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Academic and Community Activism Caucus

Caucus on Academic and Community Activism: Academic and Cultural Boycott Campaign

Nearly 80 people attending the American Studies Association annual meeting in San Juan took part in a Caucus on Academic and Community Activism session calling for the American Studies Association to support the call for boycott of Israeli universities in protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine, the infringements of the right to education of Palestinian students, and the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.

The Caucus gathered nearly 150 signatures from conference attendees supporting a resolution asking ASA to “honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and to support the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The ASA resolution is modeled on PACBI, the 2004 call by Palestinian academics and intellectuals for an academic and cultural boycott which took inspiration from the Boycott campaign against South African apartheid.  The resolution is based in part on a United Nations report that the current Israeli occupation of Palestine has adversely impacted students whose development is deformed by pervasive deprivations affecting health, education and overall security. The resolution cites ASA’s stated support for academic freedom and exchange in calling for a boycott of Israeli universities which “are deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights and in its denial of the right to education and academic freedom to Palestinians, in addition to their basic rights as guaranteed by international law.

Among others, signatories to the resolution thus far include ASA scholars Angela Davis, Jose David Saldivar, Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Andrew Ross, Gina Dent, John Carlos Rowe, David Eng, Inderpal Grewal, Laura Pulido and 2013-2014 ASA President Curtis Marez.

ASA members seeking more information about the effects of the Israeli Occupation and on the boycott campaign may review the links below.

ASA members seeking more information about the effects of the Israeli Occupation and on the boycott campaign may review the links below.

Members seeking to support the resolution in favor of an ASA boycott may indicate their support here:


ASA Members seeking to involve themselves in activities in support of the Caucus on Academic and Community Activism or the resolution campaign may contact Caucus co-Chairs Sunaina Maira at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Malini Schueller at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Links to Material on the Academic and Cultural Boycott Campaign:

1. USACBI Mission Statement:

2. PACBI Guidelines:

3. Frequently Asked Questions about Academic Boycott:

4. Cancellation of Gaza Student Scholarships:

5. South African Union of Students on BDS:

See also: University of Witwatersrand student council unanimously adopts bds

6. Palestinian Queers for BDS:

7. Salim Vally on South Africa, Israel, and academic boycott:

8. Lisa Taraki and Omar Barghouti’s essay opposing AAUP’s rejection of academic boycott:

See also:

9. California Scholars for Academic Freedom¹s statement on the Irvine 11

10. Angela Davis on Palestine and Jim Crow

11. UC Student Association Resolution in Support of Academic Boycott:

12. Social Text/Periscope dossier on Palestine by US scholars’ delegation

13. Demanding equality - how is that illegal?

By Bill Mullen, Fri, January 03, 2014 - 10:18 pm


  1. ASA Executive Committee Condemns Israels Attacks on Palestinian Universities

    ASA Executive Committee Condemns Israels Attacks on Palestinian Universities

    August 4, 2014

    Press Contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The ASA Executive Committee condemns Israels attacks on Palestinian universities, including the June 2014 invasion of Birzeit University, and the recent decimation of the Islamic University in Gaza City

    Israels continued attacks on identifiable academic institutions are part of its campaign of collective punishment that has already claimed more than 1,650 lives. This goes well beyond the denial of academic freedom to further escalate Israels long-standing practice of denying an entire people the basic necessitates of life and freedom. We call upon the United States to withdraw political, financial, and military support from the state of Israel. As long as government support continues the U.S. is complicit in the ongoing siege of Gaza, Israeli war crimes, and Palestinian suffering.

    Stand with the ASA Campaign

    Published on August 3, 2014 by ASASTAFF.

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Mon, August 04, 2014 at 8:28 am


  2. An Open Response from University of Hawai’i Faculty to UHM Administration’s ASA Boycott Condemnation

    This month, University of Hawaii at Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Reed Dasenbrock added their voices to the chorus of university administrators who have publicly condemned the resolution passed last December by the American Studies Association to support the call from over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations to boycott Israeli educational institutions http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869. The majority of these condemnations were issued in December or early January, and the newly released UH statement is itself dated December 23, 2013. http://manoa.hawaii.edu/chancellor/communications.html

    We write to register our strong opposition to this condemnation. The statement by the Chancellor and the VCAA is made in the name of a commitment to dialogue and academic freedom, but we find these grounds questionable.

    Many of us who have signed onto this letter have already communicated our objections to a statement of condemnation, and to the arguments our administrators make. Although we had not yet seen the statement when we met with the VCAA in January, we sent letters to the Chancellor and the VCAA starting in December responding to the most predictable criticisms of the ASA resolution: that it singles out Israel; that it is inappropriate for a scholarly organization to take a political position on Israel; that it punishes individual Israeli scholars and threatens academic freedom by limiting scholarly exchange. Because these charges are as common as they are easily refutable, we provided responses to them in our communications to the Chancellor and the VCAA, supported by links to work by well-respected American Studies scholars. We also pointed to the language of the resolution itself,


    and to the statements and resources provided from the ASA that answer fully and carefully to these common misunderstandings and false allegations.



    Our communications to our administrators are reflected nowhere in the letter released this February, and indeed the retroactive date of the letter suggests their disregard for our communications. Nor does the letter provide any acknowledgment of the environment that makes possible the kind of hate mail which some of us are receiving, which is documented here: http://bdsloveletters.com. The statement also does not engage the hundreds of letters and articles that have been written these past few months by American studies scholars (some of whom specialize on Israel/Palestine), Palestinian colleagues, and various public intellectuals who explain how and why the resolution focuses on Israeli academic institutions not individuals, and how this does not impede academic freedom, but a few quotations will suffice.

    The UH administration charges that the ASA has singled out Israel. They wonder why the ASA did not focus on North Korea, or Saudi Arabia. This question has been asked of, and answered by, the ASA many times, and the same question has been put to Modern Language Association president Marianne Hirsch for allowing a panel at the 2014 MLA convention on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.

    We here cite one response by Bernard Avishai, Adjunct Professor of Business at Hebrew University, who splits his time between Jerusalem and New Hampshire. Although no proponent of academic boycott, he nonetheless provides a strong response to the often-asked question, Why focus on Israel when other countries are so much worse? Isn’t this a double standard?:

    And the answer (which we need to hear more often) is: Nothis is a single standard; the question is whether Israelis really wish to be judged by it. When Chris Christie is caught using the powers of the state to muscle political opponents, you don’t expect him to say, My God, why pick on me when Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is so much worse? You expect him to know he belongs to a world-historical club. You expect him to feel the shame.

    Avishai continues,

    Israelis expect to mingle and compete in the West like citizens of the world. They expect to be visited and invested in like Western states. They expect to be integrated into global markets with free trade agreements. They expect to be defended by NATO states and peace-keepers as custodians of democratic values. They cannot violate their terms and then plead that tyranniestypically shunned or merely tolerated for tactical reasonsare worse.  http://bernardavishai.blogspot.com

    George Bisharat, law professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, provides another response to this question, one that also refutes our administrators claims that a focus on Israel constitutes a failure on the part of the ASA to exemplify scholarly research and inquiry:

    There has never been a “worst first” rule for boycotts. Activists urging divestment from apartheid South Africa were not racist because they failed to simultaneously condemn the demonstrably worse Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Nor were U.S. civil rights protesters required to inventory the world and only protest if our nation exceeded the abuses of others. Boycotts are justified whenever they are necessary and promise results.

    There are sound reasons that U.S. citizens should respond to the Palestinians’ appeal for support: Our country is Israel’s principal and often sole defender in the international arena. Our diplomats have vetoed more than 40 U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israeli practices, including illegal settlement of the West Bank. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, upon leaving office, described shielding Israel as a “huge part” of her work.

    Discriminatory systems are inherently unstable, as the oppressed will continue struggling for equal rights, even against daunting odds. ASA members, who study, among other topics, American slavery and its demise, are acutely aware of such dynamics. Their entry to this vital discussion is therefore to be applauded and emulated by others. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-academic-boycott-of-israel-oped-0130-20140130,0,646747.story

    In addressing the question Why Israel? we can provide further answers from our particular location. The Chancellor and VCAAs very question, and their condemnation, contradict UHs stated commitment to being a Hawaiian place of learning. Through their statement they support academic institutions that participate in the denial of human rights, including the right to education, experienced by Palestinians who, like Native Hawaiians, live under conditions of occupation. Although the administrators statement, as it singles out ASA, does not reference similar resolutions recently passed by the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, or the Association for Humanist Sociology in support of the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions, the language in these resolutions, as does the ASAs, makes clear these resolutions relevance for Hawaii. When NAISA passed their resolution, they strongly connect the plight of Palestinians to that of other Indigenous peoples living under settler colonial state structures:

    As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples. http://naisa.org/node/719

    So, too, the AAAS passed its 2013 resolution both as part of their commitment to a critique of U.S. empire, and also as an act of solidarity with Arab (West Asian) and Muslim American communities, students, and scholars who have been subjected to profiling, surveillance, and civil rights violations that have circumscribed their freedom of political expression, particularly in relation to the issue of human rights in Palestine-Israel. http://www.scribd.com/doc/137036139/Proposal-to-the-Association-for-Asian-American-Studies-to-Support-a-Boycott-of-Israeli-Academic-Institutions.

    In condemning the ASA boycott resolution, the Chancellor and the VCAA put into question their commitments to indigenous rights and social justice for oppressed peoples here at home.

    The administrations second main point is that the boycott resolution treats all the citizens of that country as if they represent the actions of that country in a fashion that is chilling, indeed Orwellian. The resolution precisely and deliberately does not make this equation, and indeed the ASA has funded scholars from inside Israel to attend and speak at the ASA and will continue to do so. The administration makes this claim despite the language of the resolution and the many, many refutations of this claim that have been issued over the past few months, augmented by documentation of how Israeli institutions oppress not only Palestinian scholars and students but also, as we pointed out in earlier letters to both the Chancellor and the VCAA, Israeli scholars who dare to speak out against their government. We quote here from an article by prominent American Studies scholar Robin Kelley, in which he responds to Wesleyan president Michael Roths condemnation of the ASA resolution:

    He [Roth] asserts that the ASA targets Israeli academic institutions merely for their national affiliation. This is not true. They are targeted for their complicity in the illegal occupation and government policies of dispossession, repression, and racism. He also claims that the resolution extends to individual faculty. It does not. It strongly condemns any attempts to single out and/or isolate Israeli scholars or any scholar of any nationality. On the contrary, the resolution and its authors encourage collaboration and dialogue, but outside the official channels of the Israeli state-supported institutions that continue to directly benefit from or support the occupation. http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/defending-zionism-academic.html

    Kelley then goes on to meticulously document ways Israeli and Palestinian scholars have their academic freedom curtailed by Israeli universities and by the Israeli government, as he also makes clear that the resolution does not infringe on the academic freedom of American scholars. This piece by Roderick Ferguson and Jodi Melamed also analyzes in depth how for university presidents,  academic freedom has become a kind of mantra used to stifle debate and to squash oppositional critiques that result from scholarly inquiry: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/02/academic-freedom-violence.html

    As we hope these few examples illustrate, despite their stated commitment to engage in dialogue with everyone, not to shun the citizens of one nation alone as pariahs, the letter from the Chancellor and VCAA reflects little interest in engaging with any ideas other than those expressed by their fellow administrators. Most egregiously, as they evidence their concern that Israeli citizens not be shunned, they do so in a way that excludes Palestinians from the dialogue they call for, even as their enlistment of Noam Chomsky cloaks their letter in a progressive covering.

    In their concluding call for dialogue and academic freedom, they invoke Chomsky, who they state has opposed the action of the ASA. This claim is not true: although Chomsky years earlier opposed academic boycott, it was on tactical grounds and he has not spoken out as an individual on the ASA resolution. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/175085.article http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20100922.htm However, he has affirmed the resolution as part of a collective: the Jewish Voice for Peace, in their statement of support for the ASA resolution, names him as one of their active board members. http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/blog/jewish-voice-for-peace-responds-to-asas-resolution-on-academic-boycott

    Our administrators use of Chomsky is not simply careless in its inaccuracy. It also serves to cover over a crucial difference between the letter writers and Chomsky. However ambivalent Chomsky might be about academic boycotts, his support for Palestinian rights, and his insistence that Israel is in violation of them, has been steadfastly clear and unequivocal. By contrast, our administrators nowhere in their statement acknowledge Palestinian existence, let alone ways Palestinians academic and human rights are violated by Israel and with the support from the US of over three billion federal tax dollars a year in direct aid alone. In concluding our letter, we turn once more to Robin Kelley, who responded to a statement very similar to the one made by our administrators:

    The truth of the matter is that Michael S. Roth and many of the most high profile, vocal critics of the ASA resolution are less interested in defending academic freedom than defending the occupation, the expansion of settlements, the continued dispossession of land, the blockade of Gaza, the system of separate roads, the building and maintenance of an apartheid wall no matter what the cost. Nothing in Roths editorial or similar statements directly criticizes these policies or suggests a different strategy to compel Israel to abide by international law and to end human rights violations. I dont expect to persuade Roth or other university presidents to support the boycott, but I do wish they would come clean and admit that unconditional support for Israeli apartheid and occupation is not about academic freedom or justice.
    As our administrators belatedly echo in their statement those made by the most high profile, vocal critics of the ASA resolution, they affirm their support for business as usual in the US academy and in the state of Israel, a country that the chair of the ANC, South Africas ruling party, recently stated is far worse than Apartheid South Africa. http://america-hijacked.com/2013/12/06/mandelas-anc-israel-far-worse-than-apartheid-south-africa/ In issuing their statement, Chancellor Apple and VCCA Dasenbrock do not support, nor do they speak for, those of us who stand for an expansion of academic freedom in the United States and in Israel, and an end to human rights abuses experienced by Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Nor do they speak for all or even the majority of the UH community (faculty, students and administrators).

    Hokulani K. Aikau, Associate Professor of Indigenous Politics, Political Science
    Ibrahim Aoude, Professor of Ethnic Studies
    Cristina Bacchilega, Professor of English
    Monisha Das Gupta, Associate Professor of Ethnic and Womens Studies
    Cynthia Franklin, Professor of English
    Candace Fujikane, Associate Professor of English
    Vernadette Gonzalez, Associate Professor of American Studies
    Noelani Goodyear-Kapua, Associate Professor of Political Science
    Kuualoha Hoomanawanui, Associate Professor of English
    Craig Howes, Professor of English
    Reece Jones, Associate Professor of Geography
    Noel Kent, Professor of Ethnic Studies
    Karen Kosasa, Associate Professor of American Studies
    Sankaran Krishna, Professor of Political Science
    Laura Lyons, Professor of English
    Paul Lyons, Professor of English
    Davianna Pomaikai McGregor, Professor of Ethnic Studies
    Jonathan Okamura, Professor of Ethnic Studies
    Jonathan K. Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio, Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
    Gary Pak, Professor of English
    Richard Cullen Rath, Associate Professor of History
    John Rieder, Professor of English
    Suzanna Reiss, Assistant Professor of History
    Kathleen Sands, Associate Professor of American Studies
    S. Shankar, Professor of English
    Noenoe K. Silva, Professor of Political Science
    Ty P. Kāwika Tengan, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Anthropology
    Hector Valenzuela, Professor of Tropical Agriculture
    Valerie Wayne, Professor Emerita of English
    Mari Yoshihara, Professor of American Studies
    John Zuern, Associate Professor of English

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, February 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm


  3. Letter of Support to the ASA from the Arab American Studies Association:

    January 26, 2014

    Dr. Curtis Marez and the Executive Committee of American Studies Association
    American Studies Association
    1120 19th St. NW
    Suite 301
    Washington DC 20003

    Dear Dr. Marez and the Executive Committee of American Studies Association,

    The Arab American Studies Association (AASA) wishes to thank the American Studies Association (ASA) for its endorsement of the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

    As a scholarly organization committed to the study of Arabs in diaspora, including in the United States and North America, the AASA is committed to upholding freedom of expression and recognizes that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott of Israeli institutions does not—and should not—prevent individual Israelis from participating in academic collaborations with academics in the United States. Rather, it is a response to discriminatory practices against Palestinian and Arab students and academics by Israeli institutions. Thus, the AASA regards the American Studies Associations endorsement as a commitment to expanding the possibilities of academic freedom and to breaking the silence in American academia on Israeli institutional violations of Palestinian and Arab rights to free movement, education, and expression through continued occupation, settler colonialism, and apartheid.

    For decades, the field of Arab American Studies has interrogated the ways in which unqualified U.S. support for the Israeli state shapes the racialized and gendered treatment of Arabs and Arab Americans within the corporate media and everyday life. Yet all too often in the United States, when scholars critically address Israeli state practices and their impact on Arab and Arab American lives, those scholars are met with efforts to silence and limit critical dialogue. Many Arab American studies scholars have had course content scrutinized by university administrators or by student groups committed to closing down open discussion on Israeli human rights violations.  Arab American Studies scholars have served as mentors to graduate and undergraduate students who have been denied entry to Israel based solely on their Arab heritage or unjustly targeted on their college campuses for expressing critiques of the Israeli state. Such efforts deeply impact academic careers and the possibility for open academic debate on campuses in the United States. For too long, these courageous scholars and students faced these challenges on their own. This is the historical significance of ASAs breaking the silence.
    As an association that is committed to the free and open debate of ideas about Arabs in the Middle East, the United States and the diaspora, the AASA welcomes the discussion that the ASA has opened up about the role that Israeli universities play in denying Palestinians and Arabs access to education, scholarship and teaching opportunities. The American Studies Associations stance also coincides with the growing participation of Arab American Studies scholars in American Studies and we are enthusiastic about these new conversations and possibilities.

