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Ohio State opposes Israeli higher education boycott

Ohio State is opposing a boycott against Israeli higher education despite its membership to American Studies Association, which voted for the boycott recently.

The boycott would aim to prompt an end to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by refusing to “enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions … or on behalf of the Israeli government,” according to the ASA website.

The ASA lists some of its reasons for supporting the boycott on its website as well.

“Israeli academic institutions function as a central part of a system that has denied Palestinians their basic rights,” the website reads. “Palestinian students face ongoing discrimination, including the suppression of Palestinian cultural events, and there is sanctioning and ongoing surveillance of Palestinian students and faculty who protest Israeli policies.”

Those in favor of the boycott won the vote in December with 66 percent of the 1,252 ASA members who voted. The ASA is comprised of less than 4,000 members.

OSU issued a statement Dec. 24 about its opposition.

“We join with the Association of American Universities and others in strongly opposing any boycott of Israeli higher education. The principle of academic freedom includes the unfettered capacity to partner with other scholars and students around the world, and this proposed boycott is the antithesis to academic freedom,” the university statement read, according to the OSU website. “Put simply, we believe that to limit the exchange of ideas is to limit human potential.”

Belal Daoud is a fifth-year in information systems and publicity director of Committee for Justice in Palestine who is an advocate of the boycott. Daoud said the problem isn’t exclusive to Israel.

“It’s the same type of thing that you see in different parts of the world,” Daoud said. “The indigenous populations in Australia, the Native Americans in this country (the U.S.), Africans are South Africa, but that changed and moved to the better.”

Other academic organizations, such as the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities, have opted to stand against the boycott.

The American Association of University Professors issued a statement saying it’s denouncing the boycott because of its infringement on academic freedom.

According to AAUP’s website, the organization “defends academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance and develops policies ensuring due process.”

The Association for Asian American Studies is the only other organization besides ASA so far to join the boycott.

OSU is not alone in its decision to stand against the larger organization’s decision. A handful of universities in Ohio and across the nation, including Case Western Reserve University, Kenyon College and the University of Cincinnati, are opposed to the boycott as well.

ASA representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Keren Cohen, the Israel fellow for OSU Hillel, said boycott supporters are misguided about who the boycott effects.

“The idea of academics is to exchange knowledge and to develop and research and if you hurt that, you’re not hurting Israel, you’re hurting a lot of people who get educated in Israel,” Cohen said. “Palestinians come into Israel to get their degree and there’s quite a few of them … If you have a stance against Israel there are other ways to take a stand (than boycotting).”


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