By Tamara Traubmann
Three hundred U.S. college and university heads signed a petition denouncing the call by Britain's University and College Union to consider a boycott of Israeli educational institutions in May. The UCU move has been criticized by faculty members throughout the world as well as British government institutions.
The New York Times yesterday ran a full-page paid advertisement against the boycott, signed by some 300 college and university presidents. "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!" the ad declared.
The signatories include presidents of leading U.S. universities, including Princeton, Northwestern and MIT. The ad was paid for by the American Jewish Committee.
The signatories were endorsing a statement that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger issued shortly after the UCU resolution was passed:
"As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain's new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.
"At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate - as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government's policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.
"Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education."
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