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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

NMU English professor releases book on academic boycotts

Gabriel Brahm, Ph.D., a professor of English at Northern Michigan University, had his book on Middle East politics released in November, 2014. The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, co-edited with Cary Nelson, Ph.D., was published by the Wayne State University Press.

The book explores academic debate over the issue by compiling scholarly works from Britain, Israel and the United States.

Nelson is jubilee professor of liberal arts and sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a former president of the American Association of University Professors and has authored and edited over 30 books.

Brahm.Headshot1Brahm, who is currently on a two-semester sabbatical in Israel, said he and Nelson had been “prompted to do the book by a flurry of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic activity on American college campuses lately.”

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“We were aware of the problem for a while, in other words, and when some radical activist academics in the United States started threatening to boycott Israeli professors on the basis of nationality, we felt we had a moral obligation to respond,” Brahm said.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), formed in 2005 by the Palestinian civil society, is one of largest campaigns promoting academic boycotts. The BDS encourages professors and academic institutions to boycott events, organizations and professors associated with the Israeli government.

“We quickly produced a book of well over 500 pages, with contributions from over 30 noted scholars, documenting all the reasons why such a gesture was racist, unfair and counterproductive for everyone concerned,” Brahm said.

Academic boycotting is an issue that has been brought up to some professors in NMU’s English Department.

“What [Dr. Brahm] is fighting on about the boycott is literally the restriction put on intellects and scholars,” Ray Ventre, Ph.D., head of the NMU English department, said.

Ventre has also been involved in the national debate over academic boycotting.

“All of us would agree with, that, I don’t know anybody in our department who would not agree that openness is crucial for what we do,” Ventre said. “Gabe’s scholarship is fascinating and his scholarship often leads him into areas of controversy.”

Professor Brahm at Tel Aviv, Israel.
Professor Brahm at Tel Aviv, Israel.

The BDS campaign aims to promote boycotting until Israel returns land it has gained since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and end a system of “apartheid” against Palestine. The organizations said the campaign boycotts institutions rather than individuals and citizenship or nationality does not factor into its decision regarding who to boycott.

“Israel is unique in that it is the sole target of the BDS movement for boycotts of its academic institutions,” Brahm said. “In other words, what BDS has not done is draw up a list of places in the world where injustices occur, and then called for boycotts of those places.”

While the use of academic boycotts against Israel has not had appeared on Northern Michigan University’s campus, Brahm said some issues exist which NMU students should be aware of.

“NMU students are needed in the effort to reject bigotry directed against Israel or any nation,” Brahm said. “What I wish students would bear in mind, above all, is that tolerance can only be achieved through dialogue, and so excluding people from discussions is the worst way to try to achieve justice and peace in a situation of conflict. When you hear otherwise from Israel’s detractors, please be skeptical.”

Brahm has been awarded a grant by the Israel Institute and has been invited to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Brahm is continuing his research while in Israel for his future manuscript entitled Dis-Oriented: Israel and the Cultural Left.

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