    In all, we fully support the ASA Board and membership in its historic decision.

    Sincerely yours,

    The Arab American Studies Association

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Mon, January 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm


  4. Green Party of the US:  Green Party defends American Studies Assoc. endorsement of economic pressure on Israel

    For Immediate Release:
    Wednesday, January 15, 2014
    This release is online at http://www.gp.org/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/details/4/667.html

    Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-904-7614, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Green Party of the U.S. defends American Studies Association’s endorsement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to press Israel on human rights

    Green Party Speakers Bureau: Green leaders available to speak on foreign policy: http://www.gp.org/speakers/speakers-foreign-policy.php

    WASHINGTON, DC—Green Party leaders and candidates expressed support for the American Studies Association’s (ASA) Dec. 4 endorsement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to pressure the government of Israel to observe human rights (http://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/council_statement_on_the_academic_boycott_of_israel_resolution/).

    Greens said that, despite harsh criticism, growing numbers of people and organizations have begun to support BDS as a nonviolent way to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and apartheid policies, and bring about real peace and security for all Israelis and Palestinians.

    “It’s evident that the never-ending ‘peace process’ and stalemates are having little effect in the long run. What’s needed now is for the world community to push governments from below to change their policies and actions and transform the situation. That’s what worked in South Africa. The divestment movement, which began after the Soweto riots in 1976, drew increasing support around the world until economic pressure forced Pretoria to declare the end of apartheid in 1994,” said Dr. Justine McCabe, member of the Green Party’s International Committee (http://www.gp.org/committees/intl) and a Connecticut Green.

    Israeli officials have acknowledged that BDS is having an effect. Finance Minister Yair Lapid recently said that economic pressure will “damage to the pocket of each and every one of us” and warned that “The world seems to be losing patience with us.” (YNet News, Jan. 10, 2014, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4475381,00.html).

    On Jan. 11, the delegate assembly of the Modern Language Association voted to adopt a resolution urging the State Department to demand an end to Israel’s denials of entry to U.S. academics seeking to visit the West Bank. The resolution will be submitted to the group’s 28,000 members (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/us/another-academic-group-considers-israel-censure.html).

    Jewish Voice for Peace also defended the ASA’s resolution: “The ASA is being accused of violating academic freedom and of being anti-Semitic. We appreciate the heightened interest on academic freedom and remind ASA supporters and opponents alike that Palestinians have not enjoyed and continue not to enjoy academic freedom. Their right to education is severely compromised by Israel. It is not inherently anti-Semitic to speak up against discrimination. Jews are not the target of ASA’s academic boycott. Discriminatory institutional policies are.” (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/blog/academic-freedom)

    The Green Party of the United States endorsed BDS in 2005 (http://www.gp.org/press/pr_2005_11_28.shtml). The party supports the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to receive compensation for their losses; immediate Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian lands acquired since 1967; maintenance of Jerusalem as a shared city open to people of all faiths; suspension of U.S. military and foreign aid to Israel; dismantling of the Israeli separation wall; and serious consideration of a single secular, democratic state as the national home of both Israelis and Palestinians.

    Greens have urged support for Palestinian and Israeli peace groups and for nonviolent resistance and have called for an end to all violence targeted at unarmed civilians, which is illegal under international law. Greens insist that regional stability and security for all the people of Israel and Palestine are not possible until peaceful negotiation based on international law resolves the conflict.

    In 2009, former U.S. Representative and 2008 Green presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney was detained in Israel for participating in the Free Gaza Movement’s delivery of humanitarian aid in the wake of Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip.

    Green Party leaders condemned plans announced in November by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat’s office for a wide expansion of settlements, especially in East Jerusalem, in which about 200 blocks of Palestinian apartments would be demolished, expelling over 15,000 Palestinians to make way for housing reserved for Jews (http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=643164).

    “U.S. aid to any country should be conditioned on its government’s human rights record. Israel is a top recipient of economic and military aid, receiving more than $3 billion—about one-fifth of our entire taxpayer-funded budget for foreign aid. The U.S. has unmatched influence in Israel and should use this power to end the daily injustices inflicted on Palestinians,” said Muhammed Malik, former co-chair of the Miami-Dade Green Party and member of the Green Party’s International Committee.

    “Last month was the 65th anniversary of the U.N.‘s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.S. and Israel signed. No nation is exempt from the obligations expressed in the Declaration to protect human rights. We have a unique opportunity to see these obligations respected by Israel, through the BDS movement’s nonviolent economic persuasion,” added Mr. Malik.

    See also:

    “Israel boycott growing ‘much faster’ than South Africa campaign, says Omar Barghouti”
    By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, January 10, 2014

    “The New McCarthyites: BDS, Its Critics, and Academic Freedom”
    By Corey Robin, January 8, 2014

    “Citizenship law makes Israel an apartheid state”
    By Amos Schocken, Haaretz, June 27, 2008

    “One Democratic State: A Green Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”
    By Justine McCabe, Green Horizon Magazine, Spring/Summer 2012

    “Green Party: The U.S. must press Israel not to launch a new war on Gaza; Greens urge an immediate truce and resumption of negotiations”
    Press release, Green Party of the United States, November 16, 2012

    “House committee votes to give Israel another 1/2 billion in aid”
    Mondoweiss, June 10, 2013

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Wed, January 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm


  5. Syracuse University ANSWER Coalition supports the ASA boycott resolution:

    It is with extreme disappointment that we read Interim Chancellor Eric Spinas statement against boycotts of Israeli academic institutions.

    We also find it hypocritical that just more than a month after Spina issued a statement commemorating the legacy of Nelson Mandela who led a revolution against a racist, apartheid state he issued what is effectively a statement in support of another racist, apartheid state.

    In 2008, a group of veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa led a delegation to the West Bank. Afterward, one of the delegates was quoted as saying, The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all (Haaretz, July 10, 2008).

    In the West Bank, about half a million Israeli colonial settlers took over huge swaths of territory, diminishing the viability of a Palestinian state, while two million Palestinians live under direct military occupation. There are even Jewish only roads. This racist segregation is not only maintained by the official Israeli Defense Forces, but also by armed bands of Israeli settlers.

    The purpose of the boycott is not to limit free expression, and it is certainly not to promote the abhorrent ideology of anti-Semitism. An academic boycott of Israeli institutions is an extension of the struggle for the equal rights for Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign strives to call into question the legitimacy of Israeli institutions that participate in racist, colonial-settler power structures.

    We recognize that the Israeli apartheid state is a strategic deployment of U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, and our own government is responsible for the promotion of massive inequalities in the region. The fight against the Israeli apartheid state is also a fight against U.S. imperialism.

    Spinas statement, although inoffensive and neutral on the surface, does little more than serve to condone the apartheid policies of the Israeli state. This is not a question of respecting an open exchange of ideas. Paolo Freire, the creator of the critical pedagogy philosophical movement, said, Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

    Progressive members of the SU community should oppose the racist policies of the Israeli state, encourage the BDS campaign against Israeli institutions and promote a socially just peace for Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel.

    Michael Kowalchuk
    Syracuse University Youth and Student ANSWER Coalition

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Mon, January 13, 2014 at 10:40 am


  6. Fantastic op-ed from Bowdoin College SJP members supporting the ASA Boycott Resolution:


    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sun, January 12, 2014 at 8:43 pm


  7. Letter to Palestinian and Arab-American scholars who signed in support of the ASA Boycott vote with petition link for signatures.

    Thanks so much for signing the petition of support to ASA. As you may have seen, the petition has been posted on Electronic Intifada, Jadaliyya, and the ASA (see links below).

    Bill Mullen, who has been coordinating media work for ASA’s Caucus on Academic and Community Activism said this about our statement: “Thank you for this brilliant solidarity statement.  This is so important.  It provides vital historical context and tremendous weight for the work the ASA has done so far.” He has circulated it within ASA.

    So many more people wanted to sign this statement that we have set it up as a petition on change.org - here is the link to the petition:

    Please circulate this link to all your friends and contacts as widely as possible and encourage them to sign. At this stage, it’s OK for anyone to sign, i.e. they don’t have to be Arab Americans.

    Some of those of us who signed the petition have been getting hate mail.

    For more information or to report intimidation contact the ASA Activism and Community Caucus (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or USACBI:

    With thanks and greetings from all of us,

    Riham Barghouti, Noura Erakat, Nadia Hijab, and Nadine Naber

    Link to post on Jadaliyya

    Link to post on Electronic Intifada

    Link to post on the ASA Caucus blog

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Fri, January 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm


  8. Magid Shihade responds to an Open Letter from 7 of 14 Middlebury College American Studies faculty.  For context Robin D.G. Kelley’s recent Mondoweiss essay: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/defending-zionism-academic.html

    Reply to the open letter by faculty in Middlebury Colleges American Studies Program.

    Is it an open letter for discussion as claimed or another tactic of dragging, intimidation, and threats?

    I will be highlighting parts of the letter at length of the call by 7 out of 14 faculty members Middlebury College’s American Studies Program call for a discussion of the ASAs mission statement asking to undertake a free and full debate about the language of the Associations official documents and the voting status of its institutional members. An individual, an institution, or an American Studies program could support or reject the boycott itself and still see the need for the association to clarify its official documents and improve its voting processes. Such clarification might or might not lead to a reconsideration of the boycott resolution in the longer run, but, again, that resolution is not the primary subject of this open letter.

    Though we do have a position on the recently passed resolution to boycott academic institutions in Israel that we do not wish to disguise, we are less concerned with that particular debate and more concerned about how the ASA will go forward.

    The American Studies Program at Middlebury does not support, and will not honor, the American Studies Associations resolution to boycott academic institutions in Israel.

    Though we understand the outrage of some in response to the ASA resolution, we do not wish to spend our energies on balkanizing or inflammatory condemnation.

    A careful reading of the ASA resolution suggests that those crafting it took some measures to limit encroachments on the academic freedom of speech and association so essential to higher education.  At the same time, we believe that these measures are insufficient and that academic boycotts are bad for colleges, universities, faculty, students, and the collaborative production of knowledge.

    Beyond our concerns about the merits of academic boycotts in general (and this one in particular), we are concerned that the ASA resolution is inconsistent with the stated mission of the organization.  The ASA seems to be neglecting, or at the very least interpreting in a particularly tendentious way, the language of its own constitution.

    We recognize and value the production of rigorous scholarship that provides nuanced critiques of the abuses of political power; we admire political activism and those who would seek to correct social injustices.  But if the ASA wishes to turn so much of its institutional energy over to activist work and contentious votes on geopolitical matters, we believe the membership should adopt a mission statement and constitution explicitly reflecting that goal.

    We, therefore, urge the ASA leadership and all of its members to revisit the Associations constitution, and, through a fully engaged and democratic process, actively choose to endorse or reject changes to the crucial section quoted above.

    As a related matter, we call on the ASA to develop a mechanism for institutional members to participate in the Associations voting.

    As an institutional member, our program never dreamed that we would be spending so much of our time and energy being asked by our administration, alumni, colleagues, students, and the media to support, explain, defend, or denounce an ASA resolution on which we had no right to vote.  In this way, the boycott resolution has worked very much against the encouragement of research, teaching [and] publication given emphasis in the organizations constitution.

    Our program will, for the time being, maintain its institutional membership in the ASA, not because we support the boycott resolution, but because we value open and engaged debate and the important, decades-long history of the American Studies Association to our field of study.  We hope to be part of a larger effort to have the ASA develop a meaningful mission statement that will guide the organizations activities.

    We further hope that even those angered by the ASA resolution will understand that commitment to intellectual dialogue is most important when that principle is hardest to believe in, when parties have fundamental differences in understanding.

    Our longer-term institutional membership in the ASA is by no means a foregone conclusion, because we do not have a full understanding of the associations purpose.  If we find no constructive engagement on the effort to define more clearly the ASAs mission, we will, with regret, leave this long-valued institution.

    We have also asked the ASA to change the language listing Middlebury College as an institutional member to language listing only the American Studies Program at Middlebury College.  Though we hope to see the ASA define itself in ways that will be widely embraced by all who have a stake in the interdisciplinary study of American culture, we do not wish to implicate Middlebury College as a whole, or any other program at the College, in what may now be viewed by some on our campus as an unwelcome affiliation.

    From reading the letter it is clear that the aim is not an open discussion. Open discussion took place for years on this issue, the resolution was submitted a year ago officially, petitions for and against took place, public debate, NC vote, and an exception for Israel was made where all members had the chance to vote over two weeks of time, with the highest number and percentage of ASA voting participation in ASA history, that ended with the result of 66% percent for and 30% against. What do you want more? To bankrupt a democratic and lengthy process because the results did not suit your political ideology?

    To claim that the ASA has become political after adopting this resolution is a twist. Would the ASA be not seen political if the resolution was defeated? Why would the ASA be seen as political only when it adopts a resolution to boycott Israeli institutions?

    That the resolution got much attention and attacks in the media by academic and political officials and lobby groups is not surprising. What is surprising is that members like yourself arguing that these attacks must be honored and the resolution changed so that we appease political lobbying that includes some members of the ASA, and your letter cannot be seen but be part of that lobbying.

    The resolution can provide an opportunity for further intellectual discussions such as that of Professor Franklin. It also can help expose hypocrisy on the highest level, where individuals, university presidentsetc. can claim to be supportive of academic freedom, yet threaten and or call for boycott of the ASA. It is only theirs/your boycott that is not political and allows of academic freedom.

    The silence of such individuals and groups about boycotts taking place for a long time is what needs to be discussed. The complicity and silence about silencing debate about Israel in the academy is what needs to be taking place. The discussion about the tactics of threats and intimidation that are used here and around campuses is what needs to be discussed.

    This and other several intellectual and political connections this resolution can bring about if members in the association, especially those who opposed to the resolution, can bring them to the table. But threats by AAUP, academic officials, and political officials will not bring about further debates, but it might bring about further campaigns of silencing. Yet and again, intimidation will not work. Members and departments need the ASA as much the ASA needs them. The resolution is legal, and all attempts to threaten in different languages and means will not work. People are fed up with hypocrisy and silencing, and the vote showed that. The resolution reflects the intellectual and political commitment of the ASA members who will not be intimidated. It is also part of a larger and expansive campaign that started years ago by USACBI, and is supported by thousands of academics and cultural workers and organizations, and well established legal team that will not allow silencing to continue, and will fight back, expose hypocrisy and the different tactics of threats against the ASA, other associations, faculty members, and students.

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Fri, January 10, 2014 at 9:06 am


  9. George Mason University Students Against Israeli Apartheid Statement of Support for the ASA:


    Comment by Bill Mullen on Fri, January 10, 2014 at 5:49 am


  10. Students for Justice in Palestine—American University

    To the members of the American Studies Association (ASA)

    We here at the American University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine would like to extend our thanks to all members of the ASA for supporting the academic boycott against Israel. We know that it was not one that was undertaken lightly and that both the ASA and its individuals members have been met with severe backlash for their actions.

    The humiliation and the suffering of the Palestinian people continues on a daily basis. Less than a week ago, an 85-year-old Palestinian man died after a tear gas canister was shot into his home, the first Palestinian death of the new year and the latest in a long line of civilian casualties as a result of the actions of Israeli forces, stretching all the way back to the Deir Yassin Massacre. Since 1948, the Palestinian people have been stripped of their land, homes, dignity, and self-determination. The Occupation, which has been ongoing in West Bank since 1967, only serves to make the daily life of the Palestinians more difficult.

    Historically, such crimes have been whitewashed by the State of Israel with the help of Israeli academic institutions. However, the American Studies Association recently made the brave decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions that have long been complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights. This is a tremendous step forward not only for academic freedom but for justice and peace, the ideals of which have evaded citizens of Israel and Palestine for far too long.

    It is curious that supporters of Israel decry the decision by the ASA as a step backward for academic freedom when those same people have time and time again attempted to stifle the voices of those who dared to speak out again the actions of the state of Israel, oftentimes with the help of Israeli academic institutions. Contrary to their actions, the decision by the ASA is not meant to stifle the voices of those who would oppose it. Rather, it is meant to allow for the possibility of nuanced debate regarding Israel and Palestine by granting a voice to the Palestinian cause that has long been denied.

    However, what those who criticize the ASA on the grounds that it is stifling academic freedom are truly missing is the one basic truth that ultimately, this decision is not about academic freedom at all but about restoring human rights to those in Israel and Palestine to whom they have long been denied. It is a widely accepted fact that those living in Israel and Palestine are not granted equal rights and that this is unacceptable.

    As Alex Lubin, associate professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, puts it Academic freedom means very little when it takes place in a context of segregation and apartheid. The decision by the ASA shines a much needed light on the ugly apartheid system that has become a part and parcel of Israeli society, a system that must be corrected.

    In the 1960s, a group of brave academics began the academic boycott of South Africa as a means to pressure the South African government to abandon its apartheid system. Back then, these scholars faced the same criticisms that the ASA is facing today, from charges that such boycotts damage academic freedom, or that the educational institutions are the wrong targets. However, the actions of these academics are validated today, with the collapse of the South African Apartheid. We encourage all supporters of the academic boycott to stand strong and not give in to pressure, enormous at it may be. There is no doubt that in the future, the actions taken by the ASA will, too, be vindicated.

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Thu, January 09, 2014 at 11:38 am


  11. Statement of Support for the American Studies Association
    By Palestinian and other Arab-American Scholars and Writers

    We, the undersigned Palestinian and other Arab-American scholars and writers as well as Arab scholars in the United States affirm our strong solidarity with the American Studies Associations position in favor of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions

    We also condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the expressions of hate and intimidation to which ASA members are being subjected, tactics that are illegal or verge on illegality under U.S. law.

