International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB) was set up at Israel's Bar-Ilan University in response to a 2005 academic boycott vote by the UK-based Association of University Teachers (the AUT later merged into the University and College Union) which named Bar-Ilan as a supporter of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories for maintaining a regional branch in an illegal Israeli settlement. The AUT boycott was not compulsory and was passed to express solidarity with Palestinian academics who suffer from the effects of Israel's occupation. It was applauded by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).[1] The IAB marketed itself as an organization with international concerns, but focused its efforts on boycotts against Israel, arguing that academic institutions should be exempt from boycotts.[2] Although the IAB named itself an "international" organization, it was based in Israel and headed almost entirely by Israelis. Every major activity the IAB organized was focused on Israeli concerns. Shortly after the AUT rescinded its decision after a widespread anti-boycott pressure campaign by IAB and several other organizations, the IAB ceased its official operations. The IAB's last official action existed in the form of an UK tour led by several of members in 2007 as part of a campaign aimed at convincing UK academics to reject calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions.[3]

Bar Ilan University President Moshe Kave called in 2010 for the firing of any faculty member that supports international boycott campaigns on Israeli academic institutions.[4]


The Ariel University Center of Samaria was built in an illegal Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian territory

AUT Boycott of Bar-Ilan University

The IAB was launched in 2005 by chair Yosef Yeshurun, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, after a AUT vote to boycott Bar-Ilan University for it's direct involvement with Israel's occupation of Palestine was passed. The AUT vote also called for the boycott of Haifa University after a directed pressure campaign was launched against dissident staff member Professor Ilan Pappe for his political views and research into Israel's human rights abuses of Palestinians.[5]

Bar-Ilan Links to Israel's Occupation of the OPT

Since 1982 the College of Judea and Samaria (now known as Ariel University Center of Samaria) operated as a regional branch of Bar-Ilan University from within an illegal settlement built on the West Bank. Yeshurun rejected the claim that Bar-Ilan was linked to the College which describes itself as a "Zionist institution"[6] (it is still not officially accredited as a full University in Israel despite its name change).[6] Almost immediately after the boycott call was issued the college began to pursue university accreditation which would make it independent from Bar-Ilan if granted.[7] The decision to boycott Bar-Ilan was not compulsory and was intended as an expression of support for Palestinian academics who suffer as a result of Israel's occupation. In the case of Ariel University, it is directly involved with Israel's occupation because it builds and continues to develop itself on illegally occupied land. IAB representatives campaigned against the boycott, arguing that: "Academic boycotts represent selective political posturing which seems to reflect anti democratic and at times overt anti-national sentiments, both having no place in the academic community"[8] Proponents of the boycott claimed that the IAB's claims were hypocritical, considering the fact that their direct involvement with the occupation also entails "selective posturing" and that academic freedom should be available to everyone. According to Amjad Barham, head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees:

Aside from a courageous few, the vast majority of Israeli academics have been resoundingly silent when our universities have been shut by military orders, our access to them obstructed by concrete walls and barriers, and thousands of our students and colleagues jailed for resisting an unjust and internationally condemned occupation. In the Israeli academy, business as usual grinds on everywhere, and academics, in a startling show of insensitivity to their Palestinian counterparts, demand their right to enjoy the benefits and privileges of academic freedom without shouldering any of the responsibilities that come with freedom.
The privileging of "academic freedom" above other, more basic, liberties flies in the face of the idea of universal human rights. How can the academic freedom of a sector of Israeli society be more important than the basic right to a free and dignified life for all Palestinians, academics included?[3]

Other analysts argue that in addition to supporting elements of Israel's occupation, universities like Bar-Ilan put heavy emphasis on "special programmes for the security forces and centres for security studies, in which the focus is not on academic analysis of the security apparatus, but on finding academic justification for its activities."[9] According to prominent Canadian-Jewish journalist, Naomi Klein, government subsidies have:

have transformed the Israeli army and the country’s universities into incubators for security and weapons start-ups (something to keep in mind in the debates about the academic boycott).[10]

After a widespread campaign led by the IAB, the AUT rescinded its decision to boycott Bar-Ilan University. The decision was applauded by the AIB.[11] Israeli academic Ilan Pappe urged the AUT to reconsider its actions:

Two issues must not be obfuscated. The first is that many of those official Israeli and Zionist bodies demanding that the AUT rescind its early decision on the boycott openly justify and actively support the Occupation, some in an official capacity as an integral part of the Occupation itself. Secondly, and most importantly to my mind, should the AUT retract its principled and ethical policy of boycott, it will inadvertently send a message to all Israelis that the Occupation is legitimate and immune from any external pressure or condemnation.[12]

