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Boycott the boycotters [Letter]

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a pernicious undertaking that frequently targets academic organizations pressuring them to boycott and condemn Israel.

Recently, as The Sun's editorial reports ("A chilling effect," March 10), the BDS campaign has found its way into Maryland via the University of Maryland Baltimore County and its relationship with the American Studies Association.

This ASA boycott unfairly punishes Israeli institutions and scholars for a political conflict that is out of their control and has been condemned by over 200 colleges and universities. In fact, the ASA's actions have been denounced by educational and political leaders worldwide as anti-Semitic and hostile to the concept of academic freedom.

Yet while some universities have withdrawn their membership in the ASA and despite the school's release of a public statement criticizing the ASA, UMBC's Department of American Studies has refused to withdraw from the ASA. As a public university, UMBC is using taxpayer funds to support the ASA in the form of membership fees and related travel expenses.

The bill before the legislature is not aimed at stifling debate or curtailing speech. It rather simply states that if Maryland has a Declaration of Cooperation with another country (any country, not just Israel), our public institutions of higher education may not use public funds to pay for membership, travel, expenses or reimbursement to organizations boycotting academia in that country.

Importantly, individual freedoms are explicitly protected in the legislation. But taxpayer dollars should not be used for religious, racial or ethnic discrimination.

Maryland and its academic institutions need to take a strong stand against the BDS movement. It needs to boycott the boycotters.

Abe Novick

The writer is a featured blogger with The Jerusalem Post.

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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