American Studies Association national council endorses academic boycott of Israel

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The American Studies Association National Council has called for an academic boycott of Israel.

The council made the unanimous decision after the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where the academic boycott call was debated.  The vast majority of speakers at an ASA forum on the academic boycott resolution were in favor of the call, and now the organization is likely to follow suit. The resolution will now be put up for a full vote by ASA members. Members have until 11:59 pm EST on December 15 to cast their vote. It’s likely to pass given the prevailing sentiment at the conference. However if the majority of voters do not endorse the decision, the ballot explains the Council will “withdraw the resolution and determine next steps.”

“The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians,” a statement on the ASA website reads.

The news was lauded by the Academic and Community Activism Caucus, the group of scholars that brought the resolution to the ASA.  The resolution states that Palestinian students and scholars have their movement severely restricted by Israel’s occupation, infringing on their ability to attend and work at schools and travel abroad for conferences. It also criticizes Israeli universities for being complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights.

“The American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” the resolution reads.  “The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

ASA President Curtis Marez said in a statement, “The boycott is the best way to protect and expand academic freedom and access to education. Palestinian academics are frequently impeded by Israeli occupation authorities, schools and universities have been bombed by US-supported Israeli military forces, and the Wall blocks educational access for thousands of students.  As an association of scholars and educators, the ASA has an ethical responsibility to act.”

The resolution was brought in response to the call for academic boycott from Palestinian civil society groups, launched in 2004.  It calls on the international community to end cooperation with Israeli academic institutions due to their deep involvement in Israel’s system of control over Palestinians.

“The American perception that Israel is ‘exceptional’ is bolstered and bankrolled by US policy and military aid, while also secured through the persistent myth of American exceptionalism that denies the colonization of indigenous peoples here,” said Wesleyan University’s J. Khaulani Kauanui, 

The ASA council’s endorsement follows the April endorsement of the academic boycott by the Association for Asian American Studies. Earlier this year, the American Association of University Professors’ journal published an issue where almost all the articles were in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.

The ASA endorsement is sure to dismay supporters of Israel, who have expressed worry that the academic boycott was becoming more popular.

Geri Palast, the managing director of the anti-boycott Israel Action Network, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ron Kampeas that her “concern about some of these smaller academic associations is that they get amplified out of proportion.”

This article has been modified to clarify the ASA decision.  Mondoweiss first reported that the ASA had endorsed the boycott.  The ASA National Council has voted to endorse the call, but now the resolution will be put to a full vote.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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37 Responses

  1. Les
    December 4, 2013, 12:22 pm

    This is stunning follow up to this earlier Mondoweiss story.

    link to mondoweiss.net

  2. Ellen
    December 4, 2013, 1:03 pm

    Interrsting comment by Palast: Ampflication out of proportion to what?

    And “…these smaller academic associations…”

    Note shooting the messenger without addressing the substance.

    • Krauss
      December 4, 2013, 1:51 pm

      Remember the five stages:

      1. Denial.
      2. Anger.
      3. Bargaining.
      4. Depression.
      5. Acceptance.

      The model is slightly out of date in this case. I’m unsure about the fourth (that implies morality) and I’m certainly sure the fifth is gone.
      Instead, insert something like “accusing everyone of anti-Semitism for failing to support Jewish apartheid” as the last step.

      • Kathleen
        December 4, 2013, 2:50 pm

        nailed it

      • Daniel Rich
        December 4, 2013, 8:34 pm

        @ Krauss,

        Antisemitism [in its current form] is an Apartheid word, as it excludes most and embraces few.

        As such, I have boycotted it and use phrases like anti/pro Israel/i/Jew/ish/Palestinian/Arab/Muslim/etc., that, imho, are more just and less exclusive.

      • MRW
        December 8, 2013, 7:00 pm

        Krauss,

        “accusing everyone of anti-Semitism for failing to support Jewish apartheid” as the last step.

        Beauty comment, K.

  3. Krauss
    December 4, 2013, 1:49 pm

    History is being written before our eyes!

    We should remember, as Alex points out, that the Asian-American academics showed the path here.

    They were the pioneers when they, the Association for Asian American Studies, endorsed BDS before any other major academic institution.
    They should be recognized and thanked for that, allowed others to follow their path.

    We’re reaching that threshold moment. Even the academic elites are now turning against Apartheid, finally.

  4. Kathleen
    December 4, 2013, 2:50 pm

    Thanks Alex

  5. hophmi
    December 4, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Those who voted for this antisemitic resolution will be judged harshly by history.

    • Sumud
      December 4, 2013, 7:38 pm

      Are you parodying yourself now…?

    • lobewyper
      December 4, 2013, 9:59 pm

      Next time, read the article (and the resolution it contains) before dashing off a response, hophmi. Exactly which parts of Marez’ statement quoted below do you consider to be “anti-semitic” (if any)?

      “The boycott is the best way to protect and expand academic freedom and access to education. Palestinian academics are frequently impeded by Israeli occupation authorities, schools and universities have been bombed by US-supported Israeli military forces, and the Wall blocks educational access for thousands of students. As an association of scholars and educators, the ASA has an ethical responsibility to act.”

