January 27, 2006
Susan Berresford
President, Ford Foundation
320 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-351-1367

Dear Ms. Berresford,

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is planning to hold a conference between February 13 and 17 2006, on the topic of the academic boycott of Israel, funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Based on correspondence with Prof. Roger Bowen, General Secretary of the AAUP, and the list of invited participants, there is a strong basis for concern that this could become a forum for activities and statements that are in violation of the Ford Foundation guidelines adopted after the 2001 Durban Conference. In your letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, dated November 17 2003, you wrote: "we will never support groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel."

However, the list of participants that are included, to date, in this planned conference includes many who are active in boycott campaign and the wider effort to delegitimize the existence of Israel, in accordance with the Durban agenda. These individuals include Hilary Rose, Omar Barghouti, Rema Hammami, Lisa Taraki, Sondra Hale, Shireen Hassim, Ur Schlonsky, and others. Although Roger Bowen has responded to questions regarding this conference with assurances that the "intent is to focus on the topic of academic boycotts, not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor the Durban conference", this is a statement of intention, which may be overturned once the conference begins. If the goal is to focus on the boycott in accordance with AAUP’s statement, what purpose is served by inviting a preponderance of participants whose activities promote radical anti-Israel agendas?

Beyond the conference itself, and whatever may be said in Bellagio on these issues, there is a greater concern that the conference could serve as a platform for renewing the boycott, and otherwise support the effort to disguise anti-Israel bias through anti-racism rhetoric, thereby justifying violence against Israelis. Publication of papers, summaries or consensus statements by some of the participants in this the conference could be used to claim wider legitimacy for such a campaign against Israel.

Given these concerns, the question is what the Ford Foundation is doing to insure that the post-Durban guidelines are fully implemented?  What plans exist for the contingency that would arise if, despite AAUP’s efforts, the activists invited to this conference issue a public statement or some different action to renew the boycott or in some other way, act to delegitimize Israel?
I look forward to your response on these important issues.

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg
Director, Program on Conflict Management
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel
Fax: ++972-2-5619112

cc: Congressman Jerrold Nadler
Mr. Stuart Eizenstat