The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations announces a milestone:
“We are pleased that we have reached a major milestone with over 100 universities publicly claiming their opposition to the boycott of Israeli universities and academia adopted by the American Studies Association.”
You’ll find the presidents’ statements, or links to them, at that link.
Here is John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, with a particularly intemperate statement:
The American Studies Association’s recent call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is lamentable. The Association has appointed itself as a kind of inept volunteer fire department, aiming to put out the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration by throwing gasoline on the fire. That’s not exactly right. It has decided to pour gas not on the source of the fire but on bystanders, some of whom are trying to extinguish the flames. No good can come of punishing academic institutions for the shortcomings, real and perceived, of their nations’ leaders and policies.
Rather than restricting academic freedom to advance political causes, academic organizations like the ASA should be working to foster dialogue with their foreign interlocutors, perhaps especially those they disagree with. The academy–universities, faculties, and satellite institutions–is a place where research, open discussion, and creative thought can lead to reforms and new approaches to longstanding problems. I hope the ASA’s call for a boycott produces just the opposite of its intended result–a proliferation of U.S. linkages with Israeli universities and other universities in the Middle East.
Does President Garvey think boycott is ever in order? Maybe when someone’s rights are being trampled? But there’s not a word here about Palestinian rights. I bet that when university presidents opposed divestment from apartheid South Africa they said something on behalf of the rights of black South Africans. Here most of them haven’t even had the decency to do that. Look down through these excerpts of university presidents’ statements. Not a word about the treatment of Palestinians under occupation.
Also: Compare the lobby’s practice in this case– wrangling university presidents to issue statements against boycott, surely employing donor pressure in some instances– with the ASA’s democratic process. A committee considered and put forward the resolution, it was openly debated, the membership voted in favor.