We affirm our support for the free exchange of ideas and the right to associate freely with individuals and academic institutions of our choice. We therefore stand against efforts by student governance bodies and professional academic associations to dictate how we should act.

We are dismayed that the bedrock principle of academic freedom was forsaken by the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on 15 April 2016 and by CUNY faculty supporters in a letter of 7 May 2016 in an effort to isolate Israel. The DSC’s resolution reaches across the globe to the Middle East, a region roiled by intense hatreds of Sunni, Shia, and Alawite Moslems, Christians, Kurds, Jews, Druze, and Yazidis and inflamed by radical political visions, religious enmity, and terror, to denounce a single state—Israel—the only state in the region with full legal protection for minorities and women and active programs to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in all aspects of life. Israel struggles to achieve de facto as well as de jure equality for all segments of its population. We look forward to the day when a democratic Palestinian state will contend with the same challenges.

The DSC has justified its resolution on the basis of Israeli “colonialism and structural racism.” No other entity in the Middle East is charged with racism, even though Israel and its citizens face unremitting racial and religious hatred. The charge in the DSC resolution of Israeli colonialism, without mention of the need for a secure homeland for Jews is a chilling disregard of the natural concern of Israel’s citizens for their own survival. Clearly, finding a way towards peace will not be easy—it will take openness, imagination and flexibility. The signers below don’t necessarily agree on the steps that should be taken by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in seeking peace, but are united in their support for academic freedom and opposition to one-sided resolutions and boycotts.

Like BDS efforts on many campuses, the leadership of the DSC took unprecedented steps to limit the expression of opposing views both before and during the DSC meeting. The Israeli academic boycott resolution was put on the DSC agenda just two weeks before the vote and the time allotted for discussion at the meeting was so limited that there could be no real exchange of ideas. The CUNY faculty letter expresses the wish “to make it absolutely clear that we will be vigilant against, and will not tolerate, any attempts to intimidate, threaten, harass, or enact reprisals of any sort against any of the students who have been involved with the DSC…” But there have been no threats against members of the DSC. What some faculty find so intimidating is really the threat of open discussion.

We are gratified that the chancellor of CUNY and the president of the Graduate Center have reaffirmed university policy against academic boycotts. Academic boycotts hinder the critical examination of real conflicts involving real people. They prolong conflict by nurturing entrenched prejudices and false hopes that one side’s objectives can be achieved without the hard work of building mutual respect and trust and recognizing the humanity on all sides in a conflict. We therefore oppose the academic boycott of Israel and stand against efforts to abrogate our freedoms and stifle dialogue.