Scholars Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi have launched on online petition condemning censorship and intimidation of Israel critics, particularly those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Some 150 people have added their names so far.
The petition comes after Butler, a literary theorist, pulled out of a scheduled talk on the writer Franz Kafka at New York's Jewish Museum amid protests over her support for boycotting Israel. It also comes after Khalidi, a Palestinian-American who is a well-known Mideast historian, was disinvited from addressing students at the modern Orthodox Ramaz high school in New York.
Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, boycotts are "internationally affirmed and constitutionally protected forms of political expression," Butler and Khalidi urge in the petition's statement.
The scholars call on "educational and cultural institutions" to stand up for "the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible."
"Outlawing boycotts would trample the right to free speech," the petition says. Those who do support boycotts "as a means to change the current situation in Palestine-Israel" should have the freedom to do so, it adds, "no matter how offensive that may be to those who disagree."
The scholars say they have noticed increased efforts to censor or "carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS."
The petition's 150 signatories, mostly academics, include the writer and corporate globalization critic, Naomi Klein, and other prominent academics from around the world.