How Supporters of Academic Boycotts Get Their Way

Sept. 9 2016

In an incident that received national attention, Gail Hamner, a professor of religion at Syracuse University (SU), wrote a polite letter to the Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan disinviting him from a conference on the place of religion in film; otherwise, she warned frankly, her colleagues were threatening to “make matters very unpleasant.” When the correspondence went public, university administrators stepped in to re-invite Dotan, whose film, The Settlers, can hardly be described as Zionist propaganda. Miriam Elman, a professor of political science at SU, comments on the episode:

SU responded admirably by reasserting the university’s commitment to free speech and its opposition to “any boycott of Israeli academic institutions or faculty.” An invitation to Dotan to present his film at a later time this year was also extended. For her part, Hamner issued an apology and reaffirmed her own support for academic freedom. To my mind, this rings hollow. A true defender of campus free speech actively solicits diverse viewpoints, and doesn’t surrender to peer-pressure to conform.

Elman goes on to derive some important lessons about “stealth boycotts” like the one targeting Dotan:

First, administrators need to recognize that just because their schools are on record as opposing academic boycotts of Israel doesn’t mean that individual faculty members are adhering to that institutional policy in their personal instructional practices. Administrators must make school policy crystal clear, but they also have to institute mechanisms to ensure that faculty members comply with it.

Second, the case highlights that successfully confronting silent boycotting ultimately depends on whether individual faculty are willing to take a stand. Like all bullies, stealth boycotters get away with their bigotry and intimidation because most faculty aren’t as honest and forthright as Hamner was about the pressures they’re facing, and because the vast majority of professors prefer to do their research and teaching and hesitate getting involved in “campus politics.” The now multiplying anti-BDS organizations operating on campus are going to have to figure out a way to incentivize more faculty to engage proactively—and get those [facing] BDS harassment to go public.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, University

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism