- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A growing international boycott of Israeli schools and universities over the nation’s settlement activities is placing the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M; University in an awkward position.

UT President Bill Powers has denounced the boycott as an attack on academic freedom. Meanwhile, the university is contributing $15,000 to an annual conference of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, which supports the boycott, the Austin American-Statesman (https://bit.ly/LTfKl3 ) reported Wednesday.

Texas A&M; is co-sponsoring the May 29-31 conference in Austin. It has remained silent on the boycott as it considers establishing a branch campus in Nazareth, Israel’s largest city with an Arab majority.

A&M; is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression, including “the right of any organization to go through procedures with its membership to make a statement on behalf of that organization,” said Karan Watson, A&M; provost and executive vice president.

The Palestinian-led movement in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions - known by the acronym BDS - was launched in 2005. Some activists have called for a bi-national state in all of the Holy Land while others support a two-state solution.

“We do not dissociate from organizations with which we disagree,” Randy Diehl, dean of UT’s College of Liberal Arts, said in a statement to the newspaper. “Nor do we discourage our faculty members from affiliating with them.”

Nevertheless, UT liberal arts will not support or participate in any event that excludes scholars based on citizenship, nationality, race, religion or other legally protected traits, Diehl said. Boycott participants, including the Native American group, contend that they are targeting Israeli universities, not individual scholars.

American Studies Association President Curtiz Marez argues that Israel has curtailed Palestinian academic freedom, most notably through its occupation of the West Bank.

Top leaders of dozens of colleges have rejected the boycott as an assault on intellectual and cultural exchange between nations and peoples. The American Association of University Professors opposes the boycott on principle, while the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities called it “severely misguided and wrongheaded.”

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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