    • john_manyjars
      December 5, 2013, 12:06 am

      Yes, Hophmi, you and your ilk will indeed be harshly judged by history- right in the same bin as the Nazis and Botha.

      More and more people are waking up to the truth; this makes you and your fellow travelers uncomfortable, as it bloody well ought to.

    • thankgodimatheist
      December 5, 2013, 6:10 am

      “Those who voted for this antisemitic resolution will be judged harshly by history.”
      Don’t count on it. History will be too busy harshly judging you and your likes for all the crimes against humanity that you commit or endorse.

      • hophmi
        December 5, 2013, 9:52 am

        Of course, it’s just as likely that history will simply not bother with you at all. After all, all this BDS has not moved the needle on pro-Palestinian sentiment in America at all.

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 5, 2013, 10:27 am

        “After all, all this BDS has not moved the needle on pro-Palestinian sentiment in America at all.”

        LMAO. Talk to the young. They don’t buy into your Apartheid garbage, even a lot of the young Jews. You’re bigotry and ethno-supremacist ideology will die with the old people who now believe in it.

      • hophmi
        December 5, 2013, 11:22 am

        “LMAO. Talk to the young. ”

        I talk to the young a lot. They are broadly supportive of Israel as a Jewish state, if not supportive of the settlement project.

        “You’re bigotry and ethno-supremacist ideology will die with the old people who now believe in it.”

        No one believes that it’s bigotry to believe that Jews have self-determination rights in a world where Muslims and Christians have expressed them many times over. The reverse is bigotry.

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 5, 2013, 12:26 pm

        “I talk to the young a lot. They are broadly supportive of Israel as a Jewish state, if not supportive of the settlement project.”

        LOL. I should have said, talk to the average young people in the US, not the young zios who are already Kool-Aide drinkers.

        “No one believes that it’s bigotry to believe that Jews have self-determination rights in a world where Muslims and Christians have expressed them many times over.”

        LMAO. If you can exercise those rights without oppressing someone else, be my guest. Because no one but you zionists believe that oppressing the Palestinians, stealing their land, denying them their human rights and self-determination is “OK” so long as Jews benefit. THAT is the bigotry that you zios practice every single day.

      • Chu
        December 5, 2013, 2:25 pm

        ‘They are broadly supportive of Israel as a Jewish state, if not supportive of the settlement project.’

        ~nice try. more weak doublespeak, minidersh.

        Just admit that you support the settlements and the oppressive tactics of Israel because you’re a fanatic. I think you already admitted this though.

      • RoHa
        December 5, 2013, 8:58 pm

        “No one believes that it’s bigotry to believe that Jews have self-determination rights in a world where Muslims and Christians have expressed them many times over.”

        Not bigotry. Just false to say that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have self-determination rights qua Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

    • Woody Tanaka
      December 5, 2013, 10:19 am

      LMAO. There’s nothing antisemitic about this at all. The fact that you’ve run out of argument and are pulling out this ancient Libel is telling.

  6. marc b.
    December 4, 2013, 3:32 pm

    Geri Palast, the managing director of the anti-boycott Israel Action Network, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ron Kampeas that her “concern about some of these smaller academic associations is that they get amplified out of proportion.”

    how’s that for a bit of cognitive dissonance. no, we wouldn’t want to allow a smallish, minority of voices to unduly influence an issue as important as the IP conflict. that would be undemocratic.

    • Les
      December 5, 2013, 12:07 pm

      She is Greg Palast’s older sister.

      • marc b.
        December 5, 2013, 3:54 pm

        huh. interesting. I haven’t read greg palast in a while. do u know what he thinks of BDS?

  7. biorabbi
    December 4, 2013, 7:48 pm

    How does an academic boycott work? What are the mechanics?

    Does is pertain to technological use? referencing scientific papers? patents? all forms of dialogue? Would it be considered kosher to use an Israeli device or technology for the saving of a life, or would the ‘moral justice’ of a boycott win out? Could a university in Boston work, reference, dialogue with a university within the green line if said university professor was deemed sufficiently anti-zionist. Would Israeli professors be banned, or shunned at academic conferences; perhaps a travel ban would be in order.

    And how about all of those Israeli Firsters within the US of A? Would be ban a US citizen who supports Israel in an academic setting? In looking at the technological advances of greater Israel in medicine, trauma surgery, physics, especially chemistry… perhaps a good, old fashioned book burning might be in order before an academic boycott goes into effect. That way, my pesky questions about the mechanics would be rendered moot.

    And who would police the Internecine strife between the Gilad Atmon’s and the Phil Weiss’s who might support said boycott, but might disagree with the mechanics.

    Bonus question to the anti-zionist masses: what would be the punishment for Hamas members who’s relatives are being treated in Israeli academic medical institutions? Would the American Studies group ban them too? What a fucking joke.

