Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The marketplace for ideas: Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism (and calls to boycott Israel)

In January, Larry Summers gave a speech at the Center for Law and Liberty at Columbia University Law School, titled Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism. It is interesting not just for how he reflects on his statements on the subject when he was President of Harvard (he called proposed boycotts of Israel "anti-Semitic in effect if not intent"), but is also helpful for thinking about the once-again resurgent movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel and companies doing business there.

President Hennessy of Stanford recently spoke to the faculty Senate following a student Senate (re)vote that urged Stanford to divest from companies "facilitating State repression against Palestinians," with comments that clarified Stanford's policy (on boycotts and divestment generally, not on anti-Semitism in particular).

Following the student vote, I signed an online petition called Reject Stanford Divestment from Israel.  I recently signed another, and supported a third which isn't yet on the web. The letters are signed by people with a variety of positions on  Israeli policies and politics, but all disturbed by the singular obsession with Israel expressed by movements to boycott and divest from it.

I'm a reluctant signer of letters in general, and I imagine that everyone who signs a joint letter might have written with different wording or emphasis if they were writing on their own. But that didn't stop me from adding my name to these, under the circumstances.

Here's a Stanford Daily story on that student senate vote: Senate reverses divestment vote, passes resolution

As the story notes, we're not talking about a big vote: "The re-vote saw 10 Senators vote in favor of the bill, while four voted against and one Senator abstained."

But the world remains a dangerous place: here's a statement from a consortium of California Jewish community organizations, focusing in part on the recent murders in France and Denmark: Against the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

That statement concludes with this:
"History has shown that whenever one group is attacked, others are inevitably targeted as well. Let us stand together against all forms of hate and racism."

Update: From the NY Times, March 5 2015--In U.C.L.A. Debate Over Jewish Student, Echoes on Campus of Old Biases, reports on a UCLA undergrad, interviewing for student government position, being initally voted down after being asked "“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community,” ...“how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Here's a March 4 story on the anti-divestment letter from the Stanford Daily: http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/03/04/faculty-members-send-letter-to-apirl-opposing-divestment/ 

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