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Albuquerque and Albany papers publish pieces defending boycott from critics

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Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers

Another sign that there is a movement afoot in the U.S. for Palestinian human rights. Here are two op-ed pieces, in Albuquerque and Albany, by solidarity activists who defend the recent American Studies Association vote for academic boycott of Israel and take on its harsh critics.

First, in the Albany Times Union, Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explains that boycott is a means of at last holding Israel accountable for human rights violations, including limits on Palestinian academics that have never concerned the “elite” critics of the boycott measure. And elites are never going to be part of a social justice movement:

It took Palestinians 56 years living under brutal Israeli military repression to reach the point of calling for a boycott of Israel. However, it took practically nothing, just an endorsement of the academic boycott against Israel — a non-violent measure supported by a non-binding resolution — for some U.S. elites to call for a boycott of the American Studies Association

Academic boycott is arguably the most contentious component of the boycott call, touching on institutions that many believe are the bedrock of society. …

The reality, however, is that Israeli academic institutions, which are predominantly state-owned, provide the technology, research, and ethical rationale for Israel’s 65-year-old colonization. These institutions are complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, including the widespread denial of Palestinians’ academic freedom, which I witnessed working at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

Decades of being subjected to land confiscation, settlement building, the construction of a land-grabbing wall, home demolition, the killing, injuring and imprisonment of thousands, led Palestinians, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, to call on the international community to hold Israel accountable through boycott, divestment and sanctions….

Rather than addressing this rationale, U.S. academic and political elites began attacking the ASA. Responses from university presidents, union leaders and lawmakers ranged from condemnation to calling for a boycott of the ASA and threatening to cut off funding to universities, departments or individuals affiliated with the association. …

The vitriolic attacks on the ASA show that these academic and political elites are not concerned with the academic freedom of all. They have never demanded the academic freedom of Palestinians; nor are they interested in protecting the academic freedom of those who stand in solidarity with Palestinians.

Statements made by these individuals represent no one but themselves. None of the institutions they head debated the boycott and divestment movement against Israel, a sharp contrast with the ASA’s democratic, participatory decision-making process. As a teacher, I was disconcerted to learn that the American Federation of Teachers “strongly disagrees with the decision” of the ASA, knowing that no vote took place within the federation. In addition, Indiana University, Purdue and Trinity College faculty members criticized their respective presidents for condemning the ASA resolution without consulting their university communities….

Thankfully, the movement, like other social justice movements, does not depend on the elite. Rather, its strength is derived from the ever-increasing number of morally conscientious individuals and grass-roots organizations that refuse to remain silent in the face of the denial of Palestinian human rights.

In the Albuquerque Journal: “Boycott moves Israel debate forward,” Alex Lubin, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, also takes on the fierce opposition to the ASA vote, and specifically rejects Lawrence Summers’s claim that it is aimed at Jews.

When a social movement has lost the moral high ground…  it goes into attack mode in order to shut down any conversation and to maintain its position; it resorts to epithets, ad hominem attack, and even legal threats to end discussion.

The American Studies Association’s courageous decision to endorse a resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions demonstrates these lessons….

The resolution does not prevent Israeli scholars from attending the ASA, nor does it prevent American scholars from working with Israeli scholars, or from traveling to Israel. The boycott is a simple statement that does nothing to violate academic freedom – a privilege that only some enjoy in Israel/Palestine – but does very much to raise consciousness about the very real Israeli violations of Palestinian human and academic rights….

Much of the opposition to the boycott has been fierce and predictable. We knew it was coming and we knew it would be ugly.

One common argument made about the boycott resolution is that it unfairly singles out Israel. Ironically, in arguing that places like Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, and North Korea are worse than Israel, and should be the actual targets of the ASA’s boycott, opponents implicitly make the case that Israel is among an international cohort of human rights violators and that boycotts are legitimate tactics to address these violations.

Unlike the case of Israel, the U.S. levies harsh sanctions on these other violators and withholds massive sums of foreign aid. The U.S. singles out Israel by blocking any UN resolutions condemning Israel’s violation of human rights and by making Israel the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.

