Nearly 300 American university presidents recently took a bold stand in stating their opposition to the vote by the British University and College Union to boycott Israeli academic institutions. In an ad sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, these university leaders not only threw their support behind their sister institutions in Israel, but did so by telling their counterparts in Britain that "if you discriminate against Israeli academics, then you effectively discriminate against us."
Much has already been said on both sides about the tactics of boycotting Israeli academic institutions. But the one element that has been missing from the debate is the sheer irony of marginalizing and ostracizing those on the ground in Israel who are the only people in the world with the ability to change the situation for the better.
The Hadassah Medical Organization, founded and funded by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is an academic center in Jerusalem that consists of two hospitals and, together with the Hebrew University, runs five academic medical schools. Our university medical institution not only teaches our medical professionals the tools of their trade, they teach them its ethics.
They did not let politics onto our premises when we saved lives of Palestinian suicide bombers who were injured while assassinating hundreds of Israelis during the two intifadas. They do not let politics in the door when they save lives of Palestinian babies with severe heart defects. They ignore politics when they conduct numerous collaborative research and clinical projects with Palestinian physicians and other health professionals in a variety of medical and health areas.
Hadassah considers it our mission to serve as a bridge to peace by forging links between people of all nationalities, races, and religions who come through our doors for healing. Here are just a few ways our teaching hospitals do that:
• The Hadassah Medical Organization has committed itself to train staff and provide expertise to assure appropriate quality oncology services at the Augusta Victoria Hospital, a Palestinian hospital that is developing a cancer center to serve patients from the west bank and Gaza.
• Some 30 physicians from the west bank have already completed ongoing training at Hadassah to provide improved medical care in their villages.
• Hadassah has been working to improve trauma care in the region and to improve communications between trauma-care professionals by helping them to know each other as individuals.
Any decision to boycott Israeli academia would include Hadassah — and all its medical and research personnel. These are not just Israeli Jews and Arabs, but Palestinian physicians, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals who work at Hadassah and consider it their professional home. A boycott by the British Academic Union would mean blackballing the small, but real, steps the Hadassah Medical Organization makes every day towards peace in the region.
And Hadassah is not unique: There is not an Israeli teaching hospital that does not do the same.
Just as 300 American universities proudly identify with their colleagues in Israel, the medical and educational personnel at Hadassah Medical Organization identify with their Palestinian partners with whom they collaborate. We strongly urge the members of the British University and College Union to do what academics should do: Closely examine the facts, then make an informed decision. We believe if they do so, they will drop their damaging actions and join the family of those who work with each other and empathize with each other to heal the Middle East and the world.
Nancy Falchuk is the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.