    We express our heartfelt gratitude to the ASA and to all other academic associations including the Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) that have taken this principled and courageous stand despite the fierce backlash from organizations that support Israels atrocious and decades-old human rights record of military occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people and their lands. 

    We appreciate your recognition of the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and its three rights-based demands as one for solidarity with the Palestinian peoples struggle for self-determination.
    We further express our appreciation of your recognition that BDS is a legitimate, non-violent tool of resistance by peoples enduring settler-colonialism, occupation, and apartheid. The effectiveness of this form of struggle was demonstrated during the South African struggle for freedom, justice and equality and is now being demonstrated by the Palestinian-led BDS movement, which represents all major political and civil society forces within and beyond Palestine.

    We welcome ASAs stand as an affirmation of the decades of groundwork laid by earlier generations of Arab American scholars in the study of the impact of the U.S.-Israeli alliance in the Middle East and the United States. For many years Arab American scholars as well as Arab scholars in the U.S. have worked in isolation and those tackling this issue have faced a grueling combination of anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, and various levels of censorship with little or no support from most professional organizations.

    By broadening the possibility for critical discussion and debate about the U.S., Palestine, and Israel, the ASAs stand has created a new opening that will help to challenge the attack on academic freedom that Palestinian and Arab-American scholars and our allies encounter in the U.S.

    We strongly uphold the principles of free speech and association guaranteed in U.S. jurisprudence and demand that the legal protections offered by these guarantees be extended to our colleagues in the ASA without delay. 

    We urge all of our colleagues of whatever ethnicity to support the ASA by:

    1. Becoming an Individual Member of the ASA and/or making a Contribution to the organization,

    2. Encouraging your Department, Program, or Center to join the ASA.

    3. Writing a letter of support to the ASA.

    * Institutional affiliation for purposes of identification only. 


    Rabab Abdulhadi, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
    Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University.
    Bashir Abu-Manneh, Visiting Assistant Prof., Brown University.
    Ali Abunimah.
    Samer Alatout, Associate Professor.
    Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan.
    Paul Amar, University of California Santa Barbara.
    Sam Bahour, Co-editor, Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians and political pundit at ePalestine.com
    Riham Barghouti, Teacher, NYC and Founding Member, Adalah-NY
    Moustafa Bayoumi, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College, City University of New York.
    Hatem Bazian, University of California Berkeley and American Muslims for Palestine.
    George Bisharat, Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of the Law.
    Lara Deeb, Scripps College, Department of Anthropology
    Noura Erakat, Freedman Fellow, Temple Law School
    Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor, Department of Rhetoric, University of California Berkeley.
    Leila Farsakh, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston.
    Nadia Guessous, Rutgers.
    Layla Azmi Goushey, doctoral student in Adult Education, Teaching and Learning Processes, University of Missouri; Assistant Professor of English, St. Louis Community College.
    Bassam Haddad, Director, Middle East Studies Program, Associate Professor, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University.
    Toufic Haddad, senior teaching fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies.
    Elaine Hagopian, Prof. Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College, Boston.
    Lisa Hajjar, Professor of Sociology, University of California Santa Barbara.
    Wael Hallaq, Columbia University.
    Nadia Hijab, Co-Founder and Director, Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
    Amira Jarmakani, Georgia State University.
    Rania Jawad, Assistant Professor, Birzeit University.
    Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis
    Nour Joudah, Institute for Palestine Studies.
    Rhoda Kanaaneh, Visiting Researcher, Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia University.
    Remi Kanazi, poet and writer.
    Ahmed Kanna, University of the Pacific
    Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Department of History, Columbia University
    Lisa Majaj, Independent Scholar.
    Saree Makdisi, professor of English, University of California Los Angeles.
    Dr. John Makhoul.
    Nadine Naber, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies, Asian American Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago.
    Dena Qaddumi, Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies; Policy Member, Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
    Steven Salaita, Associate Professor, Virginia Tech.
    Therese Saliba, Evergreen State College.
    Aseel Sawalha, Department of Anthropology, Fordham University
    Sherene Seikaly, Director, Middle East Studies Center, The American University in Cairo.
    Julie M. Zito, PhD, Professor of Pharmacy and Psychiatry, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Tue, January 07, 2014 at 4:56 pm


  12. Indiana University Faculty Request Your Support

    We wanted to bring an important issue to your attention.  As you probably know, the presidents of Indiana University and Purdue university recently condemned the American Studies Association which, after a protracted democratic process, recently passed a resolution supporting the BDS campaign against the Israeli Occupation. To protest this resolution, IU President Michael McRobbie cancelled IUs institutional membership to the ASA without faculty consultation. Some faculty at IU and Purdue, concerned at the chilling effect their condemnation has on academic freedom and faculty governance, have drafted an open letter to express our dismay.  The letter does not imply an endorsement of ASAs position, but rather affirms its right to conduct such a vote without institutional sanction. The implications of President McRobbies cancellation of IUs institutional membership to ASA go far beyond one groups position on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, demonstrating that universities may sanction any non-affiliated academic body for taking potentially controversial stands.

    For this reason, I hope you will consider signing the open letter, hosted here at iPetitions (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/indiana-university-and-purdue-presidents-michael), and circulating it further wherever you think appropriate.

    Indiana signatories to the e-petition

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Tue, January 07, 2014 at 3:30 pm


  13. Robin D.G. Kelley’s fantastic essay showing how U.S. University Presidents use academic freedom to defend Israeli Apartheid:


    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sat, January 04, 2014 at 3:49 pm


  14. In the spirit of Curtis Marezs recent email to the membership welcome[ing] discussion and debate on matters of public significance in an open and professional manner, I invite ASA members, and particularly boycott supporters, to consider this issue for discussion.

    The ASA leadership claims that the organizations boycott is a protest against the injustices borne by Palestinian academics.  Yet by joining the BDS movement, the ASA uses a large and blunt tool for that narrow and quite specific purpose.  The BDS movement has been criticized, in part, because its criteria for lifting its boycott would essentially end the Jewish identity of the state of Israel.  If the ASA is not calling for the end of the Jewish state of Israel, why did the ASA leadership steward the organization, and so all its members, to join BDS?  Would the ASA leadership consider articulating its support for Palestinian academics under a different set of demands than the ones called for by BDS?  If not, why not?  Thank you.

    Nancy Koppelman
    The Evergreen State College

    Comment by koppelmn on Wed, January 01, 2014 at 12:45 am


  15. Faculty at Trinity College have published on open letter to their president who opened the resolution of the American Studies Association calling for the academic boycott of Israel:


    Comment by smaira on Sat, December 28, 2013 at 1:47 am


  16. Note: Over the Christmas holidays, President Jones and Dean Mitzel released a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (http://www.conferenceofpresidents.org/news/press/2013/dec24/presidents-conference-welcomes-strong-rejection-american-academic-community) to attack the American Studies Association for its vote earlier this month (by a 2-1 margin) to pass a resolution that “endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions” (http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel). President Jones and Dean Mitzel’s letter, as it appeared to the ASA, is at the end of this email. The letter from the President and Dean claim to speak for the College; they do not, however, speak for all of us nor for the totality of the American Studies faculty on campus (the American Studies faculty declined to join the letter from the President and Dean). This letter from us, below, will soon appear on Jadaliyya, a website dedicated to Middle Eastern Studies (http://www.jadaliyya.com/). We are posting our letter in its entirety below. Best Wishes for the new year, Vijay.

    James F. Jones, Jr., President, Trinity College.
    Thomas Mitzel, Dean, Trinity College.

    December 26, 2013.

    Dear President Jones and Dean Mitzel,

    We received your letter by accident. It was sent to one of us after it was sent off to the American Studies Association (ASA). No announcement was made to the faculty prior to the letter going out, and so no discussion was permitted. The letter which is below condemns the ASA for its resolution on Israel. It is also found on the website of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as part of a campaign by that body to undermine the ASA.

    Many of us who are signing this letter are members of the ASA, proudly so, and several of us voted on behalf of that resolution that you chose to condemn in your letter. We believe that your letter is wrong-headed for several reasons. Some of these are detailed below:

    (1) Your letter is singularly uninformed.

    One of the tired mantras of the Anti-Defamation League is to say that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. This is a factually challenged statement. You seem to neglect at least two countries Lebanon and Turkey that are formal democracies. In the region, as well, there are monarchical democracies such as Kuwait and Morocco, with Jordan not far behind. Surely these are not so different from the monarchical democracies of Europe that would not earn a similar sneer (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom for example). We do not hold any water for monarchical democracies, but the double standard is remarkable.

    The use of this statement reveals how little effort was used to write this important position taken by the President and Dean of Trinity College. Or else you are of the view taken by Princetons doyen of Orientalism Bernard Lewis, that Arabs are somehow not capable of democracy and that even where there is electoral democracy, this is simply a mirage. As an antidote to this view, we recommend Larbi Sadikis The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses, 2004 and the volume Democracy in the Arab World edited by Ibrahim Elbadawi and Samir Makdisi, 2011.

    Democracy should not be reduced entirely to elections. It has to be seen in a wider context. For instance, the Israeli system has disenfranchised the totality of occupied Palestinians and has reduced the democratic rights of Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel (in other words, Palestinians who live in Israel and hold its passport have lesser rights in practice). We recommend for your reading the reports from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and from BTselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. If you are interested in these issues, we strongly recommend you read the new UN report, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (November 13, 2013).  This has to be part of any discussion of democracy in the Middle East. At the same time, in the context of the Arab Spring, as vibrant attempts to create political democracy continue across the Middle East, your comment sounds tone deaf.

    (2) Your letter is intellectually lazy.

    The debate over the ASAs resolution began in 2007, and was heightened over the past six months. The discussion about boycotts and academic freedom took center stage in the debate. The level of intellectual conversation on these themes was sophisticated and of great interest. Your letter avoids the fine-grained conversation and returns to clichd denunciations. We would encourage you to read at least a few of the essays that offer the case for the ASA position and show that academic freedom is not violated. The best debate was held in the American Association of University Professors journal, Journal of Academic Freedom, vol. 4 (2013), edited by Ashley Dawson (http://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/journal-academic-freedom/volume-4); to us Princeton historian Joan Scotts essay, Changing My Mind About the Boycott is a good place to begin. But the debate is an old one. The philosopher Judith Butler offered a scrupulous analysis of the idea of academic freedom and the boycott strategy in 2006 (Israel-Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom Radical Philosophy, vol. 135, January-February 2006; available ~ http://www.egs.edu/faculty/judith-butler/articles/israel-palestine-paradoxes-of-academic-freedom/). It would have been a useful gesture to have read up on the debate and engaged it with some authority. As it is, your letter returns to the first utterance when the campaign for an academic boycott was proposed by Palestinian and Israeli scholars in 2005 there is no engagement with the long debate as it has unfolded over the past decade.

    What is doubly disappointing is that you had a front-row seat a few years ago when Vijay Prashads appointment to lead an institution at the college was attacked by the ADL and faculty on campus at that time Vijay had engaged President Jones in a discussion about academic boycotts in his role as member of the advisory board for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. On your faculty you have several people Raymond Baker, a former Dean, and Johnny Williams, for instance who have worked concertedly on issues of justice for Palestinians. None of this seems to have in any way troubled the tired language of your letter. At the very least, there might have been recognition that this is a long-standing discussion and not an impetuous decision by the ASA as you suggest. It behooves intellectual leaders who speak for academic freedom to at the very least take the ideas seriously. That is what the ASA did, which is why it hosted a long period of debate and discussion.

    (3) Your letter ignores the denial of academic freedom to Palestinians.

    In her essay mentioned above, Judith Butler lays out a broad understanding of academic freedom:

    a. The new formulation of an academic-freedom argument that insists that academic freedom requires and consists in the workable material infrastructure of educational institutions and the ability to travel without impediment and without harassment to educational sites; by linking academic freedom to the right to be free from violent threats and arbitrary detentions and delays, one would effectively be saying that the very idea of academic freedom makes no sense and its exercise is foreclosed by the conditions of Occupation. This would be a way of affirming that academic freedom is essentially linked with other kinds of protections and rights and cannot be separated out from them.

    b. When academic freedom becomes a question of abstract right alone, we miss the opportunity to consider how academic freedom debates more generally and here I would include both pro- and anti-boycott debates deflect from the broader political problem of how to address the destruction of infrastructure, civil society, cultural and intellectual life under the conditions of the Occupation. As much as rights, considered as universal, have to be imagined transculturally and transpolitically, they also bring with their assertion certain geopolitical presuppositions, if not geopolitical imaginaries, that may not be at all appropriate for the situation at hand.

    Your letter notes that Trinity participates in the very important Rescue Scholar program the program that funds scholars from parts of the world who feel threatened in their workplaces or whose political views deny them academic work. This is a laudable effort, and as you know many of us have been major supporters of it.

    A study of the academic situation in Occupied Palestinian lands might have you reconsider your smug statement that it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons. As a warm up to understand the situation of academic freedom in Israel, we recommend you read Ilan Papps Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (2010). Ilan used to teach at the University of Haifa, in the city of his birth in 1954, but was hounded out in 2007 when the President of his college called for his removal based on his support of the academic boycott campaign a campaign that is illegal according to Israeli law (so much for academic freedom, by the way). Ilan now teaches, virtually as a Rescue Scholar, at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

    If matters are hard for Israeli academics who wish to put their views against the Occupation on record, matters are worse for Palestinians and those who teach in Palestinian universities. Once more we recommend that you read a few of the publically available reports:

    a)  Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit from Gaza, July 2009.

    b)  Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Students from Gaza: Disregarded Victims of Israels Siege of the Gaza Strip. A Report on Israels Prevention of Gazan Students from Studying at the West Bank Universities, July 2010.

    c)  The materials amassed by the Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University, a college that has been under siege for the past decade (http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/).

    d)  Ruhan Nagra, Academia Undermined: Israeli Restrictions on Foreign National Academics in Palestinian Higher Education Institutions, May 2013.

    Your silence on this deep attack on the rights of Palestinians to an education indicates that the principle that motivates your letter is not academic freedom. If it were, you would certainly have expressed your concern about the violation of the academic freedom of an entire population since at least 1967. What principle you are upholding is up to you to establish. An indication might come from your failed attempt to suborn the American Studies faculty at Trinity to break their institutional linkage to the ASA; having failed with the faculty, you ignored them and claimed to speak as if there is not a rich seam of disagreement on our campus on this issue.

    Your letter does not surprise us. In 2007, without a discussion in the faculty, President Jones signed on to an American Jewish Committee advertisement in the New York Times with the inflammatory tag line, Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too! We suspect it says a great deal about the state of US academia and its democratic traditions that presidents can speak for a college or university without the minimal courtesy of consultation of the faculty, staff, students and alumni. The signing of the 2007 letter to the Times, this letter these are political acts by a college administration that are disguised as acts of high principle.

    That you have written this letter shows that the resolution of the ASA has had some effect it has forced a conversation about the denial of the rights to full education of our Palestinian colleagues, about the impunity granted to Israeli institutions by the complicity in the US as well as the active financial, military and diplomatic support by the US government for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. That your letter does not seriously engage any of the issues even academic freedom still less the actual occupation is a sign of the lack of seriousness on your part. We look forward to a more robust discussion. As it is, you did not speak in our name also members of the Trinity College community when you wrote this ill-advised letter to the ASA President.


    1.    Andrea Dyrness, Associate Professor of Educational Studies.

    2.    Anne Lambright, Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies.

    3.    Dario Euraque, Professor of History and International Studies.

    4.    Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies.

    5.    Drew Hyland, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy.

    6.    Garth A. Myers, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies.

    7.    Gary Reger, Hobart Professor of Classical Languages.

    8.    Janet Bauer, Associate Professor of International Studies.

    9.    Jeffrey Bayliss, Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of History.

    10.  Johnny E. Williams, Associate Professor of Sociology.

    11.  Maurice Wade, Professor of Philosophy.

    12.  Paul Lauter, Allan K. & Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Literature and past president of the American Studies Association (1998).

    13.  Raymond William Baker, College Professor of International Politics and Chair, Middle East Studies Program.

    14.  Robert J. Corber, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in American Institutions and Values.

    15.  Seth Sanders, Associate Professor of Religious Studies.

    16.  Stephen M. Valocchi, Professor of Sociology.

    17.  Thomas Harrington, Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies.

    18.  Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian Studies and Professor of International Studies.

    19.  Zayde Antrim, Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of History and International Studies and Director, International Studies Program.

    Comment by mshihade on Sat, December 28, 2013 at 1:29 am


  17. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/15697/substantive-erasures_essays-on-academic-boycott-an

    Introduction [by Noura Erakat]

    Members of the American Studies Association (ASA) first considered an academic boycott seven years ago, discussed it openly four years ago, and presented a resolution to endorse it a little over one year ago. As with most boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts (BDS), opponents made little noise about it assuming that it would disappear quietly under the crushing weight of establishment opposition and explicit threats to professional advancement. But it did not disappear.

    As this years annual ASA conference began in Washington, DC, it became apparent that the possibility of boycott was very real. By the third day of the conference, and at the open session designated to discuss the resolution, the possibility of an academic boycott became imminent. Membership support for the resolution was overwhelming and an affirmative endorsement of boycott seemed inevitable. The opposition slowly began to lift itself from its laurels. Once the National Council unanimously endorsed the resolution and submitted its endorsement to a membership-wide vote, public opposition to the initiative began to cascade. Since sixty-six percent of the ASAs membership voted for it, the opposition has been relentless.