Among the most insidious and predictable of the criticisms have been accusations of anti-Semitism launched by Lawrence Summers, Charles Krauthammer and many others. The accusation is meant to silence dissent. Summers and Krauthammer know that the ASA’s boycott resolution says nothing about Jews, but only about Israeli state policies. Moreover, they know that there are Jewish Israeli organizations like Boycott from Within that have called for the boycott.

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11 Responses

  1. Shuki
    January 24, 2014, 12:28 pm

    One written by Riham Barghouti, founder of a boycott group with a history of lying about Israel supposedly killing dozens at a UN school, and the other by Alec Lubin, author of such critical literary works as “Locating Palestine in pre-1948 Black Internationalism”.

    A cross-section of mainstream America, indeed.

    • Cliff
      January 24, 2014, 1:26 pm


      Feel free to define what exactly is ‘a cross-section of mainstream America’.

    • annie
      January 24, 2014, 10:44 pm

      israel did kill dozens at a UN school, in gaza. it’s well documented.

    • talknic
      January 24, 2014, 11:20 pm

      Shuki “One written by Riham Barghouti, founder of a boycott group with a history of lying about Israel supposedly killing dozens at a UN school…”

      So who did they kill? Or did the dead just up and die in a sudden fit of antisemitism so Israel could be blamed?

    • amigo
      January 25, 2014, 1:03 pm

      “One written by Riham Barghouti, founder of a boycott group with a history of lying about Israel supposedly killing dozens at a UN school,”spooki

      “Israeli shelling kills dozens at UN school in Gaza
      • Reports of more than 40 killed in and around UN shelter
      • 12 members of family killed in Gaza City air strike”

      Are all zios liars or do all zios lie.

  2. pabelmont
    January 24, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Lovely articles, both. Terrific that they were published.

  3. eGuard
    January 24, 2014, 7:16 pm


    Quick, tell those 41 that they were not killed by Israel. Because Israel missed the UN school.

    I suppose you’d call that the good news.

  4. piotr
    January 24, 2014, 9:20 pm

    Suddenly, our elites (meaning, in USA), including a large number of college presidents (basically, very highly paid jobs that require top-notch political connections) care deeply about academic freedom. And we hear and read that academic freedom should not be abridged and dirtied by connecting it with mere political issues like oppression. Thus it is interesting if this is a deeply held long standing conviction or an ad hoc argument used to defend our most adorable and valuable ally (perhaps less valuable than United Kingdom or even Belgium, but deserving much more affection).

    It so happens that USA has some policies that were criticized form the point of view of academic freedom. In 2004 a new law severely curtailed the opportunities to study in Cuba and to collaborate with Cuban scientists, reducing them from small to almost none. In 2010 “On behalf of twenty-eight U.S. colleges and universities, NAFSA, the Association of International Educators and AIEA, the Association of International Education Administrators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to remove restrictions on academic travel to Cuba. ” This is a smallish number compared to the number of college presidents opposing ASA action, moreover, it seems that no college presidents were involved, just associations of faculty. Moreover, we are talking about very severe restrictions, a ban by the state, and quite weird restrictions at that. We have quite a few students from Iran on Iranian scholarships, but none from Cuba: verboten.

    PS. I was pleased to note that the among 28 universities there were 8 from “Big Ten”, including my own. None from Ivy League and I guess, none from the first tier of elite universities (with the exception of Duke University).

    • Citizen
      January 25, 2014, 7:05 am

      Yeah, the Ivy League and first tier of universities sure have come a long way from their origins; they are, combined, like Israel’s West Point misplaced in the diaspora.

  5. annie
    January 24, 2014, 10:46 pm

    thrilling. we need more of these articles showing up in papers all over the US.

  6. Citizen
    January 25, 2014, 7:01 am

    Yes, it’s thrilling. I hope more and more Dick and Jane types finally become aware that highly influential, brainy people like Lawrence Summers & Charles Krauthammer are highly deceitful when they talk about anything that would disturb the status quo regarding Israel.

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