Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg Pull Out of ASA Program in Response to Boycott

December 23, 2013

American Studies Association resolution to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions an affront to Academic Integrity. By Ariella Charny

This past Monday, a third of the American Studies Association’s (ASA) members, of which there are some 5,000 members, voted in favor of boycotting Israel’s research and academic institutions. The resolution states the ASA’s refusal as an institution to collaborate with Israeli universities or their official representatives. The ASA stated that it would not prohibit cooperation with individual Israeli academics. This boycott of Israel comes at the heels of a similar boycott approved by the Asian American Studies Association (AASA) last spring. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), with a nod to the ASA and and the AASA, has also announced its boycott of Israel this week.

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So far, Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg have both pulled out of the ASA program. The resolution of the ASA, the largest academic association to boycott Israel, is a major wake-up call to all those who care about freedom, democracy, innovation and academic integrity. Israel de-legitimization is on the rise, and the ASA, in boycotting Israel and singling it out for condemnation, reveals its collective ignorance of history and facts on the ground, and reveals some distinct anti-Semitic undertones. Why have there been no votes regarding boycotts on notorious human rights offenders such as China, Russia, Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?

Moreover, boycotting Israel means boycotting vital Israeli innovation in medicine, agriculture and digital technology, inventions that improve the lives of billions around the world. Not to mention the fact that Israeli academic institutions are home to thousands of Arab students (Arabs comprise 12 percent of the undergraduates at Israeli Universities.)

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A BDS Protester

The ASA resolution is limited in terms of having a substantial effect on Israel’s academic institutions, as the ASA is quite small and has very limited ties to Israeli scholars. However, it is the symbolic weight of the resolution that is serving a critical role in bolstering the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, both of which deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The ASA boycott has been met with great disappointment from students. Sarah Trager, a recent graduate from Wellesley College with a double-major in American Studies and Jewish Studies, commented, “I felt very disheartened when I first heard about the boycott because I really enjoyed my American Studies coursework, and now I feel that my association with the ASA is somehow conflicting with my connection to and support for Israel. I also feel that ASA’s leadership has no business in using the association to promote their political views–especially about a region that does not fall under the American Studies scholarship.”

Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas

What’s more is that the ASA, in its more-Catholic-than-the-Pope move, is completely missing the point that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas articulated recently to South African reporters at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. He stated that “no, we do not support the boycott of Israel, but we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories…but we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself.” Abbas added that “we have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”

Well, suffice it to say that the ASA seems to think it knows what is better for the Palestinians then Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel, despite the despicable efforts of the ASA, will continue its brilliant, innovative work at its world class academic institutions, and continue to bring the world the solutions that will save and improve the lives of billions. 

Learn more here:

Commentary Magazine: The Iran Foray of the ASA

New Republic: The ASA’s Boycott of Israel Is Not as Troubling As It Seems

Inside Higher Ed: Against Academic Boycotts

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