Cornell Professor Criticizes Boycott of Israel
Posted by Alfonse Muglia on March 6, 2012
William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection posted a guest piece this morning from Cornell physics Professor Yuval Grossman commenting on the growing boycott movement by Cornell’s Students for Justice in Palestine. Professor Grossman, who worked at the Technion until 2007, spoke out against the efforts made by members of the Cornell community as “an attempt to make Israel illegitimate.”
“I feel that the boycott is an attempt to make Israel illegitimate. It is not a peaceful move, but a move that is aimed at destroying Israel’s academic institutions. If people are trying to work for peace, they should not boycott the Israeli academia.”
Professor Grossman’s piece is interesting for many reasons. Foremost, it marks one of the first public remarks from a Cornell professor with previous connections to the Technion since the pro-Palestine group launched their petition last month in opposition to our partnership with the Israeli institute. While many have stood up for the Technion and the work that they do, few with ties to the Institution have come forward until now. Professor Grossman is not the only Cornell faculty member that has worked or studied at the Technion. Hopefully, others will follow his example.
Grossman also makes a compelling argument when discussing the nature of the boycott and the overall tone of the group’s discussion forum last Thursday evening:
“While there are many things that have to be said about the Israel-Arab conflict, my main problem at this forum was the fact that the boycott was described as “institutional and not personal.”
“I do not see how one can boycott an institution without boycotting its people. One may say that the goal of boycotting Israel is so important that it justifies the effect on the people, but one cannot simply say that it is not against the people.”
Students for Justice in Palestine have tried to link the research that the Technion conducts to happenings in the Israel-Arab conflict; however, they fail to address the fact that the success of the Technion in numerous industries – from medicine to military arms – expands far beyond Israel’s borders. Many countries, including the United States, has benefitted from the research conducted at the Technion. Therefore, suggesting that students should “boycott Israel” is a clear, purposeful misinterpretation of academic institutions and why they exist.
When Grossman raised this viewpoint at the forum, his diverse opinion was seemingly overlooked.
The last point that captivated me in Professor Grossman’s piece was his acknowledgement that he has kept very close professional connections with the Technion since coming to Cornell and that he shares a research grant with several researchers there. Apparently, Cornell’s connection to the Institute dates back longer than the October 2011 announcement of a collaboration in New York City for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s competition to construct a school for the Applied Sciences. Members of Students for Justice in Palestine failed to recognize this in their petition. Little did they probably know, but they chose to attend a school that already had ties to an Institution with which they disagreed.