrates the increasing depth and breadth of U.S.-Israel academic collaboration.
 
Between 2006 and 2015, the number of joint US-Israeli academic publications increased by 45% overall, including among leading research universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and New York University. The highest number of joint U.S.-Israel publications during 2006-2015 was in the field of Medicine, followed by Physics and Astronomy, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, Neuroscience, and Material Sciences. These findings, among others, were covered extensively by Tablet Magazine and Inside Higher Ed.
 
Similarly, a report from Davis Faculty for Israel found extensive and fruitful research and other academic collaborations of Davis faculty with Israeli faculty. More than 200 University of California, Davis, faulty have or have had connections with Israeli faculty and institutions, including some 60 collaborations involving major research projects funded with grant money.
 
The connections are particularly strong in the agricultural sciences, medicine, veterinary medicine, physical sciences, biological sciences, and engineering, but also extend to the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The report highlights projects with major international social, economic, and environmental benefits. 

These trends indicate that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has had little or no impact on academic collaboration between the U.S. and Israel, despite its stated goal of boycotting Israeli academic institutions, and by extension, stigmatizing and isolating Israeli academics.
 
It is important to view the current campus tactics of proponents of the movement in this context. While these activists have found little success in breaking bonds between U.S. and Israeli academics, they have managed to disrupt speakers, create rifts between the pro-Israel community and other students, and promote a one-sided narrative of the Middle East. As U.S. and Israeli academics continue to expand their partnerships, observers of campus trends should learn about these cooperative arrangements and publicize them while also preparing for more of the same disruptive and destructive tactics from the BDS movement.  

Campus Issues

Dr. Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and Jewish Virtual Library, published an interesting analysis of the state of antisemitism on American campuses. He posits that while many universities do have a problem with antisemitism, reports of a widespread problem are often overblown, particularly with regard to the influence of pro-Palestinian organizations on campus, and that factors such as the response of the pro-Israel community have not been taken into account. However, he does emphasize the role of faculty, who - for better or worse - "influence students inside and outside the classroom, shape the campus environment, sponsor conferences and lectures, publish books that disseminate their views around the world, are asked to be commentators in the media, and remain on campus long after the leaders of anti-Israel student groups have graduated."

At the same time, efforts to establish pro-BDS policies continue on campuses:

At the University of Michigan, the student government voted down a BDS resolution (the 10th such attempt at the university since 2002) 34-13, with 3 abstentions. AEN was active in advising Michigan faculty and Hillel professionals, and Ken Waltzer published a piece in the Times of Israel explaining the necessity of university leaders speaking out against such attempts to single out Israel.

At Georgetown University, the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR) is reviewing a proposal submitted by a coalition of student groups, faculty members, and students calling itself "GU F.R.E.E." to divest the University's endowment from "private prison companies and companies that support the private prison industry" and companies that support "the occupation of Palestine" by Israel. The Committee is requesting feedback on the proposal from faculty and students, and has announced that it will review the proposal in early 2017. This is the first time we are aware that a BDS divestment initiative has been advanced directly through a university committee on socially responsible investing, and may be a tactic to be alert for at other institutions in the future.

A coalition of various pro-Palestinian groups, including Palestine Legal, SJP, JVP, and others, sent a letter to University of California administrators making unsubstantiated claims about the UC Principles Against Intolerance and calling for its repeal. AEN sent a letter to the University of California Board of Regents, UC President Janet Napolitano, and the 10 UC Chancellors affirming AEN's support for the Principles, which we find to be the "best tool thus far developed by any public or private university to confront racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism and to ensure equal treatment of all."

Upcoming Initiatives

SAVE THE DATE: AEN will hold its 2nd National Conference the week of Monday, May 15, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. The conference will take place over a two-day period that week; exact dates and location are being developed. We are also exploring a possible voluntary third day workshop on op-ed writing after the conference. Please stay tuned for further details in early 2017. 

Helene Sinnreich, Director of the Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, will host Israeli humanities scholar Rachel Harris, funded by an AEN microgrant. Harris's visit will take place in conjunction with a large Israeli film festival, where she will speak on the topic of "Israeli Film as a Doorway to Dialogue." The first events with Rachel Harris will be from January 22-24, followed by a variety of events going until February 8. 
 
We want to urge AEN members to apply for AEN microgrants to sponsor events and happenings on campuses in spring 2017. If you are interested, please fill out the application, with as much specific information about your event or initiative as possible, here:
 
In future newsletters, we would like to highlight our members' activities. If you would like to share any information about AEN-related work on your campus, please let us know at raeefa@academicengagement.org.

We hope you have a great holiday season.
Copyright © 2016, Academic Engagement Network, All rights reserved.

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