Study: Anti-Israel Professors Stack Courses with BDS Content

An Egyptian shouts anti-Israeli slogans in front of banners with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo during the launch of the Egyptian campaign that urges boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and Israeli-made goods, at the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, April 20, 2015. BDS is a …
AP/Amr Nabil

Anti-Israel professors overwhelmingly stack their Israel-Palestine courses with pro-BDS content, according to a recent study, which noted that its results strongly suggest that academic BDS-supporting professors “are using their Israel-related courses to promote a politically motivated, anti-Israel perspective” in compliance with “guidelines calling on faculty to work against ‘the normalization of Israel in the global academy.'”

Professors in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement are stacking their courses with material by pro-BDS authors, according to a study by the non-profit anti-Semitism watchdog group, AMCHA Initiative.

BDS is a movement which seeks to systematically destroy the world’s only Jewish state through financial means, by boycotting companies that do business with Israel.

According to AMCHA,  BDS-supporting professors include an average of 78 percent of readings authored by BDS supporters in their courses.

“All of the academic BDS-supporting instructors had a majority of their readings authored by BDS supporters, whereas only 2 of the 35 syllabi of non-BDS-supporting instructors had a majority of their course readings authored by BDS supporters, and none more than 60%,” noted the study.

“These results strongly suggest that faculty who support an academic boycott of Israel engage in politically-motivated efforts to implement the anti-normalization component of the boycott in their classrooms, by exposing students to an overwhelming preponderance of authors and readings likely to portray Israel as an illegitimate country unworthy of normalization,” the report added.

AMCHA’s research methods included a review of 50 syllabi from courses “focusing primarily on the contemporary Palestinian-Israeli or Arab-Israeli conflict,” and spanning from Fall 2008 to Spring 2019 semesters.

“In order to isolate the impact on course readings of support for academic BDS and its explicit call for the anti-normalization of Israel in the academy, syllabi were only included in the study if the course instructors were determined to support an academic boycott of Israel, or determined to not support either an academic boycott of Israel or BDS more generally,” said AMCHA.

The study added that 48 of the 50 syllabi were from courses taught by tenure-track faculty or visiting professors.

“There was a very large, highly significant difference between the average percentages of BDS-authored readings in the syllabi of instructors who support the academic boycott of Israel (median 78%), and those who do not support any form of BDS (median 17%),” noted the study of its results.

The study continued:

In addition, the two groups of instructors showed almost no overlap in the distribution of percentages of course readings with BDS-supporting authors: 13 of the 15 syllabi of academic boycott supporting instructors had at least two-thirds of their readings authored by BDS-supporters, whereas only 2 of the 35 syllabi of non-BDS-supporting instructors had more than half of their readings authored by BDS-supporters and none of them with more than 60% of readings authored by BDS-supporters.

The stark difference between the average percentage of course readings with pro-BDS authors in the syllabi of academic BDS-supporting instructors (78%) and in the syllabi of instructors who had not expressed public support for any kind of BDS (17%), with almost no overlap between these two groups, leaves little doubt that instructors who support academic BDS make a calculated choice to heavily weight their course materials with readings authored by BDS supporters.

“This, in turn, strongly suggests that academic BDS-supporting instructors are using their Israel-related courses to promote a politically motivated, anti-Israel perspective that is compliant with the PACBI/USACBI guidelines calling on faculty to work against ‘the normalization of Israel in the global academy,'” added AMCHA.

Given the results of the study, AMCHA suggests that universities publicly affirm that pro-BDS activity among their faculty is harmful to the education and opportunities of its students.

“While freedom of speech protects faculty’s right to sign petitions and make extramural statements in support of academic BDS and academic freedom generally protects their right to develop and teach courses as they see fit, it is important to point out the harmful consequences of politically-motivated faculty weaponizing their course curricula to ensure that Israel is not ‘normalized’ in the academy,” said AMCHA.

“Faculty should be urged by university administrators to establish their own safeguards against the politicization of the academy,” the organization added.

It is apparent that anti-Israel bias is growing on college campuses across the United States via the academic boycott of Israel.

In September 2018, a professor at the University of Michigan refused to write a letter of recommendation to a student that was planning to study abroad in Israel. In November 2018, faculty at Pitzer College voted to suspend its study abroad program in Israel.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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