You would think that the Anti-Defamation League would be, at the least, agnostic on a proposed boycott of the University of California, Irvine, if not outright supportive of one. Last week, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was shouted down during a lecture there by members of the university Muslim Student Union, who taunted, among other things, “How many Palestinians did you kill today?” A boycott would probably be unfair—Irvine’s chancellor, after all, who was present, unequivocally condemned the outburst, saying he was embarassed by it. At the same time, the impulse surely exists at the group.
But in fact, the ADL has gone out of its way to oppose a boycott. Partly, one suspects, out of a sense of fair play, as well as of prudence: the group has far more weight when lobbying the university to cultivate a “safe, respectful atmosphere,” if it is on-record opposing a boycott.
There’s another reason the ADL is against a boycott of UC-Irvine, though. Said—who else?—ADL head Abraham Foxman:
We are surprised that those who call for a boycott fail to recognize that it is a double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel, particularly in academic settings. We believe academic boycotts are inappropriate, harmful and counterproductive, and will not work to resolve the situation on campus.
Meanwhile, the ADL’s release praised the chancellor for his “swift, clear, and appropriate” response while insisting that more needed to be done. It acknowledged that the heckling led to 11 arrests, while taking no position on them; the Muslim Public Affairs Council has called for an investigation into them, while the Council on American Islamic Relations has asserted that they violated the First Amendment. (Whether they did or didn’t is a question of line-drawing: suffice to say that not all speech is protected like all other speech, and heckling a lecturer falls pretty wide on the less-protected side of the spectrum.)