President Reuven Rivlin (Seated L) and Hebrew University President Prof. Ben-Sasson with rectors from universities in Latin America. (Mark Neiman/GPO) (Mark Neiman/GPO)
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Yet another setback for Israel boycotters – some 20 rectors from leading Latin American universities visited Israel in a first-of-a-kind conference and signed cooperation agreements with the Hebrew University.

Some 20 rectors from leading Latin American universities visited Israel last week and signed agreements with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, signaling growing academic cooperation.

Representing institutions in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, the rectors learned about Hebrew University academia and research and signed about 20 cooperation agreements with the Israeli institution.

Incidentally, the Student Union at the University of Chile’s Law Faculty voted in May to approve a resolution prohibiting any academic interaction with the State of Israel or its citizens.

The rectors were hosted at a special dinner in their honor with Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, the Hebrew University’s president, and Prof. Israel Aumann, a Nobel laureate. Also in attendance were foreign diplomats and representatives of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which co-organized the conference with the Hebrew University.

“This was a very productive gathering and we hope it will lead to many fruitful collaborations with universities in Latin America,” said Naama Shpeter, executive director and the conference organizer at the Truman Institute.

A highlight of the rectors’ visit was a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem.

The rectors also attended social sciences and humanities lectures at the Mt. Scopus campus, met with scientists at the Edmond J. Safra campu, and visited the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Rehovot.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of Israel’s leading academic and research institutions and is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries, including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. The Hebrew University produces one third of all civilian research in Israel.

Rolling Back Boycott Efforts

These agreements are of special significance in light of an international campaign by anti-Israel elements to boycott Israeli academia as part of broader movement to boycott the Jewish State.

Similarly, a new study shows that the movement to boycott Israel academically is simply not working. The Israel on Campus Coalition released a study last week demonstrating that academic collaborations between Israel and the United States increased by 45 percent from 2006 to 2015.

This positive trend progressed despite resolutions by several American academic bodies to boycott Israeli academia.

The president of New York University (NYU) recently assailed the BDS movement, slamming the global initiative in a recent interview as “an affront to academic freedom.”

Speaking to the student newspaper NYU Local on a host of campus issues, Andrew Hamilton said the anti-Israel movement aims to “restrict…the flow of students or faculty from universities anywhere in engaging with Israeli institutions.”

“[If] we are going to defend what we do in research, in areas of political science, in areas of gun violence, in areas of reproductive health, if we’re going to defend that to our own government, we will certainly defend that when it comes to our engagement with other governments, and so for me that speaks to BDS,” he said.

The BDS movement promotes financial, academic and cultural boycotts against Israel, ostensibly as a nonviolent struggle against the so-called “Israeli occupation.”

Critics say its activities are a modern form of anti-Semitism and that its true objective is to destroy the State of Israel.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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