In the letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin begin: “[w]e write to express dismay and outrage over the vote by Wits University's Student Representative Council, at the urging of the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee, to call for a ‘full cultural and academic boycott of Israeli institutions.’"
The letter continues: “Such a call is both utterly unjust and profoundly counterproductive. Far from advancing peace and reconciliation, or even the actual interests of Palestinians themselves, it instead betrays a wholly skewed understanding of the tragic, complex Middle East conflict. Indeed, while framed in terms of justice and even, outrageously, fighting ‘apartheid,’ it instead is itself a manifestation of aggression and discrimination.
Israel has been, and remains, by far the freest nation in the Middle East, and one that has made unparalleled, concrete overtures and sacrifices for peace even as it has -- uniquely in the international community, just as it is the world's only Jewish state -- been relentlessly subjected to existential threat and brutal attack over the full course of its history.
The question thus must be asked: why must Israel be singled out for punitive measures such as those endorsed by Wits students? Why not all of Israel's adversaries -- violent tyrants and terrorist fanatics alike -- and the roster of the world's unsurpassed human rights violators? Why is it that Israel's diverse liberal democracy includes and integrates a very significant Arab minority, but Jews must be condemned for living in the heart of their historic homeland?
Indeed, the Wits decision reveals the crude expansiveness of its bigoted, uninformed rationale -- applying, as it does, not merely to Israeli society in its entirety but specifically to cultural and academic institutions. Beyond violating apolitical realms held sacred for the exchange of art, knowledge and ideas, this approach plainly fails to appreciate that Israeli academic and cultural life is not merely diverse in political perspectives and in demographics -- serving and empowering countless Arab citizens, and contributing vital innovations that better our world -- but has so often been distinguished by pointedly progressive thought.
The Wits students' decision truly is a blow to free academic exchange and international dialogue, to justice and peace.”
B’nai B’rith will continue to monitor the situation.