Pro-Palestinian activists in British trade unions have been busy for the past several months promoting anti-Israel boycotts. This week Israel’s allies responded in force: with not one but two full-page ads in The New York Times.
The first ad, published Sunday and organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, blasted boycott bids from British academic and public service unions: “Not only do such boycotts pander to hardliners, they also glorify prejudice and bigotry.” The statement was signed by 57 Nobel laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, F.W. de Klerk (perhaps not the best addition, given that boycott proponents are fond of comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa), writer Wole Soyinka, Northern Ireland peace activist Betty Williams and a slew of economists and scientists — and, of course, Elie Wiesel. (An earlier version of the statement can be downloaded in PDF format.)
The second ad, taken out by the American Jewish Committee and titled “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!”, listed 286 university and college presidents and chancellors who endorsed a statement from Columbia University President Lee Bollinger denouncing academic boycotts of Israel. (Eighteen more have since signed on.)
Signers spanned the political spectrum, from former Clinton administration Cabinet secretary Donna Shalala (University of Miami) to televangelist Pat Robertson (Regent University). Shalala was one of nine organizers, along with the chiefs of Brandeis, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern, Penn State, Tufts, Willamette and the president emeritus of Princeton, Harold T. Shapiro.
Signatories included the heads of five of the eight Ivies. Missing were the chiefs of Yale, Brown and Harvard (where controversial former president Lawrence Summers had previously sparked a furor by calling anti-Israel divestment efforts “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent”).