March 18, 2014

Professor: Academic Boycott of Israel Would ‘Hurt’ Students

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Prof. William Jacobson, law, said during a lecture Tuesday that he opposed the recent American Studies Association movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions — the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign — in both its tactics and motivations.

“Bad things start small,” Jacobson said in his opening statement. “And academic boycotts are a bad thing.”

The event — titled “The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom” and sponsored by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee — followed months of debate in the academic world regarding Israel’s alleged “apartheid state” imposed upon Palestine, according to Jacobson. He said over 250 representatives from American universities — including Cornell President David Skorton — have expressed opposition to the boycott tactic.

“Even if you’re against Israel, you should want to increase academic interaction,” Jacobson said. “You should want to foster that cooperation. Anyone who knows about Israel knows that the academics there are some of the harshest critics of Israeli policies.”

Jacobson compared the situation to his personal experiences studying abroad in Moscow under Soviet rule and said the lack of an academic boycott against the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin could have contributed to the its eventual downfall.

Prof. William Jacobson, law, speaks in opposition to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions in McGraw Hall Tuesday. (Alice Pham / Sun Staff Photographer)