Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is an pro-Israeli non-profit international community network of academic scholars, whose goal is to seek peace in, "the Middle East is consistent both with Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders, and with the rights and legitimate aspirations of her neighbors".
The stated mission of the organization is to, inform, motivate, and encourage faculty to use their academic skills and disciplines on campus, in classrooms, and in academic publications to develop effective responses to real or perceived anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements. SPME welcomes scholars from all disciplines, faiths groups and nationalities who share their desire for peace and commitment to academic integrity and honest debate.
SPME examines issues of suspected anti-semitic or anti-Israel biases in the mandatory multicultural religious and ethnic teachings on campus and in the community and works to maintain "intimidation free" campuses. SPME deals with academic integrity with respect to fabricating and falsifying data when discussing the Middle East, and responds to alleged anti-Israel and anti-semitic incidents on campus as they arise, especially in classrooms and university sponsored events.
SPME publishes the SPME Faculty Forum bi-weekly during the academic year and once a month during the summer months and breaks.
The organization was founded in 2002 by Dr. Edward Beck, Dr. Judith Jacobson, Columbia University and Dr. Ruth Contreras of Vienna Austria. Members of the Board of Directors have included: Matthias Küntzel, Ernest Sternberg, Laurie Zoloth, Gerald M. Steinberg, Efraim Karsh, Daniel Pipes, Richard Landes, Stanley Dubinsky, John R. Cohn, Rev. India E. Garnett, G. Don Morris, Leila Beckwith, Joel Fishman, Richard Cravatts, Philip Carl Salzman, Donna Robinson Divine, Kenneth L. Marcus, David Menashri, Tammi Rossman Benjamin and many others. The organization states that it has nearly 40,000 members from 3000 campuses worldwide. Its network includes college and university presidents and Nobel Laureates.
In 2008, SPME was in a partnership with Jewish National Fund. MediaWatch International, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, Technion, Ben Gurion University and University of Haifa initiated the Faculty Fellowship to Israel Summer Institute. The Program was offered again in 2010
In, November 2009, Dr. Edward Beck stepped down as Founding President and became President Emeritus. He was succeeded by Prof. Rabbi Peter Haas of Case Western Reserve University who stepped down in 2011 and was succeed by Stanley Dubinsky of the University of South Carolina and Judith Jacobson, Columbia University who served as President Pro-Tems until a new President was elected in January 2012. At that time, Richard Cravatts, of Simmons College in Boston, was elected as the new President. The other current officers are Judith Jacobson, Columbia University, Vice President for Internal Relations; Ruth Contreras, Vienna, Austria, Secretary; and Shlomo Dubnov, University of California San Diego, Treasurer. Asaf Amirowsky serves as Acting Executive Director
Views on anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism
Regarding anti-Israelism and anti-semitism on college campuses, the organization states, that neither "contribute to peace for anyone affected." The organization states that they agree with Thomas L. Friedman's comment that, "Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest."
Academic boycott against Israeli academics
In response to Britain's University and College Union's resolution calling on its members to "consider the moral implications of links with Israeli academic institutions," SPME started an online petition signed by thousands of non-Israeli academics stating, "We all agree that singling out Israelis for an academic boycott is wrong. To show our solidarity with our Israeli academics in this matter, we, the undersigned, hereby declare ourselves to be Israeli academics for purposes of any academic boycott. We will regard ourselves as Israeli academics and decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded," Michael Yudkin of Oxford University, a SPME member, debated John Chalcraft of London School of Economics on the issue of boycotts against Israeli academics
- "About SPME," online posting, official website of SPME.
- Yaakov Lappin (June 13, 2007). "'WE'RE ALL ISRAELI ACADEMICS':non-Israeli academics vow to 'decline any activity from which Israelis are excluded'".
- John Chalcraft and Michael Yudkin (May 30, 2007). "CHALCRAFT VS. YUDKIN: SHOULD WE VOTE FOR A BOYCOTT? BRITISH ACADEMICS DEBATE BREAKING LINKS WITH ISRAELI COLLEAGUES". The Guardian.