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In This Issue

  • Latest Updates
  • AEN Second National Conference
  • AEN Speaking Engagements
  • AEN in the News
  • Campus Updates
  • Additional Information

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June 2017 Newsletter

Latest Updates

AEN now has 462 members on 180 campuses across the country. In just two years, we have achieved remarkable growth:
 
  • 18 Board Members
  • August-December 2015: 138 members added
  • January-July 2016: 154 members added
  • August-December 2016: 60 members added
  • January-June 2017: 93 members added

AEN Second National Conference

AEN held its Second National Conference May 15-17 in Chicago, Illinois. Over 120 people attended, including more than 75 faculty members representing colleges and universities across the US, as well as a wide range of academic disciplines.
The conference program featured keynote talks from leading thinkers on subjects related to the AEN’s mission: 
 
  • University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey Stone provided historical context to contemporary debates over free speech on campus and emphasized the importance of open exchange to the intellectual mission of universities. 
  • Author and former member of Knesset Einat Wilf offered a progressive framework for understanding the history and contemporary politics of Israel, emphasizing that Zionism is at its core about Jewish equality in the world, that the creation of Israel required collective action, and that those in the West must treat the Arab world as equals when analyzing its motivations and actions.
  • Brandeis University Professor Ilan Troen, the founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, refuted the claim that Israel can be understood as an example of “settler colonialism” by highlighting historical, political, and religious evidence connecting Jews with the land of Israel and demonstrating how Jewish migration to Israel was neither imperial nor colonial in form. 
  • Israel Prize winner and Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at Northwestern University Ruth Gavison spoke about the compatibility of the Zionist idea with liberal democratic values.
 
Faculty members appeared on numerous panels at the conference to address a variety of issues, including their personal experiences fighting BDS campaigns on their campuses and in major professional associations, current and projected trends for the BDS movement, free speech controversies on leading American campuses, balancing opposition to antisemitism and upholding free speech, and strategies for building alliances with diverse constituencies, including those AEN has not yet successfully reached.
 
The conference closed with a session where faculty members began to develop customized action plans which assessed the environment on their campuses, outlined strategies that would make a positive impact, and identified resources which would help them achieve their goals. These action plans will be an important first step in working to create a climate of support and collaboration among faculty and students as we go forward in the coming academic year.
 
Finally, on May 18, twenty AEN faculty and staff members participated in an op-ed writing workshop led by the Op-Ed Project. This one-day seminar provided valuable training and information on how to formulate, structure, and articulate arguments in op-ed form, how to develop ledes and hooks with which to begin, and on how to pitch ideas effectively.
 
Based on initial feedback, AEN members found the conference to be intellectually engaging, and look forward to practically implementing the many ideas and strategies that were discussed.
 
More photos from the conference can be viewed at AEN’s Facebook page. A detailed conference report will be sent out later this summer.

AEN Speaking Engagements

On Wednesday, June 7th, AEN Advisory Board Chair Mark Yudof led a breakfast discussion during the 45th Annual University of Haifa Board of Governors’ Meeting, providing an update on BDS tactics and some of the ways AEN and other organizations are fighting them. Mark is currently in Israel, teaching a course at Hebrew University on the First Amendment.

On May 9, Mark spoke on the topic of “Israel on Campus" at Hillel at Davis and Sacramento. The event was sponsored by Davis Faculty for Israel, Hillel at Davis and Sacramento, and Aggies for Israel.

On May 3, AEN Executive Director Ken Waltzer met with Portland State University leaders to explore how the university can improve conditions for Jewish students and develop institutional responses to incidents. Ken also delivered a lecture, sponsored by the Portland JCRC, entitled "The Anti-Israel BDS Movement and the College Campus: How Can It Be Challenged Effectively?"

On April 25, AEN Speakers Bureau member Cary Nelson gave a lecture at William Paterson University entitled, “When Does Campus Anti-Israel Activism Become Anti-Semitic?” The event was co-sponsored by the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, WPU Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the WPU Political Science Club.

AEN in the News

The Algemeiner ran a profile of AEN, in which it detailed our work and emphasized how we view defending academic freedom and opposing double standards against Israel to be "inherently connected." Ken Waltzer and AEN member Jaime Grinberg were both quoted for the article.

