October 28, 2019
News Press Release

ZOA Praises U Mass Chancellor for Condemning BDS as Polarizing and Anti-Semitic

The W.E.B. Du Bois Library and Campus Center overlook the UMass Amherst campus pond.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy today for his statement condemning an anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) event that will take place on campus on November 12, 2019, entitled “The Attack on BDS and American Democracy.”  A private foundation has, as many non-UMass organizations regularly do, rented space on campus to host the event.

Chancellor Subbaswamy wrote that despite university concerns about the event, “as a public institution UMass is bound by the First Amendment to apply a content-neutral standard when making facilities available to outside organizations” and therefore would not prevent the event from proceeding.

Importantly, however, the Chancellor made it clear that:

  • UMass “remains firmly opposed to BDS and academic boycotts of any kind.”  The Chancellor pointed out the irony that BDS supporters rely on academic freedom to promote their views, yet advocate for the BDS movement, which seeks to suppress academic freedom by shutting down pro-Israel speakers and voices.
  • UMass condemns the upcoming event as “one-dimensional” and “polarizing”; it “fails to acknowledge the humanity on the Israeli side of the conflict.”  The Chancellor wrote, “A panel discussion where only one perspective is shared does little to increase the understanding of such a complex topic like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
  • Many consider the anti-Israel BDS event to be anti-Semitic and alienating to Jewish and other members of the campus community.
  • UMass opposes the anti-Israel BDS event and its sponsors; their values are not ours:  “When outside organizations come onto our campus and give a high-profile platform for one-sided and divisive political positions that some view as deeply offensive, they are saying to valued members of our community that they don’t belong. This is the antitheses of our commitment to inclusion, and we will not hesitate to speak out against efforts to divide our campus community.”

Responding to Chancellor Subbaswamy’s eloquent statement, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq. said:  Thank you, Chancellor Subbaswamy, for your leadership and for making it clear that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel BDS activities are divisive and polarizing, and discourage the free exchange of ideas. They violate not only university values but also human, moral values.  Particularly given the serious problem of anti-Semitism in this country, including on our college campuses, you are a role model for other university leaders.”