The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) urged University of Massachusetts (UMass) President Martin T. Meehan to issue a statement condemning the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and expressing UMass’s opposition to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars.
In a November 13, 2019 letter to President Meehan, the ZOA expressed concern that Chancellor of UMass Amherst Kumble Subbaswamy was under undeserved pressure to retract a statement he issued on October 21, 2019. The statement condemned an upcoming pro-BDS program on the campus – which the Chancellor described as “one-dimensional,” “polarizing,” and “fail[ing] to acknowledge the humanity on the Israeli side of the conflict.” The Chancellor’s statement also condemned academic boycotts generally as “antithetical to academic freedom.”
Instead of commending Chancellor Subbaswamy for his admirable display of moral leadership, several UMass faculty members criticized his statement and called on him to retract it. The ZOA urged President Meehan to stand with Chancellor Subbaswamy and – as all 10 chancellors of the University of California campuses did – issue a statement making it clear that the five-campus UMass system opposes an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars.
Specifically, the ZOA urged President Meehan to take the following steps:
- Issue a statement making it clear that an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars threatens the academic freedom of UMass students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on the UMass campus, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.
- Condemn the anti-Israel BDS movement as anti-Semitic, because it singles out the only Jewish state in the world for punishment, and because it can create a hostile and even unsafe learning environment for Jewish and other members of the UMass community.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq. urged President Meehan to speak out: “Given his record as a U.S. congressman, chancellor of UMass Lowell, and now president of the entire UMass system, President Meehan must appreciate that the BDS movement against Israel is both hypocritical and anti-Semitic. It ignores the true human rights abusers of the world – such as China, Russia, North Korea, and the Palestinian Authority, which pays its people to murder Jews – and singles out one country alone for condemnation and punishment: the Jewish state of Israel.
“President Meehan himself accepted an honorary degree from one of Israel’s many incredible colleges and universities, the Shenkar College of Engineering & Design. We urge him to do his part to fight the alarming rise in anti-Semitism, including on our college campuses. President Meehan, condemn the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS movement and make it clear that UMass opposes it.”