In its 2013 publication, the Journal of Academic Freedom discussed the topic of academic boycotts, primarily focusing on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). In her introduction, the Journal’s editor, Ashley Dawson, wrote that the “reviewers of the submitted articles. . . felt [the articles] could have the salutary effect of pushing the AAUP to discuss criteria for responding to violations of academic freedom. . .” on an international level, since the AAUP’s current policy opposes boycotts. However, what followed was a compilation of articles presenting one-sided narrow viewpoints on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and academic freedom.
In response to this biased presentation, several scholars came together to present a series of response papers. In “The Very Foundations of the University”, the Brandeis Center’s Kenneth L. Marcus and Sitara Kedilaya outline the alarming yet growing position of several academics: that the Jews are the most dangerous threat to the university. Too many academics embrace the narrative that Zionists threaten the university by suppressing speech contrary to their nefarious interests, especially their conspiracy to hide crimes inflicted by Israelis on innocent Palestinians. Such warnings resonate with age-old stereotypes of the Jews as fantastically powerful, diabolically conspiratorial, and cosmically dangerous. According to these anti-Israel scholars, the Zionist threat consists of orchestrated complaints by pro-Israel students who insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. To assert this position, these scholars too narrowly construe the true definition of anti-Semitism, and therefore must deny that anti-Semitism is the serious problem on many university campuses that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it is. In other words, they must create a safe haven for those anti-Jewish bigots who cast their anti-Jewish rhetoric in terms of Israel.