Faculty support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is strongly correlated with the rise in antisemitic incidents at American colleges and universities witnessed this May, during the conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, according to a new report.
Released Wednesday by the campus antisemitism watchdog AMCHA Initiative, the report found that the "presence and number of faculty" who supported an academic boycott of Israel before the conflict, which began after Hamas fired more than 150 rockets at Israeli territory, "were strongly and reliably associated with every measure of faculty and student-perpetrated antisemitic activity during this period."
The researchers determined that schools with "five or more faculty who had expressed support for academic BDS prior to May 2021" were more than seven times more likely to have academic departments that released or endorsed anti-Zionist statements. They were also 5.6 times "more likely to have a student government that issued an anti-Zionist statement," and 3.6 times more likely to witness "acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm."
Last May, for example, visibly Jewish students at Rutgers University were verbally assaulted and reported having their car tires slashed. At University of California-Santa Cruz, Zionist students and faculty received antisemitic messages during a student government Zoom meeting on a resolution condemning Israel, including "f**k all jews they belong in the oven" and "u filthy k*ke HEIL HITLER BURN ALL JEWS."
AMCHA also found, based on a series of regression analyses, an "extremely strong correlation between the number of faculty academic boycotters" on campus before the May conflict, and a surge of new faculty endorsers during the fighting, suggesting faculty boycotters were "successfully influencing their colleagues" to target Israel.
During the conflict, 160 academic departments at more than 120 colleges and universities issued anti-Zionist statements, with each falling within the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by more than 800 governmental and non-governmental organizations worldwide.
Every statement, AMCHA said, singularly blamed Israel for the war, declining to mention the more than 4,000 rockets Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired at Israeli citizens. Others accused Israel of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, or equated Zionism — the movement supporting the Jewish people right to self-determination in Israel — with racial supremacy.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, called the report a "game changer" on Wednesday.
"There really is an impact of faculty boycotters on student behavior, and that was true of all of the other measures of students perpetrating antisemitism," she told The Algemeiner. "We believe faculty are inciting and encouraging, certainly giving the intellectual basis and legitimacy for antisemitic behavior on campus."
She continued, "In fact, we believe that the faculty impact is most important, and that's why we call it the 'Ground Zero' of campus antisemitism, because without that it would be much more difficult for a group like [Students for Justice in Palestine] to organize themselves and do the kinds of things that create a hostile climate for Jewish and pro-Israel students."
AMCHA's report comes as the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) — a society promoting academic study of the region, including Israel — is wrapping up voting on a resolution endorsing BDS, which seeks to terminate global engagement with Israeli academia. Critics have warned that the resolution's passage would undermine academic freedom in favor of partisan political aims.
"Academic boycott of Israel is actually the opposite of what the mission of a university is," Rossman-Benjamin argued. "It adopts a political position and says there's no question to that position, and any information that doesn't promote it can be boycotted and silenced."
"It's not just about information, it's about harassing, denigrating, and demonizing individuals," she added. "The universities have to say that this is not okay — it's not okay for faculty to use their classrooms and departments to promote a political agenda."