December 13, 2013
AFT President Randi Weingarten on the National Council of the American Studies Association's Decision to Endorse an Academic Boycott Against Israeli Universities and Other Israeli Institutions
Washington—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the National Council of the American Studies Association's decision to endorse an academic boycott against Israeli universities and other Israeli institutions.
"The American Federation of Teachers strongly disagrees with the decision by the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) to endorse an academic boycott against Israeli universities and other Israeli institutions. There is no doubt that the plight of the Palestinian people—for example, the seizure of their land for illegal settlements and the constraints on their economic, political and social development—must be addressed, and the Israeli government must do more to redress these injustices. But academic boycotts, such as the one advocated by the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, not only fly in the face of the principles of academic freedom that protect and enhance the integrity of scholarly work, but also stifle the intellectual and democratic engagements through which the solutions to our world's most difficult problems spring.
"Cultural and intellectual exchanges between scholars and institutions are important—indeed necessary—bridges by which the twin goals of justice for the Palestinian people and security for the state of Israel can be reached. Closing off these avenues of engagement actually moves us away from reaching our shared goals for peace.
"Just as we supported the decision by the administration of Brooklyn College to allow a panel discussion between proponents for the BDS movement and the community earlier this year, we continue to encourage debate and discussion about this issue to ensure that the tactics we use to push for peace are consistent with our principles. This is important work, and it is work that can only occur when we insist on academic freedom for and ongoing, constructive engagement between all scholars and institutions, be they Palestinian, American or Israeli. Palestinians need political, economic and educational justice, but we urge that the methods chosen rely on engagement, not isolation and division. We strongly urge the members of the ASA to stand up for the principles of open engagement and academic freedom for all and reject this call for an academic boycott."
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.