The heads of the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus have strongly condemned an American organization of professors for their newly endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions, saying the move smacks of double standards.
The American Studies Association members voted last week in favor of an academic boycott of Israeli colleges and universities, in protest of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin slammed the organization as a "radical leftist group", but expressed concern that the embargo could be adopted by other academic institutions.
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"I am deeply disappointed with the decision by the American Studies Association to launch an academic boycott of Israel. I simply fail to see how cutting off ties to Israeli universities furthers the interests of peace and coexistence," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).
"I would note that Israel is the first country to be boycotted by this academic organization, which has chosen to stay silent on the slaughter in Syria, the continued imprisonment of democracy activists in Iran or the scores of other dictatorships around the world. Yet once again we see this unfair double standards applied to Israel."
Meanwhile, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said that the boycott was self-defeating, given Israel's superior academic record.
"It is deeply ironic that the American Studies Association has chosen to launch an academic boycott on Israel - the nation with the highest number of scientists, technicians, engineers and museums per capita in the entire world," he said.
"Israel's historic contributions to science, technology, music and scholarship, along with its academic and cultural exchange with American universities in general are unrivaled.
"The ASA claims to pride itself on its promotion of the study of American culture and history, but this decision shamefully contradicts their objectives in every capacity, especially in light of America's efforts to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians."
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) branded the move "deeply disturbing and conspicuously unjust".
"This bigoted one-sided boycott is a shameful assault on academic freedom, demonizes Israel and does nothing to advance the cause of lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace," he said.
Democratic congressman Brad Sherman of California also weighed in, saying that the boycott did not help the quest for Middle East peace.
“I deeply oppose the American Studies Association’s recent decision to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities," Sherman said.
"Israel is a vibrant democracy, with a strong commitment to the rule of law and religious freedom, and America’s closest ally and friend in the Middle East. Despite immense challenges over the past several decades, the people of Israel have made profound contributions to academia.
"If the American Studies Association is interested in peace in the Middle East, then it should reverse course and instead expand engagement and dialogue with Israeli universities. The American Studies Association does not speak for American colleges or professors. Some 827 activists cast an anti-Israel vote.”
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