    In protest of the resolution, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg have withdrawn from the ASA. The ASAs leadership as well as the public proponents of the boycott have received letters and phone calls threatening death and less fatal consequences. Non-ASA members, far beyond the academy have inundated the ASAs activism caucus blog with violent and acerbic commentary. As repeatedly noted by ASA scholars, however, none of this is surprising. To the contrary, these intimidation tactics pregnant with threats of tangible consequence, are precisely the kind that have infringed on the academic freedom of US-based scholars daring to speak against the orthodoxy of Israels sanctity within the academy and beyond.

    The so-called measured responses have hardly been more noteworthy. The critique of boycott has been redundant and unimpressive, yet as with all matters that reflect the establishment status quo, it has received an inordinate amount of mainstream attention.

    The basic arguments are summarized as follows: 

    Academic boycott infringes on academic freedom; [See Judith Butlers rebuttal]
    The boycott is biased because Israel does not have the worst human rights record globally and does not deserve this particular scrutiny; [See David Lloyds rebuttal]
    The boycott is anti-Semitic because it singles out Israel; [See Steven Salaitas rebuttal] and the most recent argument is
    The boycott is wrong because it is not limited to Israels occupation but targets Israels systematic discrimination of Palestinians writ large. [See my Storify twitter rebuttal]
    What is troubling about these arguments is that they are all premised on the exclusion of Palestinian subjectivity and agency. Palestinians simply do not exist, have not suffered, cannot speak for themselves, and cannot legitimately call for international solidarity.

    To bemoan the infringement of academic freedom as a result of the boycott is to assume that only Israeli scholars and students are entitled to it. It is to neglect the grisly experience of US-based scholars who have dared to speak on Palestine. Moreover, it is to completely erase the material reality of Palestinian students and scholars who are not eligible to enjoy academic freedom because of the limitation of their movement by checkpoints, the criminalization of their dissent, and death. Between 1972 and 1993, Birzeit University was closed on fifteen separate occasions amounting to over seven years. In 2004, due to the Bantustanization of the West Bank, there was a one hundred percent drop of students from the Jenin Governate who could register at Birzeit- meaning zero students could register because of movement restrictions. From September 2000-2004, Israeli military violence killed 196 students and thirty-eight teachers.

    Allegations that academic boycott unfairly singles out Israel and is somehow anti-Semitic deliberately denies and rejects Palestinian calls for solidarity. The ASA did not initiate a boycott against Israel by swirling a spherical globe of human rights abusers to start somewhere. Palestinians initiated the boycott first in a call to scholars and cultural workers in 2004 and then more broadly in a call in 2005.  The baseless charge that the ASA boycott unfairly targets Israel necessarily erases the role of Palestinians in leading their own movement for freedom, dignity, and liberty. ASA scholars did not single out Israel; they simply listened to Palestinians.

    Critique of the boycott for its failure to distinguish Israel from Israels occupation silences Palestinian narratives describing a singular history of forced removal, dispossession, and displacement. It attempts to co-opt boycott as a tactic to challenge Israels occupation for the sake of benefitting Israel and sparing it from international isolation and de-legitimization. Like the dissidents alleging that the ASA is singling out Israel, these critics reject Palestinian agency to set the terms for their own self-determination. 

    This erasure has been the most violent feature of the oppositions onslaught of the ASA. It has been compounded by the dearth of Palestinian voices in the coverage of the boycott. The leading members of the ASA boycott initiative have been too aware of this and have insisted that media requests be fielded to Palestinian scholars. Despite these intentional efforts, rehearsed critique of the boycott resolution remains salient in its mainstream coverage. It seems that substance is not what is being sought after.

    In the midst of this ongoing debate, it is worthwhile to revisit some of the cogent arguments made at the ASA itself. The following essays are lectures delivered at the ASAs Town Hall entitled The United States and Israel/Palestine. The lectures address academic freedom, the erasure of Palestinian narratives, the allegation of hypocrisy, and the legacy of the question of Palestine within the intellectual left. It features Alex Lubin, Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for American Studies and Research at the American University in Beirut; Steven Salaita, Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech; J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Wesleyan University; and Jasbir Puar, Associate Professor of Womens and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.

    [The following essays were delivered at the 2013 American Studies Association Conference at the Town Hall.]

    Comment by smaira on Wed, December 25, 2013 at 11:34 pm


  18. Does the ASA Boycott Violate Academic Freedom? A Roundtable

    23 DEC 2013
    Does the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israeli academic institutions violate academic freedom?

    According to the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Indiana University (see my comment on that university at the end of this post), and numerous other universities across the United States, the answer is yes. The question is: Why?

    I asked my Facebook friends that question. A bunch of peoplesome in favor of the ASA boycott, others opposed, others undecidedanswered. I thought the discussion was worth reprinting here.

    Fair warning: it is a fairly narrow discussion. We were not considering the pros and cons of the boycott or where justice lies in the current Israel-Palestine conflict. We were simply trying to figure out whether and how the boycott violates academic freedom, which has become one of the standard arguments against it.

    To get oriented, you might want to read this helpful Q and A from the ASA, which clarifies what the boycott does and does not entail.


    Chris Bertram What is the argument that this boycott violates academic freedom, Corey? I just cant see how a refusal of some academics in one country to associate with institutions in another country violates anyones academic freedom. Are there any clarifications on this from the opponents?

    Siva Vaidhyanathan The boycott has no effect on academic freedom. And I say that as a fervent opponent of the boycott. The fact that academics default to that phrase only shows the poverty of the level of thought about the issue. There are a dozen good reasons to oppose the boycott. But academic freedom is not one of them.

    Corey Robin I suppose the argument would go something like this. In the same way freedom of speech refers both to the individual right of individuals to speak their minds without fear of coercion, and to the actual state of unimpeded discourse and exchange between individuals (the latter is on some accounts Justice Brandeiss view of freedom of speech), so does academic freedom refer to the right of individual academics to pursue their teaching and research (and perhaps voice their political ideas as well) without fear of coercion, and to the actual state of unimpeded discourse and exchange between professors. If roadblocks are set up that block that exchange, that exchange is diminished. And so is academic freedom. At least I think thats the argument.

    Siva Given that the ASA resolution is not binding on ASA members there are no roadblocks.

    Corey But were universities to drop joint programs of exchange and researchas Brandeis University recently did with Al Qudsthat would take away a road that had facilitated that exchange and research. Perhaps not the creation of a roadblock so much as the elimination of a road? Or if an Israeli academic and her institution had been part of a joint research program with a group of American academics and their institutions, and that program were ended, that would also make exchange harder. Im trying to think out loud here. I suppose the argument is that academic freedom is not merely about an individuals right to pursue a program of research or teaching but also about material conditions and infrastructure that facilitate research and teaching. Again, Im not sure; just trying to figure out the other sides argument.

    Siva Yes, you are fleshing out that position with an argument that my side has not really made. I can imagine boycott terms that would materially affect ones ability to conduct and express work. But I tend to think of academic freedom as a matter of content discrimination. If a boycott targeted, say, certain types of research, certain positions on political matters, or particular areas of research that might have applications that could further the strength of the Israeli military, then it would clearly violate academic freedom. I think we are hearing a reflexive call to defend academic freedom because it has bumper-sticker currency within the academy.

    Aaron Bady Ive been thinking about this too; after all, if non-association is a violation of academic freedom, then association with Israel is compulsory, no?

    Ben Alpers Trying to ban association with an entire nations universities is the problem. The fact that an organization like the ASA lacks an enforcement mechanism for its attempted ban just means its an ineffectual affront to academic freedom.

    Corey Ben, its a statement of voluntary non-association. Not by default but by design: see the actual statement from the ASA respecting individual members freedom of conscience on this matter (The Councils endorsement of the resolution recognizes that individual members will act according to their conscience and convictions on these complex issues.) The only way to spin that particular aspect into an affront to academic freedomhowever effectual or not it may beis by embracing the position that Aaron describes above: namely, that association with Israel is compulsory.

    Aaron Ben, dont think a ban without compulsion or enforcement can be called a ban. If BDS were trying to ban association with Israel, the violence of doing so would be in the compulsion, or force used, to make it something that someone who didnt want to, would have to do. Thats simply not whats happening here. Not to mention that, by this logic, every boycott is a ban; if a group of people resolve to boycott Wal-Mart, because of their bad labor practices or something, are those people banning Wal-Mart? Not unless they go beyond urging others to join them, I would think.

    Aaron Because Ive been watching The Good Wifeand have courtroom dramas on the brainI am picturing a prosecutor trying to accuse someone of intended murder, and explaining that even though the accused didnt have a murder weapon, that just shows that it wasnt a very effectual murder attempt.

    Ben Heres the AAUPs 2005 statement opposing academic boycotts in general.

    Aaron In what way does the ASAs boycott curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues? Unless theres an enforcement mechanism, it simply doesnt.

    Corey But if you look at the ASA resolution, Ben, it looks remarkably like what the AAUP says in that statement is censure, which it accepts as a legitimate tactic: The Association is careful to distinguish censurewhich brings public attention to an administration that has violated the organizations principles and standardsfrom a boycott, by leaving it to individuals to decide how to act on the information they have been given. The AAUP engages in no formal effort to discourage faculty from working at these institutions or to ostracize the institution and its members from academic exchanges, as is the case in AUT greylisting; but moral suasion could have such results if faculty members were to decide to have no contact with an institution on the censure list.

    Corey Aaron, if said academic colleagues refuse to engage in work with said teachers and researchers, the freedom of said teachers and researchers to engage in work with said academic colleagues is curtailed.

    Ben FWIW, the AAUP sees the ASA resolution as an example of the sort of academic boycott it opposes.

    Aaron Taking a position on an issue is different from having a coherent rationale for doing so; like Corey, I simply dont understand the logic.

    Corey I know the AAUP does see it that way, Ben, but in this case, it seems to be misapplying its own principles, which it almost implicitly recognizes in its statement on the ASA resolution, when it says, It will be up to those members of ASA who support the principles of academic freedom to decide for themselves how to respond to this decision. If thats the case, by the AAUPs own criteria, the ASA boycott looks remarkably like a censure.

    Ben Surely the ASA could have cleared this up by issuing a censure instead of calling for a boycott (part of the defense of which appears to be that it isnt a boycott).

    Aaron I think the AAUPs distinction is specious, frankly. I think it is a boycott! But a call to boycott Wal-Mart, say, is not an infringement on their ability to sell products. By the same token, a call to boycott Israeli institutions also does not infringe on their freedom to do what they do: if the only people who participate in the boycott are people who voluntarily choose to do so, then I dont understand how anyones freedom is being curtailed in any way.

    Corey No, its just not a boycott as the AAUP defines the term, which is rather peculiar, if you ask me. It is however a boycott within any standard definition of the term: namely, it is only as enforceable as the voluntary will of its members. It is a voluntary act of non-association.

    Corey Oops, Aaron beat me to it.

    Aaron December is apparently the month where Corey and I coordinate our thinking; last year it was Lincoln, this year its BDS.

    Corey The irony in this whole discussion is that there is one entity in the US that routinely violates the putative academic freedom strictures of all those individuals and institutions who have come out against the ASA boycott: the American state. Its boycotts and sanctionsagainst Iran, North Korea, and Cuba (I guess now to a lesser degree)are in fact mandatory for US citizens, but Ive yet to see a coordinated response from those noted defenders of academic freedom like the presidents of Yale, Harvard, Chicago, and so on, doing anything about that. I mean, its a bit rich to hear someone like Larry Summers fulminate on this topic when he was part of the actual government apparatusin the Department of Treasury, no lessthat implemented these boycotts and sanctions.

    Aaron Thats a good point, Corey; but, of course, all the ways in which universities in the Axis of Evil are effectively blockaded is an invisible given. Like arguing that censoring bad books is fine, because theyre bad books. But you cant, then, demand that its bad to censor good books except by appealing to that judgment call.

    Corey All this said, I think there might be a way in which you could argue that the boycott violates academic freedom, as I argued at the beginning. In the freedom of speech paradigm, there are two (actually more) ways of thinking about freedom of speech: there is the right of individuals to speak without fear of coercion (call this FS1) and there is the actual state of unimpeded public discourse and exchange (call this FS2). Brandeis, some have argued, was more concerned about the latter, and those inspired by him (like Cass Sunstein or Owen Fiss) are more interested in regulating things like campaign spending (set aside the issue of whether money = speech) and creating viable public deliberative institutions in order to generate a more robust public discourse. Drawing on the model of FS2, one could say that academic freedom refers also to the actual state of exchange and discourse among academics. And to the extent that a boycott impedes that discourse (however voluntarily), either by individual refusing to associate, or by associations and organizations severing ties with institutions, one could say that it impedes academic freedom. Since academic freedom refers to more than the right of individuals to pursue their teaching and research without fear of coercion but also, on this model, to the maintenance of infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research.

    Aaron FS2 takes us to an extremely subjective place, though, right? What constitutes a normative level of academic freedom? Anybodys guess. And I would add, if the absence of infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research is the violation of academic freedom, then the number of Academics who lack it is huge.

    Corey I dont know if its that subjective. Complicated, yes, but Im not sure why subjective. As for your second point, yes, thats the point. Which is why I cant imagine that critics of the boycottmany of whom include university presidents who are increasingly relying on adjunct labor, which dispenses not only with the infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research, but also tenure and other traditional protections of academic freedomwould actually embrace that position.

    Chris Bertram Yes Corey, but the maintenance of the infrastructure condition has to be based on some threshold level of adequacy. I cant claim that my academic freedom has been violated because there isnt a world lecture tour organized for me! It is very hard to see how tenured Israeli academics, with access to the internet, a range of publishers, journals to publish in, etc., are being denied an adequate infrastructure.

    Corey Good point, Chris. So we would say not having a world lecture tour for you is not a violation of academic freedomthough it sucks for the rest of us who cant hear you!but would we say that conference attendance is a critical part of academic discourse and life? Im not sure, just throwing this out there. I mean why is access to the internet, but not access to academics the world over in the form of cooperative research opportunities and conference attendance, not a prerequisite of academic freedom? I would imagine in some fields the latter kind of thing is critical to research, no? What is the necessary infrastructure of academic freedom such that we could say once a threshold is met, academic freedom is secure or maintained?

    Chris I think thats a bit of a stretch. Already I know of several academics who wont fly to conferences because of the carbon emissions. I dont think they have rendered themselves academically unfree as a result. Kant never made it out of Konigsberg, of course.

    Corey What if a university decided to act on the boycott and ended an ongoing joint research programin some scientific area that relies upon intensive infrastructure support between more than one universitybetween itself and a university in Israel? Im just playing this out; dont really believe it, in part because the only way to make sense of it is to say that academic freedom requires an affirmative duty on the part of individuals and institutions to participate in ongoing exchange, even if they dont want to.

    Sarah Chinn As far as I can tell, heres one version of how academic freedom might be violated: Israeli universities have partnerships all over the world in various fields (not least of which is the new Technion/Cornell campus on Roosevelt Island). Boycotting Israeli universities means abandoning those partnerships, and depriving those scholars of the opportunity to work on research projects, denying students study abroad possibilities, and shutting down new transnational projects. These relationships are not just one-on-one, scholar to scholar, but require institutional support. It also means that scholars cant accept invitations to talk or teach at Israeli universities, which violates their freedom to disseminate their research and interact with students and scholars at other institutions.

    Timothy Burke On the academic freedom side of things, there seems to me is a huge difference between institutional-level action and individual action. If youre talking about individuals, then I think your belief that this doesnt violate academic freedom is right. As a strong supporter of academic freedom, Im not required to go to all possible events, and if I strongly object to a speaker and do not go to the talk or the event, thats my individual decision. But if I ask my institution to enforce a boycott? To forbid my colleagues from inviting speakers? If I refuse to release departmental funds to support speakers that someone has asked me to support because I have a political disagreement with that speaker? Thats where for me it crosses into a trespass against academic freedom.

    Josh Mason Im glad the ASA resolution passed and I dont disagree with anything Corey, Chris Bertram and Aaron Bady have said here. But I do wonder if the emphasis on the voluntary nature of the boycott is quite right. After all, the entire point of the boycott, like all outside pressure against the occupation, is to impose costs on Israelis. If American academics face exactly the same choices with respect to collaboration with Israeli institutions that they faced before the resolution, passing it was a waste of effort. And if the choices by American institutions and individual scholars have no effect on the ability of Israeli scholars to carry out their work, then the boycott is ineffectual and pointless.

    Corey Josh, I think what Sarah said above answers your question. The ASA is saying it will not engage in those sorts of partnerships. Now of course it doesnt really do that now. The hope is that other organizations would do the same, organizations that in fact do do that now. And that ultimately universities might do the same. For instance, Brandeis recently severed its program with Al Quds; the idea is that other universities would eventually sever similar type programs with Israeli universities. In addition, individuals would now, if they agree, no longer participate with Israeli academic institutions (accepting offers to speak or teach at those institutions). Before, individuals might not have done that b/c it would have been an entirely personal or individual affair; now, knowing that others will be doing that, they might be more inclined. The only quibble I have with what Sarah said is that scholars would only refuse to accept such invitations voluntarily; I dont think a voluntary refusal of association constitutes a violation of ones freedom to disseminate ones research and interact with students and scholars at other institutions.

    Chris Josh, merely making a choice less eligible by raising its cost doesnt impugn the freedom of someone to make it. (Leaving aside cases where cost of the action so threatens a persons vital interest that only the heroic or unimaginative would persist in making it.) So if American academics are less willing to collaborate with Israeli institutions because they would face social disapproval, they are nevertheless free do so, but Israelis will predictably find themselves with fewer opportunities to work with Americans.

