A Response to the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, Volume 4

By Emily Budick

As an American-Israeli academic I feel obliged to add a few words to the current discussion in AAUP's Journal of Academic Freedom on boycotting Israeli academics and academic institutions. Like many of my colleagues here, I do not dispute that there is inequality in the state of Israel. Like many of us (not only in academe) I believe in the right of Palestinians to a state of their own. What divides many of us politically in Israel is not whether we want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but how that is to be achieved without endangering Israel. Israel is a nation among nations, with the problems of nations. I do not doubt that objectionable statements have been made in Israeli classrooms. They've been made in American classrooms as well. But Israel is not an apartheid state; it is not a racist state; it is not a nation that denies education to its different populations; nor does it withhold essential services in the fields of education, medicine, and the like. Quite the contrary. Though likely not a top item in world news, Israeli hospitals have been receiving and treating wounded refugees from the Syrian conflict. Israeli hospitals and universities serve all its populations, plus foreign populations as well.

Israel stopped being anything approximating an apartheid state for me 20 years ago when my deceased son's liver was transplanted into an Arab woman from Ramallah by an Arab surgeon at Hadassah hospital. Over the years I have taken great pride in the achievements of my Arab and Palestinian students. Last year one of my former graduate students became the first woman mayor of Bethlehem. I was similarly thrilled when several Palestinian students greeted me the first day of classes this year to bring regards from another former student of mine who was their teacher at the Arab university where they'd done their undergraduate degrees and who had encouraged them to do their graduate work at Hebrew University. Last year a full 50 percent of my Introduction to American Literature class was populated by Arab and Palestinian students. These are anecdotal evidences to be sure. But they are no less indicative of the state of things in Israel than quoting a right-wing academic, with whose opinions many of us would disagree.

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