Academic Activism: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Ethics of Boycott


David Palumbo-Liu,Cary Nelson, Judea Pearl, Noura Erakat, David Lloyd, Russell Berman, David N. Myers, and Colin Dayan debate the ethics of a boycott in the LA Review of Books:

There are several questions at the heart of this debate: What role, if any, does the academy have in matters of political and international affairs? Is endorsing a movement — such as the movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel — in the great tradition of academic freedom and discourse, or an example of its degradation? Does an academic boycott of Israel advance, or damage, the cause for peace and human rights in the Middle East?

We facilitated this forum at the urging of David Palumbo-Liu, a supporter of the BDS movement, in the hopes that it would engender a more informed understanding on these and many related questions. We did nothing to constrain or limit the eight participating scholars; nor did we have them read each other’s pieces until today.

We cast a wide net to bring together as many diverse voices and experts as possible, but many declined the invitation, citing the adrenalized tenor of the debate. The eight who agreed to participate, while they might not represent all the perspectives involved, are among some of the most important voices engaging these issues within the American university. It is our hope that these essays create an opening of visibility — not simply for this debate, but more importantly, for those most affected by the tragic, ongoing circumstances of the Middle East conflict: Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

All the essays can be found here.