January 29, 2016 – Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) applauds the outcome of a student vote this week at University of Waterloo which was to decide whether the university should sever ties with Israeli institutions. A total of 4216 students participated in the vote, with 2329 voting to defeat the resolution and 1803 voting to pass it, with 84 students abstaining.
Supporters of the proposed boycott sought to break crucial ties between the University of Waterloo and five major Israeli institutions, including the University of Haifa, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
On a positive note, in addition to students and faculty, SPME has witnessed other stakeholders and politicians who have stood up to this activism and abuse of academic freedom. One such individual, Canada’s former Minister of Citizenship Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, courageously proclaimed, “The disproportionate vitriol directed against the democratic State of Israel during ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ stands in stark and ironic contrast to the silence . . . on the ongoing atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against its own citizens, and on the rampant brutalities and denial of rights in non-democratic countries in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world. In free societies such as Canada’s and Israel’s, it is absolutely legitimate to debate and criticize government policies and practices. Indeed, Israel supports the right of free expression more than any other country in its part of the world. But with the freedom to criticize comes the responsibility to guard against hateful and intolerant rhetoric.”
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has one primary mission: the weaken Israel economically, diplomatically, intellectually, and militarily, and SPME is heartened by the defeat of the campaign at Waterloo, another example of the rejection of the ideology of those who seek to reject Israel from the community of nations as a pariah state.
“The call to boycott Israeli universities is part of the larger, and more destructive, boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, and is based on many of its supporters’ desire, not merely to chastise Israel economically and culturally, but to weaken the Jewish state’s moral standing and work, not towards rectifying a number of political faults, but eventually dismantling Israel completely,” said Dr. Richard L. Cravatts, president of SPME. “By joining in this world-wide campaign of the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the Waterloo students who promoted the vote to enforce an academic boycott against Israeli universities were facilitating the weakening of a sovereign state, while at the same time revealing their unbalanced, counter-factual assessment of the current conflict in which Israel finds itself involved.”
“The call for academic boycotts against Israel, such as this latest example at University of Waterloo, was roundly denounced by hundreds of university leaders and academics around the world, including by SPME,” said Dr. Asaf Romirowsky, Executive Director of SPME, “and revealed the same bias against Israel, lack of balance in the discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and a singular focus on Israeli academics that violates the spirit and intent of academic freedom and reveals a double standard when Israel is involved.”
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East condemns all efforts to use academia to promote boycotts, divestiture, and sanctions against Israel, including the promotion by student governments of resolutions calling for divestiture, as they represent an abandonment of scholarly principles, a degradation of campus civility, and a violation of the precepts of unbiased, rational academic inquiry.
For their part in rejecting a boycott that would violate academia’s cardinal principles and weaken the intellectual and research ties between Canadian and Israeli institutions, the students at University of Waterloo are to be congratulated.
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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.
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