Don’t allow boycott of Israeli universities

Last Tuesday, professor Bruce Braun of the University of Minnesota Department of Geography hosted Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist who attempted to make the case for a boycott of Israeli universities. Even the premise was a bit laughable — an individual came to a public university to make the case for inhibiting free speech at other public universities.

Mr. Barghouti, who ironically received a graduate degree from Israel’s world-renowned Tel Aviv University, told the crowd that by boycotting universities based on their national origin, the world will be a better place. His thesis is that peace will be achieved by stopping cross-cultural collaboration, especially in the Middle East.

Stifling academic cooperation is not only offensive to our diverse student body, which includes thousands of international students who come from nations with governments that individual University faculty members may disagree with politically, but it is also offensive to the thousands of researchers and scholars at the University who depend on relationships with academic leaders all over the world to improve lives through research. From artificial intelligence to cancer treatment breakthroughs, research at Israeli universities is integral to work being conducted at many international universities, including ours.

In 2007, President Bob Bruininks was one of more than 300 university presidents to sign a statement condemning an academic boycott of Israel. The statement read, in part, that the boycott of Israel is “antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.”

It is important that we stand strong against those who seek to block freedom of speech in the one place where ideas and research are never judged on their national origin but instead on their merit.

President Sean Bernstein and Vice President Yoni Saadi

Hillel Jewish Student Center