Critics of the ASA academic boycott often claim that the boycott is illegitimate because it targets Israeli universities, which are the site of some of the greatest criticism of the Israeli government and support for the Palestinian cause. As prominent scholar and former ASA president Shelley Fisher Fishkin said:
Israeli universities are often at the forefront of fostering dialogue between Arabs and Jews, of educating the future leaders of Arab universities, and of providing the next generation with the tools of critical thinking that can allow them to construct a society more equitable and just than that of their parents.
It’s a little more complicated.
Here are just some of the facts about the Israeli academy that Fishkin failed to note but which eight professors in Indiana emphasized in their letter to the presidents of Purdue and Indiana University.
- Israeli universities, like Hebrew University, have illegally built parts of their campuses in the occupied territories.
- 20% of the Israeli population is Palestinian, yet only 11% of university students are Palestinian. (In the US, by contrast, which is no picnic for African Americans, the black population is 13.1%, while the black student population in universities is 14%.) Palestinian applicants to Israeli universities are three times more likely to be rejected than Jewish applicants. 32% of Jewish applicants meeting minimal requirements are accepted into Israeli universities, while only 19% of Palestinian students meeting those requirements are accepted.
- 20% of the Israeli population is Palestinian, yet only 1% of the university staff is Palestinian.
- In 2008, a petition for academic freedom in the occupied territories was sent to about 9,000 Israeli academics. It was signed by 407 professors, about 4.5% of the total.
In the United States, professors have a reputation for being far more radical than they are. Seems like the same may be true in Israel.