As a pro-Israel and pro-democracy organisation we support freedom of speech and believe that silencing voices with which we disagree is wrong. That is why we have always been clear about the fact that we do not support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement whether that is in an economic, cultural or academic sphere.
However, it is difficult to defend a boycott of Israel when the Israeli government itself is boycotting academics based on their views.
Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis blocked the decision of the professional team at the Ministry of Science to appoint the leading Israeli brain researcher, Professor Yael Amitai, to an Israeli-German scientific committee because the professor “has previously signed a petition encouraging conscientious objection to enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces”.
Amitai signed the petition a decade ago, together with 360 other academics who expressed their support for students and lecturers who refused to serve in their reserve service in the occupied territories.
Following accusations of witch-hunting, Akunis, who previously said that Senator McCarthy was “right in every word,” apologised and explained that he did not disqualify Amitai from the post because of her views – but rather because she encouraged conscientious objection.
Despite his deep concern about conscientious objection, Minister Akunis did not say a word about the encouragement to conscientious objection that is promoted by the settler-right and funded by his government.
Akunis did not ask to remove the rabbi of the Beit El settlement, Shlomo Aviner, who last year called on religious youths to refuse to serve in the IDF until there was a complete separation between men and women in the IDF. Akunis also did not ask the Israeli government to stop fund The Temple Institute despite the fact the head of the institute, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, called on police officers and soldiers to refuse orders and not to serve in an area of an evacuated outpost.
We continue to stand against the boycott of academics and academic institutions and hope to see the Israeli government, which spends millions of shekels on fighting the BDS Movement, follow suit.
First published on Yachad’s Facebook page.