    Josh I agree with Sarah Chinn. I think that if the boycott is meaningful, there will be some sense in which it limits academic freedom for Israeli scholars. Boycott supporters need to be prepared to affirmatively defend that.

    Chris writes, Merely making a choice less eligible by raising its cost doesnt impugn the freedom of someone to make it. I dont agree.

    Corey Josh, while Im sympathetic to the argument that academic freedom requires a certain infrastructure to be maintainedsee my comments abovethe problem with your argument is that it implies that if a university doesnt now have partnerships with Israeli institutions, that university is violating the academic freedom of Israeli scholars. (And by extension the academic freedom of scholars at any institution with which it does not have a partnership.) That cant be true. Or, it requires you to say that any time a university shuts down a partnership with another institutionfor whatever reasonit is violating the academic freedom of those who are engaged in the partnership. Again, that cant be true. The point Chris was saying earlier is that even if we accept the infrastructure of academic freedom argument, we have to establish a threshold by which that freedom can be met. I dont think we believe that maintaining partnerships is part of that threshold. Or do we? Im uncertain on all this.

    Chris Josh: I dont agree. Well of course you dont, youre an economist, and this is one of the conceptual deformations that economists are prone to.

    Josh Corey, how about this? Academic freedom requires that when making decisions about academic partnerships, one considers only scholarly criteria. One should not reject an otherwise preferred partner simply because of it its nationality. But this is just what the boycott requires.

    Josh Chris, think it is a violation of freedom of speech if the government fines you for stating a political view. That judgment doesnt depend on whether its a big fine or just a little one.

    Corey I dont see how that violates academic freedom, though. I dont know how administrators make decisions about academic partnerships right nowI would imagine such things as reimbursement rates from governments and other economic considerations play a huge rolebut Im fairly certain that only scholarly criteria isnt entirely accurate. Other factors inevitably come into play. Why is Yale setting up a partnership or whatever it is in Singapore as opposed to Iran? Im sure its not onlyor even to a large degreebecause of scholarly criteria. But while we can object to those partnerships for all sorts of reasons, I dont think violations of academic freedom would be among them. Except to point out that those societies may not be exactly hospitable to notions of academic freedom.

    Chris Thats true Josh, but it is the law under which you are fined that restricts your freedom (the sovereign is commanding you not to state that view). The fine isnt the price of violation. Hobbes is quite good on this IIRC.

    Chris Academic freedom requires that when making decisions about academic partnerships, one considers only scholarly criteria. Thats nonsense! Academic freedom does not require me always to choose a better scholarly collaboration over one that would bring greater financial benefits to me or my institution.

    Josh Corey, Chris: I was just putting out an idea. Im not committed to it.

    But again, I feel the specific issue of academic partnerships is kind of a red herring. If this movement is successful, it wont stop there.


    That was basically the end of the discussion.

    Let me make three final comments on issues that didnt come up in our discussion.

    First, most of the major universities in the United States are currently pursuing partnerships with academic institutions in Abu Dhabi, China, and other countries that are not exactly known as bastions of civil liberties. Its hardly a surprise then that the presidents of these universities would come out against the ASA boycott.

    Whatever their personal beliefs about the Israel-Palestine conflictlike other members of the American power elite, I suspect university presidents mouth the party line in public, while acknowledging the reality in privatethey have a vested interest in no one raising human rights concerns when it comes to the American academys dealings with other countries.

    Their ultimate concern has much less to do with Israel/Palestine than with the opportunities for expansion in China and other parts of East Asia. That doesnt prove their arguments wrong, by any stretch, but its important to keep in mind as critics of BDS start racking up statements from them.

    Second, the president of Indiana University has just announced that the university is withdrawing its institutional membership in the ASA because of the boycott. In the name of academic freedom. The statement makes no mention of whether the American Studies faculty were consulted on this decision, much less voted on it.

    But the bottom line is this: Indiana University is so opposed to boycotts of academic institutions in Israel that it is going to boycott an academic institution in the United States.

    I eagerly await the statements from the presidents of Yale, Harvard, and elsewhere, denouncing this decision. In the meantime, lets look on the plus side: even the critics of the ASA decision have accepted that it is perfectly legitimate for academics and universities to engage in an academic boycott of institutions they find politically objectionable.

    Finally, youll notice that nowhere in this discussion does the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars come up. Thats not a fault of the participants; its a function of how I raised the issue. Even so, its a mirror of how the larger discussion in this country has gone down.

    Here we are, twisting ourselves into pretzels in order to figure out how exactly the academic freedom of an Israeli scholar is being violated, when it wouldnt require a high school sophomore more than a moments reflection to see how it is routinely violated in Palestine. Have American academics ever put this much effort into worrying about the academic freedom of Palestinians?

    If youve ever wondered at the bitterness of the Palestinian people, perhaps you could put yourselves into the shoes of a fellow academic or intellectual in the West Bank or Gaza, as they read these pronunciamentos from the Ivy League.

    So much concern for the Israeli scholar, whoeven with the boycottwill have tenure; a comfortable, well-paying job; an easy way to get there; access to all the academic journals; an office, a classroom, students, and the internet; the ear of the world.

    And for the Palestinian scholar? Not a word.

    Comment by mshihade on Tue, December 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm


  19. Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

    Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions by the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
    December 15, 2013

    The council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) declares its support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

    A broad coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, acting in concert to represent the Palestinian people, formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Their call was taken up in the United States by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. A NAISA member-initiated petition brought this issue to NAISA Council. After extensive deliberation on the merits of the petition, the NAISA Council decided by unanimous vote to encourage members of NAISA and all who support its mission to honor the boycott.

    NAISA is dedicated to free academic inquiry about, with, and by Indigenous communities. The NAISA Council protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.

    As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples.

    NAISA is committed to the robust intellectual and ethical engagement of difficult and often highly charged issues of land, identity, and belonging. Our members will have varying opinions on the issue of the boycott, and we encourage generous dialogue that affirms respectful disagreement as a vital scholarly principle. We reject shaming or personal attacks as counter to humane understanding and the greater goals of justice, peace, and decolonization.

    As scholars dedicated to the rights of Indigenous peoples, we affirm that our efforts are directed specifically at the Israeli state, not at Israeli individuals. The NAISA Council encourages NAISA members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.

    Comment by mshihade on Tue, December 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm


  20. USACBI Congratulates the American Studies Association for Endorsement of Academic Boycott of Israel

    December 16, 2013 The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) ccongratulates the American Studies Association following todays announcement that its membership has endorsed the Associations participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in such a referendum in the history of the organization, 66.05 percent of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5 percent of voters voted no, and 3.43 percent abstained.

    Nada Elia, professor and USACBI organizing committee member noted, “This is not only a victory for Palestinians.  It is a victory for all who believe in justice for an indigenous people who have faced ongoing dispossession. It is a victory for global justice, for academic freedom, for freedom of expression, for believing in the power of the people to bring about the much-needed changes that politicians refuse to consider. Through the grassroots organizing efforts of many, we are building a more just world.

    The original resolution, which the ASA Activism Caucus proposed a year ago, was discussed at the 2013 ASA convention in Washington D.C, and modified in response to ongoing discussions. In turn, the ASA National Council adopted it. The National Council opened the question to the entire membership to ensure that the adoption of the resolution adequately represented the association. During the voting process, many academics and groups demonstrated support for the adoption of the resolution through articles and statements, including the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors, and Students for Justice in Palestine - National and local chapters.

    Sunaina Maira, ASA Activism Caucus member, added, Today, we are grateful not just for the ASA membership’s decision to endorse BDS, but also for the process that the ASA National Council chose to adopt, as it created the space and time to learn about the conditions Palestinian students and academics face as a result of Israeli policies and to engage with the serious questions about our responsibilities and methods for bringing about change.

    In response to the Palestinian call for the international community to engage in and utilize the tactics of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, US-based academics and student organizers have brought critical discussions on Palestine, Israel and US complicity to campuses across the country through boycott and divestment resolutions.

    This historic vote follows the Association of Asian American Studies endorsement of a boycott resolution in May and numerous student divestment resolution endorsed by student senates in California. 

    The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has organized to challenge growing ties between Israeli and US academic institutions and to challenge the Brand Israel project of normalizing Israel through cultural events.

    Press Contacts:

    Sunaina Maira, American Studies Association Activism Caucus member | 1.510.688.1332, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Nada Elia, organizing member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel | 1.425.736.4859, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Jesse Ghanam, organizing member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel | 1.415.726.3951,  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Comment by smaira on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm


  21. Psalm Three

    On the day when my words
    were earth…
    I was a friend to stalks of wheat.
    On the day when my words
    were wrath
    I was a friend to chains.
    On the day when my words
    were stones
    I was a friend to streams.
    On the day when my words
    were a rebellion
    I was a friend to earthquakes.
    On the day when my words
    were bitter apples
    I was a friend to the optimist.
    But when my words became
    flies covered
    my lips! ...

    Mahmoud Darwish

    Comment by Neferti Tadiar on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm


  22. “The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Associations participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organizations history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Councils announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval. Please see the ASA website for a collection of supporting documents.”

    It is the largest participation in the association’s history.

    People are fed up with silencing and intimidation. That is what can one read from the vote, and the support the resolution received.

    It is no longer a minority, and not just at the ASA.

    Comment by mshihade on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm


  23. So, 826 members out of 5,000 voted to support the boycott.  This is not impressive.  The whole process is deeply flawed and represents a power grab by a small minority with a highly political agenda.  I’m disappointed.

    Comment by Joy Kasson on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm


  24. Dear ASA Members,

    As you may know by now, the resolution unanimously approved by the ASA National Council calling for a boycott of Israeli universities has received an overwhelming majority vote from the ASA membership. The Caucus on Academic and Community Activism that initiated the resolution considers this a moment of historic victory for the academic boycott and for academic freedom.

    Your support for the BDS movement is unprecedented in the US academy, and we are proud that it has had ripple effects nationally and globally as we have taken up serious discussion of the resolution.  After several years of discussion in ASA, it is exciting to see that an academic boycott of Israeli universities now has the support of the organization, and of the many members who over the past year have engaged in vigorous debate and thoughtful discussion about the reasons to support an academic boycott.

    The significance and wider support for the ASAs adoption of this resolution are reflected in the number of non-ASA members who have come out in support of the resolution. Over 4,300 people and 150 organizations thanked the ASA for its support for academic boycott
    (http://www.endtheoccupation.org/ThankYouASA), and the ASA has received an eloquent letter of thanks from Palestinian academics


    We appreciate the sensitivity of this issue, and that even during moments of intense disagreement the discourse amongst members of the ASA has been civil and respectful. This gives us hope that we can move forward as members of the ASA to work on issues of shared concern. This vibrant and vigorous discussion surrounding the boycott breaches the silence that has dominated the US academy when it comes to honest and open deliberation about Israels treatment of the Palestinians and opposition voices, and enlarges the space to engage in open and serious discussion about Palestine, Israel, the occupation, settler colonialism, apartheid, and US foreign policy. We thank the National Council and the ASA leadership for their unanimous support and all their hard work. We also thank the hundreds who supported this resolution. Given the policing of criticisms of Israel in the mainstream media and in the US academy, we consider your votes and the eloquent and passionate articles, blog entries, and letters written on behalf of the resolution to register a historic step forward in what is a peaceful and democratic movement to create justice for Palestinians.

    We have every intention of building on this victory. As the ASA adopts this movement for antiracist and transnational solidarity, the Caucus is determined to abide by its principles in our academic work, in response to what our Palestinian colleagues have asked of us. In addition, we aim to build a network within the ASA that will work to center questions of the place of Palestine in American Studies, and to explore its articulations with members commitments to indigenous, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, labor, feminist, LGBTQ, and disability-related struggles. We also want this network to be a place of support for those who may face reprisals or harassment due to their public support for the academic boycott, so that we can also work in solidarity with one another and with the untenured faculty and graduate/undergraduate students who courageously advocated for the ASA boycott resolution.

    Second, we urge you to be involved in building the larger movement for an academic boycott across the U.S., and in working within other academic associations and with your colleagues and departments/programs on your campuses. We ask each of you to go to the USACBI site

    and endorse the national call for academic boycott, if you have not done so already. If you have done so, we urge you to ask your colleagues to endorse.

    In addition to celebrating the monumental passing of this resolution, we look forward to working collectively as part of a solidarity network to
    shape a vision and set of actions so we can carry on the work of the BDS movement and work towards justice, freedom, and democracy in our organizing as well as in our scholarship. We hope to see you at future meetings of the ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism!

    You may join the Caucus by going to this site: http://www.theasa.net/caucus_activism/ and contact us at:
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    In solidarity and with best wishes for the new year,

    The ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 1:44 pm


  25. The ASA membership has voted overwhelmingly to support BDS.

    The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Associations participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organizations history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Councils announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval. Please see the ASA website for a collection of supporting documents.

    One year ago the ASA Executive Committee was asked to consider a resolution from the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the Association. The EC then forwarded the resolution to the National Council and, following a lengthy period of careful deliberations, the Council unanimously voted to draft a revised resolution and to recommend members endorse it.

    The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians. The ASAs endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israels violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members.
    The National Council engaged and addressed questions and concerns of the membership throughout the process. During the open discussion at the recent convention, members asked us to draft a resolution that was relevant to the ASA in particular and so the Councils final resolution acknowledged that the US plays a significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Members asked for clarification about how the resolution would affect the ability of ASA members to engage with colleagues in Israel, and the Council developed guidelines specifying that collaboration on research and publications between individual scholars does not fall under the ASA boycott. Members asked us to deliberate carefully and consider diverse opinions and the Council thus deliberated for 8 days. Members asked that we create spaces for discussion and the Council established a lively Facebook page. Finally, members asked the National Council to put the resolution to a vote and the Council listened.

    The ASA National Council thanks all who took seriously the task of debating and discussing the resolution. As the nations oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, the Associations mission includes the ongoing study and discussion of pressing issues faced by the US and the world. As part of that process and in keeping with the ASAs commitment to academic freedom, we are thus pleased to announce plans to bring Israeli and Palestinian academics to the 2014 national convention in Los Angeles.

    At the same time we look forward to continuing the Associations other work such as further supporting graduate student travel to the conference. Most important, we are making plans to add a regular DuPont Circle-based staffer who will organize a joint task force with the members of the Departments, Programs and Centers Committee to provide support for programs under review or experiencing other challenges.


    The ASA National Council


    Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, Cornell University
    Office: (607) 255-3546
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It is worth noting in this respect that just as the myth of American exceptionalism seeks to erase the genocide and ongoing settler colonialism of Indigenous peoples here in the United States so the myth of Israeli exceptionalism seeks to erase Israeli colonialism in Palestine and claim original rights to Palestinian lands. It is from these personal and professional positions that I applaud the decision of the NC to support the Academic boycott of Israel, which I support, and urge ASA members to affirm that support with their votes.

    Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, UC Santa Cruz
    Office: 831-459-5332, 831-459-1924
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine make this resolution an ethical imperative for the ASA. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King—that justice is always indivisible—it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue

    Ashley Dawson, Professor, College of Staten Island; editor, AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom
    Office: 718.982.3673
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I am in favor of the boycott. As someone born in South Africa during the darkest days of apartheid, I simply cannot cleave to an abstract notion of academic freedom that ignores the material inequalities that structure people’s rights to speak and to be heard. As Robin D. G. Kelley and Erica Lorraine Williams remind us in their eloquent commemoration of Nelson Mandela, Israel’s settler colonial policies have created conditions for Palestinians that bear close comparison with those meted out by the apartheid regime in my homeland. These conditions directly impinge on the academic freedom, as well as the life possibilities, of Palestinian intellectuals. From Editors closing Statement, AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, 2013.

    Robin D.G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, UCLA
    Office: 310-825-3469
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The ASA Resolution supporting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been grossly mischaracterized as an assault on academic freedom. On the contrary, it is one of the most significant affirmative acts any scholarly organization has proposed in defense of academic freedom since the anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian students and faculty living under occupation do not enjoy academic freedom, let alone the full range of basic human rights. Even the critics of the Resolution recognize this fact and are quick to proclaim their concern over Israels occupation and the plight of Palestinians. However, they argue that the boycott would, in turn, punish Israeli academics unfairly. But the truth is, Israeli scholars also suffer under the current status quo. They are denied genuine collaborative relationships with intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Gaza, and Israeli intellectuals critical of the regimes policiesmost famously historian Ilan Pappehave been harassed, censored, and in some cases forced into exile. Much like the academic boycott of South Africa during the apartheid era, the point of the resolution is to pressure academic institutions and the state, complicit in the policies of occupation, dispossession, and segregation to comply with international law and make real academic freedom possible. The lessons from South Africa are very clear: boycott forced complacent academics to rethink their personal and institutional relationship to apartheid, to talk to each other across the color line, and to better understand how their own work relates to social justice. If adopted, the ASA Resolution will create the conditions for genuine intellectual exchange, free of the states political imperative to legitimize the occupation, and grounded in a politics of inclusion, justice, and equality.

    David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English, UC Riverside
    Office: (951) 827-5301
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    —The significance of this stand for justice for Palestinians

    The resolution that ASA has endorsed responds to the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions made by the great majority of Palestinian civil society organizations. It represents the ASAs recognition that in any act of global solidarity, we should follow the initiative of those who are oppressed, much as US civil society did in following the lead of the ANC in opposing South African Apartheid. The ASA is proud to be the second US academic organization to pass such a resolution and believes that in doing so it has significantly furthered the awareness that, no less than any other group, Palestinians scholars and students are fully entitled to enjoy the fundamental rights of academic and other universally recognized freedoms.

