Five University of Minnesota professors have called for a “Teach-in” to promote and call for a Boycott of Israel on September 29th. Whereas the event itself, titled “Gaza, Neocolonialism, and the case for a Boycott,” will only be hosted by five professors, multiple large departments, including the Anthropology and Political Science departments, have taken it upon themselves to use their official social media accounts and Listservs to promote the event. As an example, Anthropology majors in the University received the following email from the department:
Please join us for "Gaza, Neocolonialism, and the Case for Boycott," a teach-in addressing the blockade and bombardment of Gaza. Five professors from the University of Minnesota will each present a set of discussion points on Gaza, on the larger context of neocolonialism, and on the practice of boycott in social struggles.”
The email included the following flyer:
Whereas the event is framed to be a strictly academic discussion; the name, flyer, and admitted content of the event point to the fact that this will likely be one that appeals to emotion to demonize the lone Jewish state- and call for its isolation. The name “teach in” takes on itself the connotation of the famous anti-war “sit-ins” of the past few decades in an attempt to draw a parallel between the anti-Israel movement and the anti-war movement. The strategy has been used in street theatrics known as die-ins, where students protest by playing dead in the center of campus.
An anonymous University student contacted one of the professors involved in the teach-in, Professor Vinay Gidwani, to ask for an academic outline of what the professor will be presenting. The professor’s response was anything but reasonable, complete, or academic. It went like this:
To be honest, at this stage I am not at all sure what I intend to say. There is so much to grieve. Perhaps a day or week in the life of a young person who has grown up in Gaza since 2005?
The University as a whole, however, has maintained a great relationship with “Students Supporting Israel” (SSI), a very young, student-run, national organization based out of Minnesota with 15 chapters in the U.S and Canada. Last year, it was one of the only schools in the country to pass a student government position statement encouraging academic cooperation and investment in Israeli universities, thanks to the work of SSI students. In addition, University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler, has stated that he is a supporter of collaboration with Israeli institutions and has spoken out against the Boycott movement in the past.
In response to the event, Students Supporting Israel released the following statement:
We are deeply troubled by the fact that University Professors are using their academic platform to promote events that encourage bigotry, anti-Semitism, and Isolation in U.S campuses. We stand for events that promote dialogue by working to find peaceful solutions and understanding of the rich political and cultural history of all nations of the Middle East. These Professors have tried passing off their ‘teach in’ as an educational event that promotes dialogue, while pushing for the total halt of cooperation and dialogue with Israeli institutions – that is bigotry in every sense of the word. We are disappointed that University departments are promoting the event, but we hope that the University student government and the office of the President will continue their incredible work to ensure diverse discourse with Israel and all nations of the world.”
The boycott and divestment movement that has been condemned as anti-Semitic and bigoted by countless Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center as well as public figures including Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and Charles Krauthammer.