August 18, 2019

Jewish Groups Condemn British Society for Middle East Studies’ BDS Endorsement

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Myriad Jewish groups condemned the British Society for Middle East Studies’ (BRISMES) June 26 resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in statements to the Journal.

BRISMES’ website describes the organization as urging people to study and get involved in Middle Eastern history. The resolution, which passed with nearly 80 percent in favor at BRISMES’ yearly general meeting in Leeds, calls for Israeli academic institutions to be boycotted until they “publicly end their support and complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.”

“Israeli universities are playing a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s illegal military occupation and are maintaining a close and supportive relationship with the Israeli military, including involvement in developing weapon systems, providing justification for military actions and extra-judicial killings, rewarding students serving in the occupation forces, designing and delivering special programs for soldiers and officers, building on occupied land, and systematically discriminating against non-Jewish students,” the resolution states.

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Here is the true face of BRISMES: They release as letter in January of 2019 denouncing the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of anti-Semitism, because it allegedly would limit the free speech to condemn Zionism and the Jewish State. However, their concerns for free speech disappear like invisible ink when it comes to Israel academic institutions of higher learning with a smug 80% of the members voting for an academic boycott of Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, etc.”

He proceeded to call member of BRISMES “smug, hypocritical ‘academics’ committed to demonize and delegitimize the lone democracy in the Middle East- the Jewish state and people of Israel.”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs Saba Soomekh similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Academic boycotts are the antithesis of what universities stand for. Universities should be the place where students hear explanations of why people believe their narratives are valid; where professors help students understand the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Soomekh added that the BRISMES resolution was “one-sided” and didn’t put any blame on Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

StandWithUs UK Executive Director Raphael Wein also said in a statement to the Journal that “BRISMES is choosing to stand on the wrong side of history and progress,” arguing that the resolution will negatively impact “Middle Eastern Studies students across the UK and BRISMES itself, not Israel.”