    —The charge of anti-semitism and the charge that boycott violates academic freedom (actually, I think that these are fundamentally the same charge)

    The boycott targets institutions, not individual scholars. It leaves individuals free to enjoy the benefits of academic freedom, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion, and seeks to extend those benefits to all scholars without condition. The boycott thus extends academic freedom to Palestinian scholars without denying it to Jewish scholars, Israeli or otherwise. It targets institutions on the basis of what they do not what they are: it does not target them because they are Jewish or Israeli, but because of their complicity in Israels systemic and ongoing violations of human rights and international law. These are practices, and therefore capable of termination or modification. What would be truly anti-semitic would be to accept that all Jews are de facto identified with a single state and its policies.

    —The claim that Americanists have no stake in Israel/Palestine

    By definition, the study of America includes both the study of its own colonial and imperial past and the study of its international relations. No state has benefited more in recent decades from US material and political support than Israel and perhaps no people has been more continuously impacted by US global interests than the Palestinians. The US relation to Israel/Palestine is therefore not only a relevant but a pressing object of analysis for American Studies. The boycott resolution is in keeping with the Associations long-standing ethical commitment to translating analysis into morally informed action (from condemnation of the war on Iraq to support for hotel workers).

    —The claim that academic organizations have no business taking political stands

    The ASAs members have learnt and taught that every substantial advance in real and material freedom for people subject to racism, colonization and discrimination has come through intellectual analysis that finds expression in practice and in the alliance with social movements working for justice. No more than political freedom is academic freedom the private possession of the privileged. It has meaning only if it is translated into action and only if we are not afraid to translate our understanding into collective action for justice. The boycott is in fundamental agreement with these principle and therefore with those that inform the ASA.

    Lisa Lowe, Professor, Tufts University
    NOTE: does not want to talk with media, do not give any contact info
    The collective practice of non-cooperation with institutions has a long distinguished international history, and the ASA resolution on the academic boycott of Israel situates itself squarely in this tradition. Moreover, it is a mode of engaging both U.S. and Israeli publics to discuss, deliberate, and grapple with responsibility and complicity in the ongoing conditions suffered by Palestinian people in the occupied territories. By putting the resolution to a vote now, the ASA expresses its view that it is no longer possible for academics of conscience to stand on the sidelines. The vote on the resolution calls on us to reckon with our implication in the unjust treatment of this people, and of the many people, dispossessed and dehumanized by military occupation.

    Alex Lubin, Associate Professor of American Studies, American University of Beirut and on-leave, University of New Mexico
    Emails: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Skype: abqalex

    Academic freedom means very little when it takes place in a context of segregation and apartheid. Change came to the Jim Crow South not through academic dialogue, but through protest and, in some cases, through boycotts of the institutions that fostered segregation. Change came to South Africas apartheid system not through academic dialogue, but through protest, resistance, and an international boycott. Those of us who value academic freedom must always struggle to ensure that the world surrounding academia provides the basic human rights that enable academic life. Published in the Nation, December 13, 2013.

    The boycott resolution is intended to address a profound case of discrimination against Palestinians and is consistent with the ASAs previous endorsement of anti-racist positions in other areas. The resolution does not target Israelis, Jews, or any individuals; indeed, the ASAs support for the boycott affirms its opposition to all forms of racial discrimination, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
    The boycott targets Israeli State institutions that violate Palestinian academic freedom. The resolution very clearly does not infringe on individuals academic or other freedoms. Israeli and Palestinian scholars will not only be welcome at future ASA conference, they will also be recruited. In this way, the ASA will make clear in words and deeds that while it will ask its members to not travel to, nor to establish institutional affiliations with, Israeli institutions the boycott is not against individuals.

    This has been a clarifying moment for the American Studies Association; indeed, it is a profound example of what the American Studies scholar, Gene Wise, once called a paradigm drama. Long-time ASA members and recent ones, graduate students and emeriti faculty, could be found on either side of this issue. While I feel strongly that the ASA made the right decision to support the boycott resolution, I recognize that many colleagues disagree. In no way should the passage of this resolution exclude or marginalize ASA members who opposed it. The boycott resolution is not about severing intellectual connections or shutting down conversation; it is about extending academic freedom and enabling free speech.

    David Palumbo Liu, Louise Hewitt Nixon Professor, Stanford University
    Office: 650 725 4915
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    People who truly believe in academic freedom would realize protesting the blatant and systemic denial of academic freedom to Palestinians, which is coupled with material deprivation of a staggering scale, far outweighs concerns we in the West might have about our own rather privileged academic freedoms.

    There is no restriction whatsoever of individuals’ academic freedom—this is a boycott by an academic organization against academic institutions in Israel. Individual ASA members are to follow their consciences; both Israeli and Palestinian scholars are invited to participate in ASA events.

    Fred Moten, Professor, University of California, Riverside
    Phone: (951) 827-5301
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    If, by academic freedom, we mean the unfettered exercise and exchange of speech, thought and research by every member of the global academic community, including both Israelis and Palestinians, then the ASAs endorsement of the call for boycott and sanctions of Israeli academic institutions complicit in the administration of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands is a significant advance in our assertion and protection of it. The responsibility of intellectuals is not only to exercise academic freedom but also to theorize and work to enact the conditions that make it possible, meaningful and universal. Thought is irreducibly social, irreducibly public, irreducibly human. When we callously accede to the exclusion of so many from the conditions that foster its free exercise we violate our own commitment to fulfill its responsibilities. The global history of settler colonialism is the history of the administration of such exclusion. Those of us who study the history and culture of the United States of America know that it has played and continues to play a major part in this tragic and brutal history, both within its own borders and everywhere it seeks to extend, consolidate and instrumentalize its power. In endorsing the call for boycott that first emanated from Palestinian civil society but is increasingly echoed by Israeli activists and intellectuals concerned with the moral and political sustainability of their country, we recognize that what it is to be a friend of the state of Israel and what it is to insist upon the right of the Jewish people to live and thrive in a just world are two entirely different things. There is and can be no such world in the absence of the Palestinians right to live and thrive as well. Israeli intellectuals Adi Ophirs and Ariella Azoulays description of the occupation and its administration as a practice of incorporative exclusion is apt not only with regard to Israeli policy but with regard to American policy as well. My support of the ASAs position is animated by the hope that this endorsement refreshes our capacity to think, speak and act against the structures and effects of incorporative exclusion that viciously shape and define the modern world.

    Barbara Ransby, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Phone: 312-996-2961
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Professional organizations and individual scholars not only have the right but the obligation to speak out against what we deem to be unethical practices by our institutions and the Academy in general. Moreover, it would be a gross violation of academic freedom to punish any individual professor for expressing his or her political views or critical analysis on a controversial issue. During the McCarthy era intellectuals were persecuted and blacklisted for their left wing views. In the Jim Crow South faculty members lost their jobs for supporting the Civil Rights Movement and opposing racism and segregation. Censorship and political intimidation was wrong then and it is wrong now. Today many academics, after much reading, research, debate and deliberation, have decided to support BDS as a nonviolent response to the unjust treatment of our colleagues and counterparts, students and others living under Israeli Occupation in Palestine. I applaud and support The American Studies Association in its ethical stance on this issue, an issue which in the final analysis, is not mainly about Jews or Palestinians, but about justice.

    John Carlos Rowe, Professor, University of Southern California
    Phone: (213) 821-5594
    E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I realize this is a controversial resolution, but it is in keeping with our activist history. It is not directed at individual citizens and academics in Israel, but at academic institutions that have been demonstrated time and again their complicity with state policies intended to discriminate against the Palestinian people. During the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, we attempted and in some cases successfully closed American colleges and universities because they were part of the military-industrial complex. This resolution does the same kind of work. During the Divestment campaign to prevent retirement (and other) funds from being invested in companies doing business with Apartheid South Africa, we recognized the importance of what was at the time termed symbolic action. (In fact, divestment resulted in real economic consequences for South Africa). This resolution does the same work.

    Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Professor, Barnard College
    Email contact only: nxtadiar@gmail

    The overwhelming support for this resolution heralds a new era of anti-racist, anti-colonial solidarity. It signals an American Studies unafraid to challenge some of the most hallowed underpinnings of global empire, including the imperative to uphold formal freedoms regardless of the dispossession and violence on which those freedoms depend. It is evident that the resolution’s passing has already generated a level of intellectual inquiry, engagement and exchange that is invigorating not only for the academic field but also for the broader arenas of public debate and political action.

    Robert Warrior, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Office: (217) 265-9870
    Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    This resolution achieves the clarity of balance that Edward Said, who was one of my teachers in graduate school, modeled at the intersection of scholarship and imperialism. I am proud to have the leaders of our association not only endorse the Palestinian call to academic and cultural boycott, but to advance our understanding of how to do so through a long, clear, and democratic process that has invited broad and lively participation.

    Comment by mshihade on Mon, December 16, 2013 at 10:39 am


  26. Response to koppelmn
    koppelmn argues that David Lloyd misrepresented her/his arguments, and states: At issue, for me, is the relationship between teaching students to be activists and teaching students to be critical thinkers. These aims, on the part of teachers, are not mutually exclusive and in fact are mutually informing.

    Agree, but actually and again that is the main point in Lloyds response, that we do not teach, as such, but make a space for the students to develop their skills including critical thought, and most importantly not to take hegemonic histories/narratives as a given. Sometimes, students teach us, especially if they went through experiences that the teachers did not, which includes wars, repression, genocide, displacement, dispossession, slavery, marginalization, and many other things that the privileged in this country did not experience.

    It seems on all issues that koppelmn raises here and the previous posting (Israeli democracy, democracy, American history) that s/he is unhappy with critical thought of these dominant ideas and activism for change so that the repressed and repressed history has more space especially in the academy. To speak about, be critical of dominant American history, and of the democracy of the Israeli state, and to work for a change, seem to be neither the intellectual nor the activist endeavors that you so dearly hold as you say. Or, should we keep business as usual on these issues, among others?

    The narrative of complicity with dominant American history, and Israeli democracy is available to everyone, including the students, in schools, mainstream television and radio stations and films. Does koppelmn wish to reproduce complicity in the academy, in academic associations, so that the repressed remain buried and or marginalized?

    Koppelmn further states: I was not disparaging the subjects of the last thirty years of scholarship at all—and why readers of my post would think I was doing so puzzles me. However, just because we can conceptually deconstruct injustices that people suffered in the past does not mean that people at the time had the intellectual chops we have and so could have thought, felt, and acted differently than they did. Whether they could, and the extent to which they could, is a matter of historical investigation. This is what I mean when I write about the absence of historical understanding.

    Not sure about that either. To claim that people were not aware of genocide, slavery, segregation, and had no capacity to understand them, is simply to generalize in the least, or to help further in evasion and repression of responsibility, something also that helps in this case to repress the responsibility of U.S and complicity with the racist policies of the Israeli state. Again, the beautifying representation of the American past, and present, and so also that of the Israeli state, is all over including in schools and in the academy. The critical voices of students and academics are in the minority, and this is changing due to the work of many here, but also to global factors that must not be ignored.

    S/he further states: The troubling feature of the ASA’s boycott effort is its wish to resolve its own internal contradictions. The ASA wants to both stand for academic freedom and simultaneously abrogate it. Go ahead. But notice that it’s contradictions like these that historians, and particularly labor historians, have often shown are exactly the moments of crisis when a new world is in the making which the players making that world could not see, even as they remained staunchly committed to values they held dear.

    Again s/he repeats the same slogans that the boycott curtails academic freedom. My first question: for whom? And my second one is: how do you know that it will curtail freedom? Has it been tried? Has the boycott against Apartheid South Africa curtailed freedom, and for whom??

    S/he further states: There is so much more that the ASA could do to promote social justice in other countries. But the work is slower and more painstaking than standing on moral high ground is. I wish to collaborate with others who are interested in doing that work.

    We are happy to help in promoting justice here, in Palestine, and everywhere. There is no contradiction between the tactic of boycott and working for social justice, and hence the contradiction lies in your position, not in the ASA. We are not afraid to take this stand, neither are we confused, and we do not have interpretations of colonialism, because such a stand is the stand of the privileged, of those complicit, or confused, and it is not the understanding or the interpretation of those who called for the boycott of Israel until it adheres to international law, and international agreements, and ends to be the exception, especially in the U.S.

    The boycott will open more space for critical thought, comparative work, and more serious involvement with causes of justice that is reflective of a deep intellectual engagement. So, hopefully, you will join us in taking ethical and intellectual stands that can contribute to bringing justice to all those who are under settler colonial structure, a system of apartheid, repression, marginalization, and exclusion.

    Comment by mshihade on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm


  27. To the National Council of the American Studies Association:

    We commend the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution joining a global response to the call of the Palestinian civil society to end Israeli occupation.

    We support the ASA National Councils December 2013 resolution to endorse and honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, insofar as the Association is committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the struggle against all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, discrimination, and xenophobia, and to solidarity with aggrieved peoples in the United States and in the world.

    The ASA stance on the Israeli occupation in Palestine aligns with the academic principles of the Critical Filipino / Filipina Studies Collective (CFFSC) and our own academic interests to support the self-determination of marginalized Filipino/as throughout the global diaspora as well as other subjugated peoples throughout the world. To this end, CFFSC stands behind the ASA resolution viewing it as a brave act of international solidarity in support of the Palestinian peoples basic human rights.
    As Filipino and Filipino American academics, activists, organizers and allies, the CFFSC stands with all people resisting colonial domination, violent occupation, and dehumanizing racism. While the histories of the Philippines and Palestine are in no way equivalent, Filipino people have also experienced the denial of sovereignty and self-determination as exemplified throughout history and in particular to Philippine (neo)colonial relationship with the United States. Thus, we applaud the Associations public articulation and practice of anti-imperial politics in the 21st century. While the CFFSC is focused and committed to the confrontation of empire building grounded in the Philippines colonial history and neocolonial present, we find inspiration, hope, and points of commonality with other peoples resistance to injustice and oppression and in particular the resilient imagination and everyday practices of Palestinians in their struggles for freedom. For such reasons, we publicly support the ASA resolution and view it as a global justice, pro-democratic, and pro-peace position taken against state violence in Palestine.

    We urge executive officers, national council members, committee chairs and all relevant representatives of the American Studies Association to:

    **Publicize the ASAs historic stance by posting the text of the resolution in the American Quarterly, FaceBook and other official venues.

    **Provide a venue for ASA members to be able to communicate and support one another around issues that may arise from the resolutions passing.

    ** Focus plenary, mega-panels and/or panels/roundtables organized and accepted by the Program Committee on clarifying how members of the Association (as well as the Association more broadly) can move forward in implementing the resolution. Moreover, we encourage the organization of plenary, mega-panels and/or panels/roundtables that address how the ASA can use the BDS campaign to connect to issues relevant to API studies and anti-war and anti-racist movements.

    In Peace, Justice, and International Solidarity,
    The Critical Filipino and Filipina Studies Collective

    Comment by Neferti Tadiar on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm


  28. David Lloyd caricatures my image of first-year college students returning home to discuss what they learned during the first months in college.  My point was that this is, in fact, a serious moment when many young people reflect back to their families what they’ve been learning and thinking about.  At issue, for me, is the relationship between teaching students to be activists and teaching students to be critical thinkers.  These aims, on the part of teachers, are not mutually exclusive and in fact are mutually informing.  For several generations, the American intellectual class has wrestled with just how these aims inform each other.  My point was to show that certain broad questions about history have fallen out of favor in American Studies, such that an idealistic and wholly unrealistic view of democracy has taken hold of the moral imagination of many academics.  These are observations on American intellectual history, in which we all are playing a part.  But who cares about American intellectual history anymore?  Few in American Studies, that’s for sure.

    I was not disparaging the subjects of the last thirty years of scholarship at all—and why readers of my post would think I was doing so puzzles me.  However, just because we can conceptually deconstruct injustices that people suffered in the past does not mean that people at the time had the intellectual chops we have and so could have thought, felt, and acted differently than they did.  Whether they could, and the extent to which they could, is a matter of historical investigation.  This is what I mean when I write about the absence of historical understanding.

    The troubling feature of the ASA’s boycott effort is its wish to resolve its own internal contradictions.  The ASA wants to both stand for academic freedom and simultaneously abrogate it.  Go ahead.  But notice that it’s contradictions like these that historians, and particularly labor historians, have often shown are exactly the moments of crisis when a new world is in the making which the players making that world could not see, even as they remained staunchly committed to values they held dear.

    There is so much more that the ASA could do to promote social justice in other countries.  But the work is slower and more painstaking than standing on moral high ground is.  I wish to collaborate with others who are interested in doing that work.

    Comment by koppelmn on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm


  29. http://www.thenation.com/article/177596/academic-freedom-and-bds-movement

    On Academic Freedom and the BDS Movement
    By Omar Barghouti
    The Nation - 14 December 2013

    An effective isolation of Israeli academic institutions will undoubtedly curtail some privileges that Israeli scholars take for granted, like generous travel subsidies, but that has no bearing on their academic freedom.

    Comment by smaira on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm


  30. For a perspective on the powerful impact the boycott movement is having, that gives mention to the ASA, go here!

    “The wave of boycotts is spilling over from Europe to North America. Last week, the American Studies Association passed an unprecedented resolution calling to boycott Israeli universities. Later this month, lecturers in the association will vote on whether to ratify the resolution.”

    So glad the ASA can be part of this global movement to heed the Palestinian call for justice!

