Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LTE: Is Boycotting Israelis an Anti-Semitic Act?

New York Times: Re “A Boycott Built on Bias” (column, June 17):

As an American Jew who shares Thomas L. Friedman’s critical assessment of Israel’s policies toward the occupied territories, I am very slow to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Nonetheless, like Mr. Friedman, I have been unable to come up with a better explanation for the proposed British academic boycott of Israeli universities.

The idea is spectacularly wrongheaded, not only for the examples of selective sympathy that Mr. Friedman enumerates (and many more that could be added), but also because boycotts are so antagonistic to the ordinary ethics of the academic community.

Israeli universities are no more complicit in the injustices wrought by their nation’s government than are the universities of any nation — including our own — whose government is rightfully subject to serious criticism.

And if any effort is warranted to prompt Israeli scholars to oppose their government more forcefully, that initiative should surely take the form of engagement and dialogue, not ostracism.

Peter M. Shane
Columbus, Ohio, June 17, 2007
The writer is a professor at Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University.

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