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Republicans accuse Joe Biden of ‘antisemitic boycott of Israel’ by pulling research aid to West Bank

Senate Republicans accused the Biden administration of undertaking an “antisemitic boycott” and called for the State Department to reverse its cutoff of scientific and technological cooperation with institutions in certain Israeli territories.

The letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken led by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, blasted the administration’s “discriminatory guidance” cutting off support for research institutions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights — and threatened to derail the administration’s nominees if the policy isn’t rescinded.

“The new guidance as written constitutes an academic boycott of Israel,” said the July 11 letter led by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and signed by 15 Senate Republicans.

“Candidly, it is untenable for State Department officials to continue testifying to Congress that they support the U.S.-Israel relationship and then – once out of view – to push policies designed to undermine that relationship,” the letter stated. “Without a reversal in these trends congressional oversight and the expeditious vetting of nominees would become intractable.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed last month that the department recently sent out a foreign-policy guidance advising that “bilateral scientific and technology cooperation” in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War is “inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy.”

He characterized the decision as a return to the pre-Trump administration status quo, emphasizing that “robust scientific and technological cooperation with Israel continues.”

“Essentially, we are reverting to U.S. policy to longstanding pre-2020 geographic limitations on U.S. support for activities in those areas, a policy that goes back decades,” Mr. Miller said at a June 26 press briefing.

The Republicans were not so sanguine, characterizing the guidance as a behind-the-scenes break with established U.S. policy.

“It is no wonder that the Biden administration sought to shield this new guidance from congressional and public scrutiny,” the letter said. “The guidance does something America has never done before: unilaterally impose territorial restrictions on U.S. scientific research aid to Israel.”

They said U.S. and Israeli officials “bilaterally agreed to such limits against the backdrop of unique regional conditions, but in 2020 both sides rescinded and rejected them as discriminatory.”

“The State Department’s own Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism was excluded from deliberations over this guidance and did not clear it,” the letter said.

Mr. Miller said only three institutions would be affected by the guidance. They include Ariel University, a major academic research center in the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen condemned the guidance, telling reporters, “I object to the decision and think it is wrong,” according to the Times of Israel.

In addition to Mr. Cruz, the Republicans on the letter are Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Budd of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, James Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

The move comes with U.S. pro-Israel groups fighting a proposed resolution before the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions until they “end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights.”

The AMCHA Initiative has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition urging university presidents to condemn the boycott resolution and sever ties with the association if the measure passes.

“Unlike the few disciplines that have misguidedly endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, anthropology is a core discipline of the academy, and its abandonment of scholarship for the promotion of politically motivated and directed activism will have rippling effects for years to come,” said the AMCHA Initiative, which fights antisemitism in higher education.

The monthlong voting concludes Friday. A similar resolution in 2016 fell short by just 39 votes.

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