Over the past year, the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) has faced a series of setbacks in its efforts to turn Israeli scholars into pariahs in the academic world. The refreshing success of BDS’s opponents, writes Jonathan Marks, comes primarily from convincing professors “that BDS is not only unjust to Israel . . . but also damaging to the academic enterprise, for which BDS seeks to substitute propagandizing”:
The fight against BDS on our campuses is part of a broader fight to preserve our colleges and universities as homes of reason, in which following arguments where they lead is the aim, rather than, as our moralists are fond of saying, standing on the right side of history. The antidote to academic BDS in the long run, as its most successful opponents grasp, is to foster an intellectual climate in which all participants in a controversy are expected to be rigorous, and to allow their views and lives to be shaped by good arguments. Even in the best of circumstances, such a climate is present only intermittently at our colleges and universities. But it is also the only climate in which serious academic work can be pursued.
For that reason, even those who prefer to sit on the sidelines when it comes to political controversy might become engaged in efforts better to establish and maintain that air of studiousness. Such a climate is one in which BDS cannot breathe.