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm


  31. I expect I am not alone in finding koppelmns post (81) astonishingly condescending.  It is, in the first place, condescending to our undergraduates who are, in my experience, by no means elementary school children running home to mom and dad to chatter about what they learnt at school.  They are adults, many of whom have already engaged deeply in the practical world, holding down one or more jobs to pay for their education, or working with social justice organizations in their home or college neighborhoods.  They have, moreover, been shaped by Occupy and by virtually a lifetime of those other occupations, the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its wars in and on Somalia and Yemen, Libya and Syria. Most of them are daily affected by questions of social and racial justice as they struggle to get educated and they are quite capable of assessing the relation of their own inequitable situation with those that prevail elsewhere, including in Palestine.  Many of us have had the humbling experience in our classrooms of hearing those students grapple with difficult issues and coming to terms with new perspectives in ways that are for them at once intellectually and emotionally complex.  By and large, they show a capacity for self-reflexive judgment of their own prejudices and, in some cases, privileges, and can discuss, with an honesty sometimes painful to hear, the legacies of racism or of US imperialism that have affected them and of which they are now learning a more detailed history.  It is that capacity for engagement with pressing issues that does not shy away from the crucial passage from analysis into informed practice that has impelled so many of the current generation of our students to take up issues ranging from divestment from Israel to the burgeoning student debt.  We heard from such students at the Open Meeting as they displayed both eloquence and mature thoughtfulness.  They do not deserve our pedagogical condescension.

    koppelmn is also extremely condescending to the fine and nuanced scholarship that has been produced by members of the ASA over the past three decades.  Since s/he does not deign to name the works dismissed with such a sweeping and broad brush, one can only infer from the characterization of that scholarship that s/he intends the work of race critical scholars and those who have engaged with the USs self-evident imperial history in both particular and in comparative ways.  Such a high-handed dismissal of a large and complicated body of work, all of which really does teach something about how changing ideas about human rights and privileges frame political aspirations during different periods in history, is astonishing, though entirely in synch with the National Association of Scholars similar claim that such scholarship has enervated our discipline. 

    To pay attention to that scholarship and to what it has taught us, not only over the last three decades but in fact since the nineteenth century at least, is to appreciate the long legacy of critical scholarship that has not enervated itself by shying away from the practical implications of its intellectual findings.  One thing we might learn is that tactics like boycott are not hurried emotional responses to uninformed or simplifying political judgments, but arise precisely out of complex situational analyses of political conjunctures, conducted in the first place by those most affected by them.  The analysis that results in a call for boycott emerges both from very local and specific analyses of the workings of power and from a larger comparative framework. Palestinian civil society has very carefully considered the dynamics of power imposed upon it, understood the overwhelming coercive power of Israel, fully funded and politically supported by its US ally, and has determined that the strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions is a legitimate and viable means to shift the balance of grossly unequal power.  The frantic response of Israel and its supporters internationally to the growing public acceptance of the boycott movement suggests that their analysis and practice have been correct.  That is what it is to understand in practical as well as theoretical terms the dynamics of change and the workings of democracy.

    Palestinian civil society has called upon us to honor the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Even before a final decision has been made by the membership on endorsing the resolution, that call has had an extraordinary effect in promoting and enabling discussion and debate on an issue that has truly been a blind spot in US academic and public discourse.  And it has had an equally powerful impact on enhancing the democratic procedures of the ASA, unprecedented both procedurally and in the numbers who have participated in it.  Years of governmentally and NGO-sponsored dialogue, academic and otherwise, in Palestine/Israel since Oslo, have merely served as a convenient deferral of the peace process and as a cover for continuing Israeli expansion.  As so often, the appeal to complexity, the narcissistic ego-ideal of the academic, acts in the service of the deteriorating status quo.  The call for boycott has interrupted that form of business as usual, and has begun to shape the space where real dialogue based on parity, not coercion, is taking place.

    Comparative history tells us that it was not dialogue that brought Northern Irish Protestants to the table with Catholics, nor dialogue that brought white South Africans to negotiate with Mandela and the ANC.  It was the fact that their intransigent defense of the systemic discrimination on which their privileges were based had begun to exact too high a price.  In the case of South Africa, the international boycott movement was a considerable element in raising the cost of apartheid.  Israel continues to demand peace without justice and to insist on maintaining the privileges its peculiar laws and its military power secure.  Already the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is beginning to make the point that eventually that system of legal discrimination and coercive dispossession will have its costs.  Israeli academic institutions are an intrinsic and essential part of that system and guarantee the reproduction of racial privilege.  There is no reason for us to exempt them from the boycott for which our Palestinian colleagues have called.

    Comment by David Lloyd on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 11:29 am


  32. Professor Louise Cainkar, Marquette University and author of the award winning book, Homeland Insecurity:

    Thanks to the ASA National Council for taking this courageous step of supporting sanctions against academic institutions that by their actions and lack of actions maintain and support the ongoing occupation and dispossession of Palestinians. I gather by reading some of the critical comments that most of those who make them have never lived as a Palestinian. That experience of open air incarceration and constant humiliation forces Palestinians to live well below accepted standards of human dignity. After witnessing decades without positive change and aware that it is sheer power that keeps it this way, I agree that firm international pressure needs to be applied. There is no doubt that Israeli academic institutions are only one piece of the global machinery that systematically does not stand up for or actively denies justice. And surely justice is denied not only for Palestinians but for many with whom we share this world and this life. Those whose main concerns lie in the degradations of humanity occurring in other places across the globe should rally for those beliefs. It takes courage to fight for human freedom.

    Comment by Nadine N on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 10:57 am


  33. Thanks to ASA from Barbara Ransby, Professor of Gender Studies, History and African American Studies, author of award-winning books, Ella Baker and Eslanda; founder and director of the Social Justice Institute at UIC; and editor in chief of the journal SOULS.

    “Professional organizations and individual scholars not only have the right but the obligation to speak out against what we deem to be unethical practices by our institutions and the Academy in general. Moreover, it would be a gross violation of academic freedom to punish any individual professor for expressing his or her political views or critical analysis on a controversial issue. During the McCarthy era intellectuals were persecuted and blacklisted for their left wing views. In the Jim Crow South faculty members lost their jobs for supporting the Civil Rights Movement and opposing racism and segregation. Censorship and political intimidation was wrong then and it is wrong now. Today many academics, after much reading, research, debate and deliberation, have decided to support BDS as a nonviolent response to the unjust treatment of our colleagues and counterparts, students and others living under Israeli Occupation in Palestine. I applaud and support The American Studies Association in its ethical stance on this issue, an issue which in the final analysis, not mainly
    about Jews or Palestinians, but about justice.”

    Comment by Nadine N on Sun, December 15, 2013 at 10:54 am


  34. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2299

    The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees Warmly Salutes the American Studies Association for its Principled Solidarity

    14 December 2013—We at the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) warmly salute the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) in the United States for standing in solidarity with our struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine and endorsing a resolution for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions on December 4, 2013, following the widespread support for the boycott at the associations annual meeting in Washington D.C. [1]

    We are deeply moved and inspired to hear that hundreds of ASA members attended sessions on Palestine and resoundingly applauded speaker after speaker who explained the moral and political imperative of boycotting Israel and its complicit institutions as a concrete contribution to ending its regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. We know that this support rising up from deep within the belly of the US empire broke the climate of fear and intimidation that was created by well-endowed Zionist organisations in the United States, and represents a powerful turning point for the Palestine solidarity movement in the US and worldwide.

    PFUUPE would like to commend the conscientious intellectuals who worked tirelessly to bring this resolution before the ASAs National Council. We salute the courage and determination with which they confronted the virtual silence within the US academy, and faced the atmosphere of bullying produced by the Israeli state and its supporters.  Furthermore, we applaud the commitment of these academics to stand with us as we oppose the Israels daily denial of our academic freedom in the context of its overall denial of our human rights, through systematic ethnic cleansing, dispossession and institutionalized racism. We Palestinians have long been expected to remain silent and ignore if not celebrate (our) own oppression [2].  The ASA has broken a taboo. 

    The ASA National Councils unanimous endorsement of this resolution is an ethical stance [3] that opposes this oppression. Its message is a resounding no to the impunity with which the Israeli state maintains its multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people. This resolution is a victory for our movement and its use of boycott as a form of civil resistance that seeks to isolate the Israeli state and its complicit institutions internationally, until Israel abides by international law and restores the rights of all of the Palestinian people, as outlined in the BDS call. [4]

    As ASA members vote on this historic resolution, we would like to take this opportunity to address the members directly.  Comrades and colleagues, by adopting this resolution you will be building on the important precedence set by the Association for Asian American Studies, leading the way in integrating BDS into the academy, and strengthening our movement worldview in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equal rights to all other humans.

    Israeli academic institutions are not only complicit by virtue of their silence in the face of the racist, colonial laws and policies of the Israeli state, but they are also intimately part of this infrastructure of oppression through their organic links to the Israeli military establishment and their ties to the occupation regime.

    Adopting the academic boycott is not only a position in solidarity with Palestinian rights but a position that defends academic freedom as well. The boycott upholds the right of individuals to critique the Israeli states illegal and racist policies without facing criminalization or punishment, and it upholds the right of individuals to decline participation in sites of injustice. [5] Furthermore, the boycott is institutional and ASA has already gone to lengths to explain how it does not work to restrict collaboration with individual scholars.

    Comrades, like your organisation, we affirm that the struggle against racism, war, corporatization of academia and disenfranchisement of communities of color in the United States and the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine are interconnected. After all, your Congress, government and tax dollars are the main reasons why Israel can maintain its regime of oppression against us with such impunity. We remind you that in South Africa, the apartheid regime died on the sharp edges of principles, struggle and solidarity, not forgiveness, apologetics and compromise. [6] We firmly believe that it is only through principled international solidarity that contributes to bringing real pressure to bear on Israeli institutions that we can end their complicity in the oppression of our people.  You have an opportunity to join us by ratifying this historic resolution that will make a significant contribution to the struggle for freedom and dignity for all Palestinians.

    Comment by smaira on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm


  35. Thousands of first-year college students are returning home for the holidays.  Many of them have just completed their first college courses in American History or American Studies.  They probably dont know that the ASA will decide by midnight on December 15 whether to boycott Israel.

    Debates about the impending action have centered on the value of academic freedom.  Detractors claim that the boycott threatens such freedoms, whereas supporters assert that it highlights the lack of such freedoms for Palestinian scholars and students.  Both sides are right.  But both sides are wrong about the source of the boycott effort.  Its not anti-Semitism, and its not a morally rigorous understanding of social justice.  The source is the changing capacity of scholars who embrace American Studies as their professional home to engage in serious historical analysis.  Our profession is marked by a gradual erosion of curiosity about the nature of history writ large, and the place of democracy in history.

    The ASAs move reflects a blind spot that has developed over the last three decades in the field of American Studies.  Vexing questions of history once central to its scholarship and teaching have become marginal or, even worse, nonexistent.  The outcome is the organizations embrace of a good guys vs. bad guys view of history which cannot appreciate, and by extension teach, a more sophisticated analysis of the dynamics of change over time.  The ASAs move therefore bespeaks a pernicious weakness in higher education more generally:  the ability for college faculty who are trusted to understand democracy to teach young citizens how to think about and promote democracy.  Those first year students have just completed classes that were taught by many of us who are members of the ASA.  When our students arrive home for the holidays and their families ask them what they learned in college, it is unlikely that a complex view of history will be one of them.

    Polarizing interpretations of empire, colonialism, and the spread of capitalism throughout the world dangerously simplify the complexity of human history, and of the nature of historical understanding.  Such interpretations have no place or patience for open-ended questions such as these:  What is the reach of human agency during different moments in history?  How do economic, social, and political structures in particular times and places both foster and limit the conditions within which human action could occur?  How do changing ideas about human rights and privileges frame political aspirations during different periods in history?  And most central to the current boycott effort, How should we understand the history and challenges of modern democracy within and between nation states?

    Compared with the principles of empire, monarchy, tribalism, and clan which dominated power relations for centuries (and still do, in many parts of the world), and notwithstanding a brief period in ancient Greece, democracys principles are new.  According to the Democracy Index produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit in the U.K., in 1970 there were 42 electoral democracies in the world.  Today there are 123.  Modern information technologies have also democratized cultural exchange in ways that our ancestors could never have imagined.  The result is that the reach of the democratic imagination now far exceeds its political grasp.  As a worldwide phenomenon, democracy is largely untested.  In short, modern nations are novices at practicing with the recently-wrought instruments of democracy, and are far from able to live up to democracys highest ideals.

    The Democracy Index evaluates Israel as one of 53 flawed democracies, along with India, Brazil, France, and South Africa.  Rather than cut itself off from Israeli institutions, the ASA should be true to its mission as a confederation of experts who claim to possess a special understanding of the oldest democracy in the world.  It should partner with Israeli and Palestinian scholars and students directly through the institutions where robust mutual engagement is most likely to occur:  those which steward education.  Palestinian and Israeli society alike would benefit from the promotion of democratic institutions, governing structures, and habits of mind in and between themselves and countries where democratic aspirations are not yet matched by democratic cultural values.  An academic boycott devalues such engagement and thereby contributes to, rather than interrupts, the tragic direction of relations among Middle Eastern neighbors.  The fates of these neighbors are inextricably tied to one another.  Building capacity for democratic engagement is slow and patient work.  The ASA could contribute to that work.  Boycott makes that work impossible.

    Comment by koppelmn on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm


  36. Statement on support of BDS movement/academic boycott of IsraelBarbara Foley

    In my opinion the most persuasive reason to support the BDS movement in general, and the academic boycott in particular, is that a strong boycott will strengthen the movement against US imperialism.  Israel, while occasionally a bit of a loose cannon, primarily functions as the United States principal military outpost in the Middle East.  That it can present itself as an oasis of democracy in a desert of Arab authoritarianism is a crucial component of its spurious bid to legitimacy.  As we know from the history of the anti-apartheid movement, an effective economic boycott can constrain the ability of US capitalism to fund the activities of the Israeli state.  A boycott that reaches over into the realm of cultural and intellectual production, exposing the racism and repression upon which that state is founded, can also play a critical role in divesting Israel of its claim to be a bearer of enlightenment.

    It is crucially important that the academic boycott is aimed at institutions, not individuals.  There are plenty of Israeli academics who deplore their governments suppression of the Palestinians, as well as its nefarious connections with US capital.  These opponents of the Israeli regimealong with their analogues laboring under repressive conditions in Palestinian colleges and universitiesdeserve all the support that we can muster in the spirit of international solidarity.

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm


  37. From Barbara Harlow in Support of the ASA Resolution

    The ASAs executive decision at its annual meeting to submit for association-wide approval the resolution endorsing and honoring the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions sounded a clarion call for a renewed commitment to intellectual integrity and internationally recognized social and academic justice. Not only the protocols of academic freedom, but international human rights conventions as well are at stake in this support for equal Palestinian participation in the scholarly debates and dialogues, however controversial, in a historic conflict that continues to seek political resolution. The ASAs support for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions signals, indeed sets a standard for, new and critical imperatives for a US academic role in and contributions to a changed and changing world order.

    Barbara Harlow
    University of Texas at Austin

    Comment by mshihade on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 11:18 am


  38. Rajini Srinkath responds to Mae Ngai:

    Response to Mae Ngai
    I write as a scholar of Asian American Studies.  Certainly, divestment is a useful response, but divestment does not preclude academic boycott.  An academic boycott strikes at those institutional structures that create and perpetuate conditions in which one group can remain willfully ignorant about the corrosive impact of its power and privilege and its violation of the rights of another group and can continue to hold destructive stereotypes about this group.  Asian American Studies as you well know had its origins in Asian American students demanding that their college courses reflect the experiences and contributions of Asian American communities.  If anything, therefore, it should be particularly clear to Asian Americanists that withholding our support to Palestinians when they reach out and call for this act of solidarity to say No more! to the ways in which Israeli academic institutions perpetuate willful ignorance about the violation of Palestinian rights and racist views of Palestinians and deny Palestinians their academic freedom is to forget the circumstances in which Asian American Studies emerged.  Furthermore, when the situation for Palestinian students and academics continues to deteriorate, it is hard to argue that the left in Israel has had much of an impact.  Palestinian scholar Magid Shihade rightly argues that it is time, therefore, to strike at the heart of the Israeli academic enterprise that continues to reinforce structures of willful ignorance about Palestinian rights and thwarts the academic freedom of Palestinians.  Without trying this approach, how can we know whether it will or will not succeed. 

