Photo Credit:
Richard L. Cravatts

Making academics responsible for, even complicit in, the machinations of the current government, and justifying a boycott as a result – as if Israeli academics, in this instance, even have the collective power to influence and change the status of the occupation and other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is normally an anathematic proposition for professors.

Besides applying a perverse double standard to Israeli academics by making them liable for the actions of their government, and punishing them for this perceived liability, the idea that universities in Israel are any more influential in shaping government policy, administering the nation’s laws, or overseeing its defense is itself a radical departure from what is ever blamed on the university and the people who comprise it.


The ASA also made central to its academic boycott the idea that Israeli universities conduct research to support Israel’s military, and that this research contributes to the continuing plight of the Palestinians.

“This complicity has been extensively documented,” the ASA website reads, “and manifests through direct research and production of military technologies,” including the “development of weapon systems used by the occupation army in committing grave violations of human rights.”

As the academic boycotters might have noticed, and should know had they not been experiencing paroxysms of self-righteous indignation toward Israel, American universities, like their Israeli counterparts, rely on, and frequently accept, billions of dollars of defense-applied contracts from the Department of Defense – specifically, between 2000 and 2006 the total number of contracts to universities rose from 5,887 to 52,667, with $46.7 billion granted to universities in 2006 alone.

In fact, many of the universities in which some of the foremost defamers of Israel teach have benefited from the largesse of the Department of Defense, and could, by the same logic being applied to Israeli universities, be condemned for facilitating and contributing to the creation of the military/industrial complex that many on the left decry as emblematic of U.S. imperialism, colonialism, and militarism, similar to how Israel is maligned for the same offenses.

Those anti-Israel American scholars, then, would find themselves boycotted, even though they obviously do not share the ideology of an imperialistic, hegemonic United States.

David Lloyd, a pro-boycott speaker who spoke on the MLA panel, is a professor at UC Riverside, part of the California university system that in 2009 received $766,179,039 in defense-related research funding. That embarrassing detail about his own university system aside, Lloyd is still content with denouncing any connection with Israeli universities and the country’s military.

“By endorsing the boycott,” he wrote, “we withhold our consent from collaboration with academic institutions that are part and parcel of Israel’s ongoing occupation, furnishing its technical infrastructure and expanding onto stolen lands.”

Stanford University, as another example, which in 2011 received nearly $72 million from the Department of Defense, is home to Joel Beinin, professor of history and Middle East history.

Beinin, a self-proclaimed Marxist, is a rabid anti-Zionist who singles out Israel for criticism of its varied and frequent transgressions, all the while excusing the social and political defects of the neighboring Arab states who surround it and blaming the pathologies of the Middle East on Western imperialism and the continuing colonial impact of the U.S.’s proxy in the Levant, Israel.

In fact, in those rare instances when Beinin is even willing to admit to the existence of Islamic terrorism, he is quick to find its root cause with its victims, not its perpetrators.

Terrorism, Beinin has wildly suggested, is a “product of postcolonial anxieties about U.S. global supremacy, and the regional dominance of the U.S. alliance [with Israel] in the Middle East,” not, of course, the product of a jihadist impulse of barbaric madmen seeking to impose their own form of Islamic imperialism in the Middle East and in the West as well.


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Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., is president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and the author of “Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.”