An Open Letter To Anti-BDS Faculty on Campuses For Shock and Awe Strategies to Put An End To Assault on Academic Freedom

Dear Anti-BDS Faculty Colleagues and Non-Academic Friends,

Let me say at the start that if you are not a faculty member somewhere and you agree with what I am saying, send this letter immediately to every faculty member you know who says they are pro-Israel. If you are a faculty member and agree with any one of these strategies or more, start finding likeminded faculty members and roll up your sleeves and realize you are at war and only you can fight and win the fight of BDS Campaigns in your academic institutions and academic/professional societies. Let me also say that you don’t have to be Jewish or affiliated with any Jewish groups to participate in these strategies. In fact, the more non-Jews who participate in these strategies the more likely the madness will be stopped.

Unfortunately Israeli academic institutions and academics will not be saved by any the reactive strategies  of the balbatim and oligarchs of themajor organizations because, as our enemies know this is a grass-roots issue and spreads like an infections virus on vulnerable hosts. It takes radical therapies with shock and awe anti-viral techniques to cure the disease. Most of the strategies currently in use are reactive and amount no more to circling the campus and “shreing a gevald” that we are being picked on for opprobrium. However, as I once said to an oligarch over a dozen years ago, if you properly fund faculty to do their things at the grass roots level, BDS can be successfully staved off proactively, and indeed it was for almost 10 years until the strategies  returned to reactive.

We must adopt the same strategic and effective targeted  academic blitzkrieg strategies with which our  enemies are engaged. We must hit them in their careers and pocket books. We must make it costly and them vulnerable for publicly or privately advocating for and passively or actively engaging in what is tantamount to a violation of most university policies, federal  and state guidelines for funding and other anti-discriminatory practices prohibited by law.

I am not a lawyer, but it is my understanding as a lay person that discrimination on the basis of national origin is a violation of policies and perhaps even law for which there are legal, institutional and other kinds of sanctions. Discriminating against scholars simply because they are Israeli or work in Israel universities is discrimination by virtue of national origin. I believe it is illegal in the UK, France and Germany and perhaps many other countries. These laws need to be tested.  We must make the individuals on the governing boards of academic and professional associations feel the legal pain and other consequences of these “kristalnacht” pronouncements even before votes are taken, when resolutions are announced for action at meetings. We must not only make these people realize they are defying policies, codes, standards and perhaps law, but we must make them aware of and be prepared to act on the consequences if they go through these resolutions. For these are acts of moral turpitude at the very least and perhaps acts in defiance of law at the worst. Left unchallenged, they become part of the legacy of twisted acts that our enemies are allowed to be engaged.  We have to make them feel the pain and sting of their acts of bigotry and intolerance.

Another strategy which was once effective and should be reinstituted is Israeli academic institutions should be issuing affiliate faculty appointments to academics who voluntarily align themselves with Israel academic institutions to say loudly and firmly “If you boycott my institution and colleagues, you will be boycotting me as well as I stand firmly with my colleagues.”  In several statements in the mid 2000’s over 50 Nobel Laureates signed statements in such regards and were joined by thousands of academics worldwide whose names were published and circulated regularly.

As a retired academic with a 45 year history in academia, I know from discussions in the faculty dining room, departmental meetings and amongst friends and colleagues, that faculty only respect other faculty. There’s not much respect for administration, donors and others trying to tell them what to do, but if 25,000 academics publicly stated that if you boycott any university or its faculty on the basis of national origin and that it compromises academic freedom that they will considered themselves boycotted too, this will disrupt the flow of research sufficiently and serve to delegitimize the BDS movement. No faculty member worth his or her self respect wants to shut down their potential collaboration network by virtue of their own bad politics. The pressure and isolation has to be put on the boycotters and shifted from those being boycotted.  By boycotting, they have now become the haters and not worthy of collaboration.

Finally, senior faculty members on promotion and tenure committees must make it clear that BDS activity is not a legitimate academic pursuit. In fact it is antithetical to any kind of academic freedom. Decisions about promotion and tenure should be made taking into account the use of academic time, resources and energy to concentrate outside of the discipline in discriminatory and political behavior. Convincing a department or association to boycott Israel is not an academic pursuit, it is a political activity and has no place in the assessment of good scholarship and teaching. If a faculty member defending Israel on campus can be pulled into a Dean’s  or Department Chair’s office to be told, your future depends on your scholarship and not your political activity, so too must those advocating academic boycotts in professional meetings be hauled into the Dean’s or Department chair’s office to be told that they will be evaluated on their scholarship and that they will not be supported for boycott activity at professional meetings either in terms of subsidies or career advancement. These are not activities of scholarship.

Finally institutions need to be held accountable for their faculty using university resources to engage in such practices which potentially damage the reputation/brand of the institution. Most institutions have policies that individual faculty cannot use institutional affiliation and facilities for personal agendas or aggrandizement and yet, many of these discriminatory faculty members are launching their personal political agendas using university resources, their affiliations and offices to conduct this work. Universities should not allow it to be easy. You want to lead a boycott? Lead it on your own dime and somewhere else and don’t drag the institution’s name and reputation in this controversy or you could be fired. You are entitled to freedom of speech, but not on our dime. You are entitled to academic freedom, but not practice discriminatory practices for political gains using our academic facilities especially if they are outside of you academic area of expertise. With academic freedom and freedom of speech comes accountability as well.

These strategies require a commitment to real freedom, excellence and tolerance. They require enforcement across the board and execution at every level. Professors who spend more time attacking or defending Israel as a political agenda are detracting from what they are getting paid for and it has to stop. But it can only stop when it costs those politicizing this in the academy.

About the Author
Retired College Professor (Walden University and Penn State University), President Emeritus and Co-Founder Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Professional and Community Leader. Writer, Blogger, Academic Activist. Residing in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
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