Corey Robin and Henry Farrell are two scholars who have opposing views on the academic boycott of Israel. But when it comes to the anti-boycott bills being debated in the New York legislature, which would cut off state aid to academic groups that support the boycott, they’re united in opposition.
Robin, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, and Farrell, a political science professor at George Washington University, have issued an open letter criticizing the New York bill–and its counterpart in Maryland–as threatening “the ability of scholars and scholarly associations to say controversial things in public debate.” The letter was published on the Crooked Timber blog.
The two academics are encouraging other professors to sign their open letter at the comments section on their post here.
Here’s an excerpt:
We write as two academics who disagree on the question of the ASA boycott. One of us is a firm supporter of the boycott who believes that, as part of the larger BDS movement, it has put the Israel-Palestine conflict back on the front burner, offering much needed strategic leverage to those who want to see the conflict justly settled. The other is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.
This disagreement is real, but is not the issue that faces us today. The fundamental question we confront is whether legislatures should punish academic organizations for taking politically unpopular stands. The answer is no. The rights of academics to partake of and participate in public debate are well established. Boycotts are a long recognized and legally protected mode of political speech. The purpose of these bills, as some of their drafters admit, is to prevent organizations like the ASA from engaging in this kind of speech and to punish those organizations if they do—merely because the state disapproves of the content of that speech. For these and other reasons, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union have declared their opposition to these bills.
Read the whole thing here.