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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

January 14, 2014

The BDS movement—and anti-Semitism—gain new momentum in academia

Dear Friend of FLAME:

The recent vote by the relatively obscure, 5,000-member American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli universities stirred outraged reaction from both pro-Israel and academic communities.  To date, more than 125 presidents of American universities have rejected the ASA position, and a handful of schools have withdrawn their institutional membership from the group.

This weekend, the governing body of the 30,000-member Modern Language Association (MLA) voted to support a resolution condemning Israel for allegedly arbitrary denials of entry of US academics into Gaza and the West Bank.  Fortunately a measure to voice support of the ASA failed, but many MLA watchers predict that a full boycott measure will soon be brought to a vote.

Let's be frank from the outset. The boycott movement (better known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS) is a hypocritical sham designed to promote a radical-left, "anti-colonialism"---read anti-Western---political line.  BDS (and the MLA) ignore outrageous injustice all over the globe---human rights violations in North Korea, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Syria, Turkey's illegal occupation of Cypress, China's colonization of Tibet, the violent oppression of women and religious minorities in virtually every Arab country.

Instead the movement focuses on Israel, one of the most democratic nations in the world and the only nation in the Middle East that fully embraces academic freedom, including outspoken dissent from professors and students who oppose Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.  BDS tries to justify its hatred of Israel by calling the Palestinians "indigenous people," attempting to negate 3,000 years of continuous Jewish history in the Holy Land.

More pointedly, BDS---and particularly its support by academic organizations---has nothing to do with helping the Palestinian people.  BDS does not care that Palestinians have no civil rights in Lebanon, are starving in Syria or are oppressed by Hamas in Gaza.  BDS has no interest in peace talks with Israel---in fact they oppose them.

Rather, BDS is a blatant attack on the Jewish state and, by extension on the Jewish people.

One MLA leader of the BDS vote, professor Samer Ali said, "I believe Israel has a right to exist," but added that he rejects any ideology that favors one group over another," and that Zionism was such an ideology.  OK, we get it.  You don't propose any boycotts of Saudi Arabia, for example, which prohibits Christian churches and bibles, let alone homosexuals and women auto drivers, but you oppose the self-determination of the Jewish people to have their own state (which also happens to guarantee Israeli Arabs equal rights under law).

That my friends, is a classic example of anti-Semitism, and the MLA just came very close to embracing it.

This week's FLAME Hotline article outspokenly exposes such academic hypocrisy, which is fueled not by historical facts and reasoned analysis, but by hatred of Israel on the part of many faculty members.  Its author, Dr. Cary Nelson, is an English professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and  was president of the American Association of University Professors from 2006-12.

Please review and pass this hard-hitting article to your friends and colleagues. Help us inform U.S. citizens about the injustice at the heart of the BDS movement on campus and the danger it poses to Israel's existence.

Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Vice President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)


FLAME has been spreading the truth about the vile BDS movement---and the anti-Semitism at its core---for several years now. To get the word out, FLAME created and publishes a hasbarah (public relations) message---"The Truth about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement: Does it stand for Middle East peace or does it seek Israel's destruction?"---in media reaching 10 million readers. I hope you'll review this powerful position paper and pass it on to all your contacts who will benefit from this message. If you agree that FLAME's bold---but costly---brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support our publication of such outspoken messages. Please consider giving donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

Another Anti-Israel Vote Comes to Academia
One scholar says being denied access to the West Bank violates her 'rights as an American citizen.' Huh?

By Cary Nelson, The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2014

Save for some college students refusing to buy Israeli hummus, the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement against the Jewish state has had very few successes over the past decade. That changed last month when the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Now the Modern Language Association (MLA), a far more prominent group, is poised to condemn Israel at its annual meeting in Chicago. Anyone interested in academic freedom should pay attention.

Scholars at academic conferences are expected to offer original research and analysis in their presentations. That certainly can't be said of one MLA session this Thursday, called "Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine."

All the scheduled panelists are outspoken supporters of the boycott Israel movement: University of California, Riverside Prof. David Lloyd, Wesleyan Prof. Richard Ohmann, University of Texas Prof. Barbara Harlow, and Omar Barghouti, who has compared Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. Even the moderator, University of Texas Prof. Samer Ali, is a boycott supporter. In essays and public statements I have read, their message was clear: Israel, the worst human-rights violator on the planet, deserves to be made a pariah among nations.

On Saturday MLA members will also get to vote on a resolution by Wesleyan's Mr. Ohmann and Columbia University Prof. Bruce Robbins that "urges the U.S. Department of State to contest Israel's arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities."

One scholar, Rima Merriman, who is quoted in the supporting document for the resolution, declared in 2009 that it was a violation of her "rights as an American citizen" to be denied access to the West Bank. Whether anyone explained to her that the U.S. does not control another nation's visa rules I cannot say. Apparently some MLA members consider themselves qualified to judge whether a visitor presents a security risk.

There's a lot at stake for the MLA here. The humanities—increasingly politicized and unserious—are in danger, as seen by plummeting enrollments in majors like English and history. To remain relevant, the MLA needs to be a big tent in which scholars can pursue research without being subjected to political litmus tests. Instead, by only featuring anti-Israel professors, the group seems to be taking a stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Meanwhile, the MLA denied press credentials to two reporters from conservative-leaning outlets, the Daily Caller and the Jewish News Service, who wanted to cover the conference. This shows that the organization, which claims a principled devotion to academic freedom, needs a lesson in press freedom.

Academic freedom certainly isn't the priority for supporters of the boycott Israel movement. If it were, they would not be so keen on breaking relations with the very Israeli institutions—its universities—that provide a home to many of the sharpest internal critics of Israeli government policy. Despite the claims of boycott advocates that they are all about promoting freedom, an academic boycott will inevitably inhibit interaction between American and Israeli professors. As more than 100 university presidents have argued in rejecting the American Studies Association boycott resolution, academic freedom can only survive if international exchanges are promoted, not curtailed.

Struggling to justify an agenda with no imaginable benefit to the Palestinian people, boycott advocates claim they can move Israeli universities to protest their government's practices. A less likely outcome could hardly be imagined. If Israel and the Palestinians ever negotiate an agreement, it will not be because American faculty members have indulged their hatred of the Israeli state. By castigating Israel, the boycott movement instead will produce bitterly polarized constituencies here and abroad.

A truer indication of the real goal is the boycott movement's success at increasing intolerance on American campuses. Junior faculty members sympathetic to Israel fear for their jobs if they make their views known. Established faculty who grasp the complexity of Middle East politics hold their tongues for fear of harassment by those who are more interested in offering lessons in contemporary demonology than in sound history. The politically correct stance in many academic departments is that Palestinians are victims and Israelis are oppressors. Period.

The fundamental goal of the boycott movement is not the peaceful coexistence of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, but rather the elimination of Israel. One nation called Palestine would rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Those Jews not exiled or killed in the transition to an Arab-dominated nation would live as second-class citizens without fundamental rights.

There is no political route toward a one-state solution. But some American professors are too blinded by hatred of Israel—or too naive—to see that they are inadvertently advocating for armed conflict.


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