Last week the Nation ran a piece dubious of academic boycott by Michelle Goldberg. Yesterday it published two more pieces, pro and contra: Alex Lubin’s call for the American Studies Association to pass a resolution for academic boycott of Israel and Ari Kelman’s piece against the measure.
So it would appear that the Nation has now published three Jewish writers on the matter. Let us be clear: This is a reflection of the importance of Jewish voices inside the left (an importance that our site also seeks to parlay). But let’s also be clear, these assignments reinforce an ugly color-bar on speech. Years ago, I asked, Do the goyim get to register an opinion on Walt and Mearsheimer (after virtually every review had been assigned to Jews). Indeed, when the late Tony Judt wrote positively about those authors in the New York Times, he was asked by editors to identify himself as Jewish. The editors knew: the piece would then carry weight inside the community they think matters the most.
On his twitter feed, Scott Roth, who is Jewish, says this discourse has to change. He wrote that “there should be Palestinian viewpoints on this issue” in the Nation. (And Roth is both our publisher and on The Nation’s team).
Lubin’s piece is excellent. It is plainspoken about why we single Israel out; and notice how Lubin walks right by the charged issue of Right of Return by describing Israeli policy as “forced exile.”
Boycotts are the weapons of the dispossessed; they are pleas for global solidarity from people who have few other forms of power. They are peaceful attempts to disrupt business as usual by setting up a global picket-line and by asking us not to cross that picket line. The ASA National Council has heeded Palestinians’ call for an academic boycott, and ASA members have been asked to give their endorsement.
The boycott movement has clearly defined goals of ending the occupation, ending discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and ending forced exile and ongoing expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. All three of these place profound restrictions on Palestinian academic life….
As former ASA President Amy Kaplan has pointed out, the occupation is a de facto Israeli boycott of Palestinian academe, and Americans pick-up the bill. While the ASA boycott asks members not to establish relationships with Israeli institutions, it does not prevent Israeli scholars from attending the ASA conference, nor does it prevent ASA members from collaborating with Israeli scholars. Most importantly, the boycott acknowledges and seeks to address the actual and ongoing violation of Palestinian academic freedom.
The ASA boycott targets Israeli academia for legitimate reasons. The United States and Israel share a “special relationship” that links American taxpayers to Israeli state policies and hence to the occupation. Israel is the single largest recipient of US foreign aid, and the US has frequently used its veto in the United Nation’s Security Council to prevent international condemnation of Israeli violations of international law in the state’s treatment of Palestinians. In this way, the US is a third, indeed an interested, party to the Israeli occupation.