Latest update: December 29th, 2013
The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia sent out a statement condemning the recent boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the American Studies Association to the Federation’s boards of directors and trustees. The statement will also be sent to the general public.
In the statement, high-powered securities lawyer Sherrie R. Savett makes clear that the Philadelphia Federation finds the boycott of Israel by the ASA to constitute an effort to both delegitimize Israel and to undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.
Savett quotes condemnations of the boycott by the American Association of University Professors and by the Association of American Universities, and the suggestion of the executive committee of the AAU to “American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”
Then she calls on all who will read the statement of the JFGP to do two things.
First, she suggests that “any academics or people who are closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, to contact them regarding institutional resignation.” Several schools have already withdrawn their membership in the ASA because of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Those schools include Penn State University, Brandeis University, Kenyon College and Indiana University.
Second, she asks Federation supporters and others in the region to “condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.
The Jewish Press reached Savett by phone who was still in her law office late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.
“There is a concerted strategy of public relations warfare here in the U.S. to poison the minds of students and others against Israel. We have to use our voices loudly and clearly to push back at the deep-rooted anti-Semitism that is driving these efforts to destroy and dismantle the state of Israel,” Savett said.
“The goal of the people driving these boycotts is to turn Israel into a pariah state, and then to destroy that state, and they are doing this in the guise of liberalism.
“We at the [Philadelphia] Federation call upon universities and colleges to withdraw from the ASA and to condemn it for embracing this boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a move which is antithetical to academic freedom.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is the first Federation to take such a clear, unequivocal, action-oriented stance against the ASA boycott. Go Philly!
This is the statement that was sent out by Sherrie R. Savett, president of the JFGP, on Tuesday, Dec. 24
Good morning everyone,
As you are well aware, last week the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to adopt an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Unfortunately, this issue has gained national attention. Coverage also spotlights several organizations that have or are considering endorsing anti-Israel resolutions. In the case of academic boycotts, these efforts both seek to delegitimize Israel and undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.
Together with the 40,000 member American Association of University Professors (AAUP), we believe in and support the right of scholars to freely pursue ideas without being targeted for repression, discipline, or institutional censorship. To echo the AAUP, the ASA “vote represents a setback for the cause of academic freedom.”
Further, the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada including Harvard, Stanford and Yale, condemned the move. “Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general,” their statement read. “Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”
There are currently efforts underway by academics both in and outside of ASA to call on their universities to withdraw their institutional memberships from the ASA using the message of the endangerment of academic freedom and the singling out of one country for discriminatory treatment. If you are an academic or closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, contact them regarding institutional resignation.
Please see the attached list of institutions that hold institutional membership in ASA. Two universities have already dropped their membership and many have publicly condemned the boycott move (they are listed in the attached document).
We ask you to join us in the effort to condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.
Thank you for your leadership.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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