Larry Summers was on the Charlie Rose show yesterday and was asked about the American Studies Association (ASA) vote on the academic boycott of Israel. This isn’t the first time Summers has taken on the issue of boycotts. In 2002, when Summers was serving as president of Harvard University, he said of the divestment movement at that time that “serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.” He used the same line with Rose, and said to target Israel “at a moment when it faces this kind of existential threat I think takes how wrong this is to a different level” (Summers didn’t explain what “kind of existential threat” Israel faces at the current moment).
Oddly enough, although Summers repeatedly calls academic boycotts “abhorrent,” and says “the way to change behavior is to talk to people,” he seems to call for a boycott of the ASA at the end of the segment:
My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their university funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool.
So much for talking. Members of the ASA have until Sunday night to vote on the boycott resolution.