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ALI ABUNIMAH | 15 SEPTEMBER, 2014

Zionist Organisation Now Targets Anti-Israel Academics

A display at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign protests the firing of Steven Salaita


ELECTRONIC INTIFADA: The Amcha Initiative, the Zionist organization that has repeatedly intimidated, spied on and harassed students and faculty, appears to be escalating its campaign by publishing what amounts to a target list of “anti-Israel” professors.

Amcha says that the list is made up of “218 professors identifying themselves as Middle East scholars, who recently called for the academic boycott of Israel in a petition.”

It links to an item at Jadaliyya titled “Over 100 Middle East Studies Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.”

“Students who wish to become better educated on the Middle East without subjecting themselves to anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric, may want to check which faculty members from their university are signatories before registering,” Amcha says.

It urges people to “Share this list with your family, friends, and associates via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or word-of-mouth.”

“Thank you for your actions to protect Jewish students!,” Amcha’s posting concludes.

In the wake of the University of Illinois’ firing of American Indian Studies professorSteven Salaita over his opinions critical of Israel, Amcha’s move can be seen as a renewed effort at intimidation.

Amcha states that it is “troubling” that “many of these patently biased boycotters of Israel are affiliated with government-designated, taxpayer-funded National Resource Centers (NRC) on their campuses.”

It alleges that those pledging to boycott Israeli institutions complicit in Israeli crimes against Palestinians “have violated both the letter and spirit of the federal law which funds their teaching and research.”

Anti-Palestinian groups have previously tried to use the presence of public funding as a pretext to try to suppress free speech and academic freedom.

In one such effort tied to Amcha, a pro-Israel group tried repeatedly to persuade the State of California and other government bodies to prosecute California mathematics professor David Klein for supposedly “misusing” state resources by using hisuniversity-hosted personal website to criticize Israel and call for boycott.

Amcha’s claim that disseminating a list of professors calling for Israel to be held accountable can somehow “protect Jewish students” is based on the anti-Semitic stereotype that Israel represents all Jews and that all Jews identify with Israel or are collectively responsible for its actions.

This is exactly this kind of bogus association that lay behind the University of Illinois officials’ justifications for their firing of Salaita.

Amcha was founded by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Rossman-Benjamin is a notorious anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim activist with a history of litigious threats against students and faculty.

An exclusive investigation by The Electronic Intifada earlier this year revealed that Amcha had infiltrated a student trip to Palestine in 2012, confirming long-held activist suspicions that anti-Palestinian political groups are spying on student activists.

An attorney told The Electronic Intifada that such surveillance could be in violation of several laws.

Rossman-Benjamin herself has been caught on video making virulently racist statements against students involved in Palestine solidarity activism on campus.

But despite protests by students, the University of California has taken no action in response to Rossman-Benjamin’s activities.

This type of complicity by university administrations has sadly been the norm and undoubtedly emboldens groups like Amcha to escalate their attacks on academic freedom and those who practice it.

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