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BDS and Economic Jihad

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38 Nobel Laureates Call for Rejection of Anti-Israel Boycott and Divestment Initiatives

November 8th 2010

Europe Topics - Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize ceremony

A group of 38 Nobel laureates signed a letter opposing the push by the art, research and academic boycott movement Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS). 

Their statement, organized by Nobel Laureates, Roger Kornberg, Stanford University, and Steven Weinberg, University of Texas at Austin, was signed on October 28, 2010. In an initiative supported by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) the Nobel winners are encouraging students and faculty of institutions across the world to “promote and provide opportunities for civil academic discourse where parties can engage in the search for resolution to conflicts and problems.”

The 38 Nobel laureates include: Phillip A. Sharp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Tony Leggett University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics; Mario Capecchi, University of Utah, 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; and Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

The intent of the declaration by the Nobel winners, according to SPME in a November 1 follow up statement is to counter “the continued threat of a boycott by the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, of Ben Gurion University in Israel, student government divestment efforts in the University of California system, an attempt to get signatures for the California Initiative to divest pension funds from companies doing business with Israel or Israeli companies, as well as the initiative to shut down the Georgia Law Enforcement and Education Center at Georgia State University which has training and research connections with similar institutions in Israel.”

While the statement was weighted on the promotion of academic collaboration to improve “the human condition by doing the often difficult and elusive work to understand complex and seemingly unsolvable phenomena,” such as the Middle East question, the laureates did infuse a political message.

In stating that such boycott movements against Israel, “serve as incubators for polemics, propaganda, incitement and further misunderstanding and mistrust,” they made a decisive point about the nature of such efforts.

During the same week of the Nobel statement, South Africa's Cape Town Opera rejected a call from Bishop Desmond Tutu to cancel its planned tour of Israel. The Opera’s Managing Director, Michael Williams said the "transformative power of the arts" had more meaning than a boycott. Tutu, a Nobel Laureates himself has endorsed a South African academic boycott of Israel.

"Boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts undercut any attempt at fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians," expalined Samuel Edelman, executive director of Scholars of Peace in the Middle East. He added, "We need ways to bring Israelis and Palestinians together not force them further apart. This statement by 38 Nobel Laureates is one very important attempt to bring people together and not to divide them with hate and propaganda."

Like many of the coordinated efforts against Israel, the anti-BDS movement has established a Facebook page to bring the attention to the online generation.

Juda Engelmayer is an executive with the NY PR agency, 5W Public Relations and a contributor to the Cutting Edge News.


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