The New York Times letters’ page today features four writers responding to the American Studies Association’s 66 percent vote for academic boycott of Israel. And, surprise– three of the letters are highly critical, including the first and longest two, from officials at the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League.
Two letters scoff at the idea that Israel should be singled out for boycott when other international malefactors are not targeted. Two letters all but accuse the boycotters of being anti-Semitic–
The vote by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities casts a long shadow on this academic community… Only Israel, which happens to be the one truly democratic state in the Middle East… Why the choice of Israel? (David Harris, AJC)
“Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”(Michael Salberg, ADL, quoting Lawrence Summers)
The Times has still not quoted the actual boycott voters, as we did in our original post, statements from profs about why they were taking this step. If you read those statements, you will see that the voters wanted a way to engage the American and Israeli publics and show them that they are supporting apartheid and Jim Crow policies that have long been highly-objectionable in our country, but which the US government and our leading institutions vigorously support. What other tool is there but boycott when civil society is being ignored? The voters also see the Israeli situation in the context of colonialism– with the US as the imperial supporter. That makes it different from human rights violations by states with which we have no “special relationship.”
The failure by the Times to represent these views leaves readers with the impression that boycotters are an ignorant and alien mob, not thoughtful people concerned about human rights violations that our government and leading institutions support. And that’s a journalistic disservice.