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Letter: Boycott of Israel schools misguided

Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz on June 14,

Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz on June 14, 2012. He is also a co-chair of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Credit: Ed Betz

Once again, the academic community is debating the American Studies Association's call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The boycott approved last month to signal the ASA's support of Palestine urges American colleges and universities to cease all dealings with their Israeli counterparts. The free exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of all we do, and a scholarly boycott is anathema to the principle of academic freedom. Boycotts undermine the creation, nurturing and preservation of a global community of scholars. Boycotts create a closed and even hostile culture.

The issue raises the question of who decides which state policies should be condemned by academics. Certainly there are differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, yet the ASA resolution ignores contrary views. And why is Israel the only nation whose policies are under scrutiny by the ASA?

As I said in 2007 in response to a similar suggestion, academic institutions play a singular and unique role. They foster innovation and research across all national boundaries, they encourage discussion and debate among educated people of every ethnic background, and they are often at the forefront of change in international policy.

I continue to oppose and condemn any boycott of academic institutions, and specifically this boycott.

Stuart Rabinowitz, Hempstead

Editor's note: The writer is the president of Hofstra University.