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Association of American Universities Re-affirms Opposition to Israel Boycotts

Days after the American Historical Association decisively rejected a resolution denouncing Israel, the Washington D.C.-based Association of American Universities reaffirmed its opposition to boycotts against Israeli academic institutions.

In a statement issued Thursday, the AAU said it was re-issuing its executive committee’s 2013 statement on boycotts because the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association recently approved a resolution in support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The anthropologists’ group’s full membership — more than 10,000 scholars — is to vote on the resolution later this year. The American Studies Association and Asian-American Studies Association have passed similar resolutions.

The AAU’s 2013 statement against Israel boycotts reads, in part, “Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general.”

The AAU represents 62 major public and private research universities in North America, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

The statement says academic freedom “is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations.”

“Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom,” the statement also says. “The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”

The American Historical Association resolution, submitted by the independent group Historians Against the War, was voted down 111-51 earlier this month during the association’s annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The association is the largest society of historians and history professors in the United States.

According to the rejected resolution, Israel places “restrictions on the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank to impede the regular functioning of instruction and university activities at Palestinian institutions of higher learning” and “routinely refuses to allow students from Gaza to travel in order to pursue higher education abroad, and even at West Bank universities.”

The resolution also accuses Israel of bombarding 14 institutions of higher learning during the 2014 Gaza war and of “routinely” invading university campuses in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Two similar resolutions were rejected by the historians’ group last year, when members voted against a measure to suspend the association’s by-laws after the anti-Israel resolutions failed to appear on the agenda because they were submitted late.

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