    • jon s
      December 5, 2013, 1:39 am

      See Prof. Stanley Fish on the boycott:

      link to opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 5, 2013, 10:32 am

        “See Prof. Stanley Fish on the boycott:”

        LMAO. A 75-year old Jewish man who rejects impartiality and fairness is opposed to an academic boycott of people from a state which claims to be his ethnicity’s homeland. (Oh, and what a towering moral giant Fish is, taking “no position” on whether the generations-long oppression of the Palestinians is reprehensible or not.) One wonders whether he would have been so insistent that politics not interfere with professional courtesy if the year was 1940 and the academics in question were Nazis.

      • Chu
        December 5, 2013, 2:47 pm

        Fish on BDS:
        ‘But the idea that an academic becomes some kind of hero by the cost-free act of denying other academics the right to play in the communal sandbox (yes, this is third-grade stuff) is as pathetic as it is laughable.’

        -He assumes that academics want to be heros. I sense Fish gets sour when when things aren’t going his way.

    • thankgodimatheist
      December 5, 2013, 6:19 am

      “What a fucking joke.”
      What is a fucking joke is that someone like you whose pretense to moral high ground is often at display, continues to defend and shield a criminal enterprise called Israel from any accountability whatsoever. That is a frigging joke.

    • American
      December 5, 2013, 9:43 am

      biorabbi says:
      December 4, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      How does an academic boycott work? What are the mechanics?

      Does is pertain to technological use? referencing scientific papers? patents? all forms of dialogue? Would it be considered kosher to use an Israeli device or technology for the saving of a life, or would the ‘moral justice’ of a boycott win out? >>>

      LOL……Israel has nothing the world cant cant get elsewhere.

      The grand in gathering and ‘sharing ‘ of Israeli brilliance with the world doesnt seems to have done much for you at home in Israel.

      PISA test results: Israeli pupils’ scores remain behind those of OECD …
      Jerusalem Post-2 hours ago
      Despite improvements over the years, Israeli pupils’ scores on the … For the printed test, Israel ranks 40th in math, 33rd in reading and 40th is …

      Now if the ASA truely makes you ‘seperate’ from the others and the world doesnt ‘share’ with you you will get even dumber.

      • biorabbi
        December 5, 2013, 11:06 am

        Nobel prizes as a percentage of the population. Put that in your boycott pipe and smoke it.

      • ritzl
        December 5, 2013, 2:31 pm

        Sad you don’t see it biorabbi. Israel is obviously, and literally, robbing education to fund research (among other things). Just another unsustainable Israeli way.

        If you want to take a dimmer view, Israel is using the education and research investment of other countries to generate its talent. That’s yet another form of subsidy for a country that thinks of itself as uniquely independent.

        Why be so fundamentally flawed? PR value (as you make so clear)?

        Israel is an inverse PR pendulum. A PR bowling ball balanced on a media broomstick. If they keep going this way it will become a house balanced on a soda straw (if it hasn’t already).

      • Chu
        December 5, 2013, 2:58 pm

        ‘Nobel prizes as a percentage of the population.’

        This is not a complete sentence. It looks like you cannot combat the facts that American provided you with as you go off on a tangent about nobel prizes and smoking a boycott pipe. I’d say you lost this round.

  8. NickJOCW
    December 5, 2013, 5:26 am

    The whole business cries out for coordination. There is need for an unequivocal list of umbrella demands. Israel is unlike Iraq, Iran etc. where boycotts and sanctions called for specific changes within the country. In the case of Israel what goes on inside the country is less an international issue, it’s what they do outside that really matters. The first demand might be for a non-negotiable redefinition of where Israel legally begins and ends, followed by a demand that they get the hell out of all areas that are not Israel and should be an independent Arab state the organization and internal administration of which is none of Israel’s business. Once such a state of affairs might be achieved all else would fall into place. As it is, what would be the attitude of the ASA if, very hypothetically, Israel allowed Palestinian students access to outside educational facilities but continued to humiliate them leaving and returning home, breaking into their homes, abusing their young brothers, arresting, and murdering their parents while all but starving them. It would take decades to launch BDS movements against each area of Israeli perfidy, and by the time one was sorted there would be ten more.

  9. mcohen
    December 5, 2013, 7:39 am

    The negoiations have been ongoing between jews and the various powers that be over the years regarding a homeland.
    the outcomes have until now always been a disaster.
    temples destroyed,banishment,slavery,holocaust,pogroms,suicide bombers,masada,forced conversions,wars,uprisings.
    A 1000 year war at least

    and now after all that academic sanctions.

    Live by the book,die by the book.

    • American
      December 5, 2013, 9:53 am

      mcohen says..

      Live by the book,die by the book.>>>>>

      I think it’s more like demand to be the seperate and supreme ‘exceptions’ of the world — –die in your seperation and exceptionalism.

    • Chu
      December 5, 2013, 2:52 pm

      An attempt at loony poetics? Is there a full moon out tonight.

    • thankgodimatheist
      December 5, 2013, 7:37 pm

      “A 1000 year war at least
      and now after all that academic sanctions.”

      You’re confused, mon ami! Academic sanctions and BDS are directed at Israel not at the Jews, hardly for 1000 years, but keep trying, who knows, it might work with some illiterate gullible folk.

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