MIT president L. Rafael Reif is one of the latest local campus leaders to denounce the controversial decision by a US organization of scholars to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
“The concept of an academic boycott is antithetical to MIT values,” Reif said in a statement Friday. “It fundamentally violates the principles of academic freedom that are central to the excellence of MIT and American higher education.”
In mid-December, the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions saying it was a form of protest against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Days later, the American Studies program at Brandeis University, a nonsectarian, Jewish-sponsored school in Waltham, announced it would cut ties with the scholarly association. Penn State University at Harrisburg also ended its relationship with the association.
And, others have condemned the scholarly association’s boycott, including Boston University president Robert A. Brown, Harvard president Drew Faust, Yale president Peter Salovey, Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth, former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers and leaders of other campuses; the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Universities; and the Anti-Defamation League.
The American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions came after the Association for Asian American Studies became the first US scholarly institution to do so in the spring. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association also decided to join the boycott this month.
The boycott serves “as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action,” said a recent statement from the ASA. “It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.”
The association has said a boycott is “warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.”
Reif, in his statement, countered:
“At MIT, our mission directs us to advance knowledge and educate students in service to the world. We best serve this mission through our longstanding practice of fostering active engagement with international academic institutions and open dialog among people from all nations.”
“Just as MIT faculty engage extensively with colleagues around the world, we encourage our students to broaden and deepen their thinking through experiences across the globe,” he added. “As a community of scholars and educators, we are best equipped to fight for intellectual freedom with the tools of openness and outreach.”