NATFHE Boycott

In 2006 the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted at its annual conference to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions involved with Israel's occupation of Palestine.[13] The motion was passed despite widespread efforts by anti-boycott groups to sway members from voting against the motion. The IAB led the anti-boycott campaign along with support from the ADL and other related groups such as Stand With Us. IAB's campaign included letter-writing actions, petitions and media outreach.[14] After the motion to boycott was passed, the ADL called the motion "unjust" and accused the NATFHE of displaying double standards.[15]. The motion became obsolete when the NATFHE merged with the UCU shortly after it was passed because the UCU was not bound to adopt the NATFHE motion. In December 2008 the UCU issued a press release[16] clarifying that while it was not officially supporting the academic boycott of Israel, it would continue the investigation process (see motion 25).[17]

Other Activities


In 2006 the IAB organized its only conference[18] (Jan 25-26) at Bar-Ilan University entitled "Academic Freedom and the Politics of Boycott." Gerald Steinberg chaired the organizing committee. It was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Congress and British Friends of Israel. Speakers included both academics and non-academics, including British journalist Melanie Phillips who has claimed that London has been taken over "Islamist extremists."[19] American author and academic, Alan Dershowitz, whose successful campaign against academic Norman Finkelstein resulted in the dissident Jewish-American being denied tenure at Chicago University,[20] was the keynote speaker. Dershowitz argued that boycotts "abet terrorism" and Israel's human rights abuses do not warrant a response like that of a boycott.

"People who advocate boycotts and divestiture will literally have blood on their hands...They encourage terrorism and discourage the laying down of arms."[21]
Participant Speeches
  • Text of Conference Invite Email[30]



IAB Executive Committee

Executive Director

Corresponding Academic Secretaries

Honorary Board



  1. Press Release, "Putting the Israel Boycott on the Agenda", PACBI Website, 22 April 2005
  2. International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, Mission Statement, Accessed on 4 August 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 Amjad Barham, "Silence means a boycott is justified", The Guardian, 24 May 2007
  4. Matthew Kalman,"Head of Israeli University Demands Ouster of Professors Who Support Boycott", 'The Chronicle of Higher Education,' 23 July 2010
  5. Tamara Traubman, "Haifa University president calls on dissident academic to resign", Haaretz, April 26 2005
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ariel University Center of Samaria, "About", accessed on 4 August 2010
  7. BBC Education Article (no author), "UK welcomes Israel boycott review", 'BBC,' 18 May 2005
  8. International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, Mission Statement, Accessed on 4 August 2010
  9. Tamara Traubmann & Benjamin Joffe-Walt, "Analysis Israeli university boycott: how a campaign backfired", The Guardian, 20 June 2006
  10. Naomi Klein, "Laboratory for a Fortressed World",, 14 June 2007
  11. Message from the Chair, "British Lecturers’ Decision “A Triumph for Democracy and Academic Freedom”", IAB Website, 25 May 2005
  12. Ilan Pappe, "From Ilan Pappe, to the Association of University Teachers in Britain",, 7 May 2005
  13. Benjamin Joffe-Walt, [ "Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics, The Guardian, 30 May 2006
  14. Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Matthew Taylor, "Thousands of academics oppose boycott of Israel", The Guardian, 27 May 2006
  15. ADL Press Release, "ADL Slams British Academic Boycott Policy", ADL Website, 29 May 2006
  16. UCU News, "", UCU Website, 10 December 2008
  17. UCU/104, "UCU CONGRESS AND SECTOR CONFERENCES 2008: AGENDA", UCU Website, 12 May 2008
  18. Text of Conference Invite Email to Academic Friends of Israel
  19. Melanie Phillips, "Come to Londonistan, our refuge for poor misunderstood Islamist victims", The Times, 6 June 2006
  20. Frank J. Menetrez, "The Case Against Alan Dershowitz", CounterPunch, 11 February 2008
  21. Daphna Berman, "Dershowitz: Boycotts abet terrorism", Haaretz, 27 January 2006
  22. Mark Stern Speech
  23. David Hirsh Speech
  24. Gerald M. Steinberg Speech
  25. Anne Bayefsky Speech
  26. Melanie Phillips Speech
  27. Hervé Seligmann Speech
  28. Ronnie Fraser Speech
  29. Mitchell G. Bard Speech
  30. Text of Conference Invite Email