In J. Weekly, Ken and Mark spoke out against the administration at San Francisco State University, arguing that its refusal to take any meaningful action against disruptive and discriminatory acts from a pro-Palestinian on-campus student organization has harmed the quality of Jewish life on campus. "It is time to blow the whistle on S.F. State. Despite the rhetorical patina of reform, the administration — by acts of omission and commission — has fostered an environment where a student group, with its anti-normalization stance about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its refusal to permit open dialogue, determines what is to be heard or not on campus...The quality of Jewish life on the campus of S.F. State is being radically degraded. The campus is bereft of moral leadership. Action, not platitudes, is needed."

In Times of Israel, AEN member Daniel Schwartz was quoted in a piece about the controversial online university PragerU. Recalling his recent work combating a student BDS resolution at George Washington University, Schwartz refuted Prager's accusation that Jewish students were hostile or indifferent to Israel. "If my experience at GW is any indication, Prager couldn’t be more wrong about the notion that Jewish students are turning their back on Israel. This was a fast-moving initiative here that gave opponents little time to prepare. But Jewish students organized in vast numbers and with remarkable foresight and acumen to fight back the resolution."

In Fathom, AEN member Donna Robinson Divine discussed the transformative impact of the Six-Day War on contemporary Israeli politics. "Of all the anniversaries marked in 2017 – a hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, 70 after the UN Partition Resolution – none is remembered with as much ambivalence as the half-century since the 1967 War, and none is embedded as deeply in Israel’s politics and culture."

In the Jewish Journal, AEN member Judea Pearl published remarks he made during a May 22 debate sponsored by the UCLA Debate Union, in which he highlighted the immorality of the BDS movement. "What most people fail to realize is that BDS is not interested in boycotting, either, because it knows a boycott cannot achieve any meaningful level of success...The victory lies in having a stage, a microphone and a finger pointing at Israel, saying, “On trial.” It is only a matter of time before innocent students, mostly the gullible and uninformed, start chanting, “On trial.” The effect will be felt when these students graduate and become the next generation of American policymakers. A more immediate goal, of course, is bullying pro-coexistence voices into silence."

At Zip Dialog (a blog run by  AEN member Charles Lipson), AEN member Robert Lieber criticized the one-sided coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War in many news outlets and recommended a few articles which have a more balanced perspective. "These news outlets–and many more–consistently portray Israel as the dominant and more intransigent partner. Although the Palestinians are not held blameless, the analyses pin the blame mainly on Israel, particularly its settlements. The Jewish State, they say, is the primary obstacle to peace."

Campus Updates

On campus, BDS advocates were working to pass resolutions until the end of the spring semester.

At California State University-Long Beach, on May 11, the student government voted 15-7 to divest from firms doing business with the Israeli government. Throughout the campaign, AEN faculty members Jeff Blutinger and Suzanne Wechsler advised pro-Israel students campaigning against the resolution, and also spoke out against the resolution at each of three hearings before the student government. CSU-Long Beach President Jane Conoley also appeared at one of the student government hearings with a letter highlighting the divisive and discriminatory nature of BDS campaigns. Blutinger and Mark Yudof were quoted in a Daily 49er article explaining how Conoley's statement did not violate the principles of academic freedom.

At George Washington University, on May 1, a BDS resolution was narrowly defeated (14-15-1) in student government. AEN member Dan Schwartz worked with students on the campaign and coordinated with other faculty about ways they could positively influence the debate about the BDS resolution, and AEN Executive Director Ken Waltzer wrote an article for the Times of Israel which highlighted the resolution's many flaws.

Additional Information

AEN Microgrants Program
AEN will be announcing the renewal of its microgrants program later this month - we encourage you to apply! Examples of the nearly 30 events funded by AEN microgrants this past year include public lectures on Israeli politics, the history of the conflict in 1948, and antisemitism from the political left and right; a conference on women's roles in Israeli cinema; and multiple Israeli musical and dance performances. AEN microgrants also supported faculty development projects resulting in new courses at several universities and colleges  and, in one case, a new program; provided subventions of important new books by members on global antisemitism and on the experiences of faculty confronting BDS on campus; and assisted in the development of an exchange and research program funding projects involving American and Israeli faculty, with funding matched by the American university.

University of Haifa Affiliated Professors
We wanted to remind you of a standing invitation for all AEN members to become Affiliated Professors at the University of Haifa, part of a movement to oppose attempts to boycott Israeli institutions. More information about this opportunity is available here, and instructions to apply to become an Affiliated Professor are here.

Upcoming Initiatives
Please stay tuned for more information from AEN over the next few months, including our Guide and Resource Book for Faculty, a detailed report of our Second National Conference, and additional pamphlets and podcasts. We will also be sending out a survey in which members will be asked to evaluate AEN's work over the last year and a half.

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