    Rajini Srikanth

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 6:58 am


  39. Letter of support and thanks to the ASA for endorsing the academic boycott, signed by 145 organizations and more than 4,000 individuals posted here:


    Comment by smaira on Sat, December 14, 2013 at 2:14 am


  40. Queer and trans people know that our solidarity is distorted if defenders of Israel frame that state as a haven of sexual and gender rights. Rhetoric like that of Debby Rosenthal (above) has been debunked as pinkwashing Israels occupation: by queer Palestinians in Palestine http://www.pqbds.com/about/ and internationally by activists http://queersagainstapartheid.org/faq/ and by scholars. https://www.dukeupress.edu/Israel-Palestine-and-the-Queer-International/

    We learn from such work that the state of Israel expanded sexual rights so as to compel Jewish LGBTQ citizens to support unending occupation http://glq.dukejournals.org/content/16/4/493.abstract. Meanwhile, queer Palestinians with Israeli citizenship experience the same second-class status and racism that other Palestinian citizens face; and, of course, no rights within the 1948 boundaries benefit Palestinians who live under occupation or in the diaspora. As aptly noted by Sami Shamali, member of Al Qaws, The apartheid wall was not created to keep Palestinian homophobes out of Gay Israel, and there is no magic door for gay Palestinians to pass through. http://mondoweiss.net/2011/02/palestinian-queer-activists-challenge-the-pinkwashing-of-the-israeli-occupation.html

    When Israels defenders associate that state with gay “freedom,” their rhetoric acts as a colonial discourse: by framing Palestine as barbaric and endangering, by erasing the existence of LGBTQ Palestinians who organize with their people, and by teaching queer / trans people abroad to split our solidarity. Instead, we can realize that no LGBTQ person will experience freedom in Palestine / Israel while occupation and colonization continue, and we can heed the demand from Haneen Maikey (Palestinian Queers for BDS and Al Qaws) that international queer / trans solidarity address the decolonization of Palestine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRRTH81MoFs

    This message is especially relevant to scholars in the ASA. In the U.S. and other settler states, gaining sexual or gender rights within the state frees queer / trans non-Natives to extend the settler colonization of Indigenous peoples and lands, as well as the states myriad white supremacist, global capitalist, or imperialist projects. The United States, Canada, and Israel all promote sexual modernity and sexual liberation as techniques to extend settler colonialism, an argument I have made elsewhere. http://glq.dukejournals.org/content/16/1-2/105.abstract http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2201473X.2012.10648848 Furthermore, Nada Elia indicates that Israel’s defenders adapt such tactics by taking inspiration from their uses in the settler colonization of North America. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2201473X.2012.1064884

    For these many reasons, queer and trans scholarship within the ASA is positioned well to critically engage the state of Israel and to answer calls for boycott from Palestinian civil society. Moreover, Palestinian Queers for BDS directs such calls quite precisely at LGBTQ and allied people worldwide. All of us who support queer and trans scholarship within the ASA can endorse the academic boycott of Israel knowing that in so doing, we answer the leadership of Palestinians queers who are determining the course of their own liberation.

    Comment by Scott Morgensen on Fri, December 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm



    The ASA National Council’s decision to recommend that the membership support the Academic Boycott of Israel is courageous. I use the word advisedly. We all know why publicly standing up for the rights of Palestinian people takes courage. The Israel lobby is relentless and unscrupulous in its pursuit of those who do so. On every campus in the country, those who have spoken up for Palestine will be vilified and abused. At the very least, they will be subjected to a sustained campaign of misinformation. More ominously, the Israel lobby will not hesitate to threaten their jobs if it believes that it scents an opportunity. We all know this to be true. We all feel the pressure, and we all know the risk we take in standing up for truth and justice for Palestine. But this is taking place in the United States. Imagine how much worse it must be for scholars in Palestine, daring to speak the truth to a brutal and unscrupulous occupying power. The boycott offers us a way to support our courageous fellow scholars in Palestine, and to do so in the name of the freedoms that the university has traditionally defended. I urge everyone to vote in favor of this noble boycott.

    Patrick Wolfe
    Freelance Historian, Australia

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Fri, December 13, 2013 at 2:11 am


  42. Letter of Support from Israeli Academics for the ASA Boycott Resolution


    Dear Friends at the American Studies Association.

    We at Boycott from Within are a group of political activists, academics and workers based in Israel who have joined the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against complicit Israeli institutions. We did not arrive at this position lightly. After decades of struggle for the rights of Palestinian we have come to the conclusion that international pressure needs to be applied to Israel to make it halt its policies of systematic dispossession of Palestinians. To take only one example of this process, the Israeli government very recently decided to raze a Bedouin village and build a Jewish village in its place 1. This is regular practice even without a government decision, last month the Israeli army destroyed the small village of Kha’let Mak’hul 2.

    Such acts are widely condemned but there are virtually no condemnations by Israeli institutions including in particular Israeli universities. On the contrary, the annual reports of Israeli universities highlight their service to the military and weapons industry. A 2009 report by the Israeli based Alternative Information Center details the complicity of virtually every Israeli academic institution in supporting the occupation 3. The call for various forms pressure on Israeli academic institutions is gaining support even inside Israel. When the military commander promoted the college at the settlement of Ariel to the rank of university Israeli academics signed a petition against recognizing the college as a university 4. When the EU proposed regulations that restrict funding to Israeli universities which fund projects on occupied land hundreds of Israeli academics signed a petition in support of the EU restrictions.5. Unfortunately this dissent is not able to change the structural connection of academic institutions with the military. Furthermore, the right wing ascent in Israeli politics is accompanied by a systematic assault on dissent in Israeli universities which has made such expressions of dissent much more rare than they were even 10 years ago.

    In addition to their cooperation with the army, Israeli universities serve an additional important role in perpetuating the occupation. The main effort of Israeli diplomacy has been to ‘re-brand Israel’ as a pluralistic westernized country. Much like South Africa under apartheid, the Israeli government is hoping to distract attention from its war crimes and institutional discrimination (in the words of the state department 2012 human rights report report. 6) by focusing attention on cultural and academic achievements. The universities and faculty members who volunteer to perform such service for the state are subverting the humanist quality of intellectual work in the worst way.

    We call on the American Studies Association to join other academics and artists and answer the call by Palestinian and refuse to cooperate with complicit Israeli institutions.

    Boycott from Within

    Comment by mshihade on Thu, December 12, 2013 at 8:52 pm


  43. Israeli activist Michael Zakim asked me to make you aware of his perspective as a dissenter inside Israel:
    I understand that your organization is soon to vote on officially embracing an academic boycott of Israel.  I wish to briefly respond to the issues at stake.

      I am not, in principle, averse to the notion of a boycott.  As a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, for instance, I announced to my commanding officers that I would refuse any order to take part in the suppression of the Palestinian intifada.  This was a kind of boycott.  You can imagine that undertaking such an act in a war-time army is not a simple step.

      I can also understand the political frustrations of American academics who find themselves observing the cruelties and injustice of Israeli occupation of Palestine from such a distance.  These same academics are citizens of a country with its own ample record of war crimes, of course.  But certainly no one can expect your organization to boycott itself!

      In assuming that the boycott is a genuine attempt at political engagement, its practical effects need to be acknowledged.  For the fact is, the boycott will directly bolster the forces of jingoism and repression within Israeli society, those which seek to isolate the country from more liberal and tolerant influences.  Im afraid that this will be your boycotts most significant and perhaps its only significant political effect.

      Of course, for the Leninists in your organization, making a bad situation that much worse makes perfect sense.  But for those of us on both sides of the border struggling for justice and, yes, I mean to speak for various Palestinian academics with whom I have ongoing professional and personal relationships strengthening our foes will be a disaster.

      Michael Zakim
      Department of History
      Tel Aviv University

    Comment by Simon J. Bronner on Thu, December 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm


  44. Writer, Poet, and Author of Geographies of Light Lisa Suhair Majaj thanks ASA:

    I was a longstanding member of the ASA until moving overseas. I have rarely felt so proud as when I read of the ASA’s decision to endorse the Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott. This resolution came soon after I returned from the West Bank, scarred and shaken by having experienced just a tiny part of how the occupation devastates Palestinian life. I was feeling close to hopeless—but ASA’s courageous stance has given me hope again. I will be rejoining ASA in the new year - this organization is one i want to be part of.

    Comment by Nadine N on Thu, December 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm


  45. A letter of support from the International Working Group of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association

    December 11, 2013

    To the National Council of the American Studies Association:

    We, the International Working Group of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), write to express support for your recent actions to discuss and decide upon the Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As our mission statement outlines,

    Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) has as its central goal the development of an approach to scholarship, institution building, and activism that is animated by the spirit of the decolonial, antiracist, and other global liberationist movements that enabled the creation of Ethnic Studies (Asian American Studies, Black Studies, Native American Studies, Arab-American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Postcolonial Studies) and continues to inform its political and intellectual projects. . . . CESA seeks to construct an open dialogue around white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, as well as militarism, occupation, indigeneity, neocolonialism, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, etc. in order to expand the conceptual parameters and transformative capacities of ethnic studies.

    Your recent actions model the principled approach to open dialogue on urgent matters of injustice that we seek to cultivate at our universities, in our communities, and within CESA. 

    Many of us were present at this years ASA meeting as members of the Association and as conference participants. We were impressed by the ways that the ASA created space for meaningful intellectual exchange regarding the relationship between the association and the call for boycott.  The process was open, participatory, and educative, bringing into public discussion an urgent issue that is significant within and outside the academy. The ASA National Councils statement on the proposed resolution was thoughtful, responsive, and respectful. We see your encouragement of critical dialogue on an otherwise silenced issue as serving the expansion of scholarly exchange.

    The call for BDS is a challenging resolution that incites passionate responses across the political spectrum. However, the responsible and ethical work of academic organizations is to engage politically controversial topics through dialogue and deliberation, in order to decide on a collective position. The call for BDS is one of the most relevant challenges to academic organizations today, and all organizations and institutions ought to engage the call and allow members to come to a decision on whether and how to respond.

    Thus, for scholars of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, the BDS call is something we cannot refuse to hear, to discuss, and to act upon. We are aware that aid provided by the US, Canada, and other governments to Israel directly harms Palestinian scholars and students. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed, Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. Academic institutions are already complicit in the apartheid conditions facing Palestinians. For that reason, we know there is no neutral position from which to receive the call for BDS. We commend the ASA for connecting the critical work it has long cultivated on issues of racism, colonialism and militarism to its own institutional status by heeding the call for boycott.

    CESAs International Working Group is currently discussing a resolution for boycott that has been proposed within our organization.  We urge scholars to participate in the ASA referendum, if applicable, and more broadly the discussions about BDS at our respective institutional locations.

    We thank the ASA for engaging your membership on this important issue and taking a principled stand.


    The International Working Group of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association

    Comment by Craig Willse on Wed, December 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm


  46. Robin Kelley and Erica Williams: “Madiba in Palestine”



    Finally, the experience of the anti-apartheid movements academic boycott has a great deal to teach us as we debate the decision on the part of the American Studies Association to support the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions (not individuals). We are reminded that the role of the boycott movement wasnt just economic or even primarily economic it was educational. The public campaigns made the world aware of the brutal character of apartheid, challenging South Africans white minority representation of itself as an enlightened democracy. According to Salim Vally, director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg and veteran of the movement, the boycott radically altered the internal politics of the university in South Africa by eliminating the option of neutrality and opening up debate over inequality, repression, and redress.

    As one of his white colleagues mused, Academic associations (some more than others) examined the nature and conditions of research in their disciplines, and faculty unions became part of broader struggles for justice rather than bodies protecting narrow professional interests. Universities became sites of intense debate, and, indeed, intellectuals became critically involved in debates about the nature of current and future South African societies. In the wake of the boycott, there was not a curtailing of academic freedom, then, but a flourishing of intellectual thought that was rich, varied, and exciting.

    Comment by smaira on Tue, December 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm


  47. Award-Winning Novelist Randa Jarrar Thanks ASA:

    “I stand in solidarity with the American Studies Association’s historic vote in support of the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli universities. Thank you for taking this important step forward towards justice.”

    Randa Jarrar, Assistant Professor
    MFA Program in Creative Writing
    California State University, Fresno
    Author of A Map of Home

    Comment by Nadine N on Mon, December 09, 2013 at 2:03 pm


  48. Long-time BDS activist Roger Waters has sent this letter of support for the ASA boycott to Alex Lubin:

    An Open Letter To All of You In The American Studies Association.

    I have been reading with growing interest about the American Studies Association’s up coming vote on their resolution to endorse an academic boycott on Israel.

    I am just a simple musician, but I have been advocating a cultural boycott of Israel since 2007. I have no words to express my profound support for all of you in the academic world.

    Your stand is fundamentally important because it is acknowledged that you can not only feel, but think as well. Steven Hawking’s refusal to go to Israel was a huge statement. We await your vote with bated breath.

    Our movement is growing. Obviously we all believe in Universal Human Rights for all The People of the region, and/but we also all know that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza is just, plain, wrong.

    So, not withstanding the opposition from the other lobby, which I know from personal experience can be formidable.

    I stand, in solidarity with you, and the Palestinian people,  your friend.

    Roger Waters

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Mon, December 09, 2013 at 12:21 pm


  49. Professor of Anthropology Jessica Winegar (Northwestern University) thanks the American Studies Association:

    “I am glad that the ASA has voted to boycott any engagement with Israeli institutions that are complicit in Israeli state policies and deny academic freedom to Palestinians and Israelis, especially those critical of Israel.  This is a brave move, and time will reveal this organization to be on the right side of history.”

    Comment by Nadine N on Mon, December 09, 2013 at 11:57 am


  50. From Anan Ameri, founder and former director of the Arab American National Museum:

    I want to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the American Studies Association for the historic and deeply needed vote to support and honor the Palestinian call for academic boycott of Israel. This is most appropriate timing as we pay respect to the great South African leader Nelson Mandela who lead the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.  This is a vote in support of Palestinian non-violent resistance to occupation and to end the Israeli apartheid regime. Congratulations on this timely and courageous vote.

    Anan Ameri, Ph.D

    Comment by Nadine N on Sun, December 08, 2013 at 4:46 pm


  51. Academic Freedom and the ASA’s Boycott of Israel: A Response to Michelle Goldberg
    Judith Butler | December 8, 2013

    I was appalled to read the article What Does the American Studies Associations Israel Boycott Mean for Academic Freedom? [1] in the The Nation online. Michelle Goldberg erroneously attributes to me a position against academic freedom and for the boycott from an article I wrote in 2006. In fact, if anyone were to consult that piece in Radical Philosophy [2], it would clearly be seen that at the time I did not support the cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and that the position attributed to me was one that I was characterizing for the purposes of explicitly disagreeing with that view. This is shabby journalism, and it points to the high level of irresponsible accusation that has marked the effort to demean the American Studies Associations principled and courageous stand. I believe that the only version of BDS that can be defended is one that is compatible with principles of academic freedom. That is my published view, and it has remained the same throughout my concern with this issue (I began to support the boycott in 2009). I believe Michelle Goldberg should retract this article or offer a public apology.

    Although I was not involved in the American Studies Association debates, I believe that the association should really be widely commended for soliciting and supporting such an open public debate. It was a clear step forward in fostering debate and discussion on such an important issue, very different than the speak out at UC Berkeley a few years ago that erupted in name-calling and physical attacks. So already, it seems to me, that it means something quite remarkable, namely, that voicing a viewpoint on this topic has become something that is worth hearing and debating, that there are reasonable views on several sides, and that many people are now in the process of figuring out what they think, what they wish, what aspirations are most important to them and how best to realize those goals. This new emergence of debate surely confirms the principle of academic freedom and militates against the spirit of censorship and the practice of calumny that would cut off debate and engage in debased caricatures.

    Although the attacks against those who support BDS have had a machine-like quality, reiterating the same claims, hurling the same accusations, showing an obstinate indifference to the specific arguments made on behalf of the BDS, they have also changed in time. And when it is not an individual who speaks, but an entire organization, then a discourse is opened, and an injustice becomes more clearly delineated, known and opposed. In fact, in the last year or so, it is less and less the case that those who openly support the boycott are immediately allied with terrorism; and it is no longer the case that those who openly discuss one or two-state solutions for Israel/Palestine are charged with genocidal views. Even within Israel, the boycott me movement has supporters like Neve Gordon and Gideon Levy. And now in the US, South Africa, Sweden and Hawaii, and among indigenous movements across the world, the BDS movement has gained support precisely because (a) it is a non-violent movement that focuses on illegal forms of dispossession, constraint and disenfranchisement, (b) it is the largest Palestinian non-violent civil movement, paralleled perhaps only by the prisoner rights movement, and (c) it is a call issued by Palestinian intellectuals, academics and activists, all of whom have come to the understanding that nation-states and international bodies refuse to enforce those international laws and norms that would bring the state of Israel into compliance. BDS is the option that non-state actors have, that populations have who are operating in universities, social movements, legal organizations, citizens, partial citizens and the undocumented. The BDS movement has become the most important contemporary alliance calling for an end to forms of citizenship based on racial stratification, insisting on rights of political self-determination for those for whom such basic freedoms are denied or indefinitely suspended, insisting as well on substantial ways of redressing the rights of those forcibly and/or illegally dispossessed of property and land (even as there are open debates at the present about what form that should take.)

    Those who may well acknowledge the justice of such claims may still object to the boycott on the grounds that it denies, potentially or actually, the academic freedom of Israeli citizens. But the BDS movement has taken an explicit stand against any discrimination on the basis of citizenship. And a significant number of Israeli academics have themselves joined the movement. Despite the irony that those living under occupation are themselves deprived rights of citizenship, the Palestinian leadership of PACBI (the academic and cultural boycott) still underscore in unequivocal language that discrimination on the basis of citizenship is unjustified and will have no place in the movement. When the claim is made, as it surely has been repeatedly and consistently, that BDS targets institutions and not individuals, that communicates clearly that any Israeli, Jewish or not, is free to come to a conference, to submit his or her work to a journal and to enter into any form of scholarly exchange. The only request that is being made is that no institutional funding from Israeli institutions be used for the purposes of those activities. Concretely, that means that US or other institutions can offer to pay for an Israeli citizen who usually relies on institutional support from his or her own country, that non-profit organizations can be solicited to cover travel costs, as they would for others who do not have the means to come to conferences, or that Israelis might pay from their own personal funds, as some already have elected to do. It also means that when Israeli scholars invite those of us who support the boycott to Israeli institutions, we decline, explaining that until those institutions minimally take a public stand against the occupation, we cannot come and support that silence, that status quo. The astonishing fact remains that no major Israeli university or cultural institution has actively opposed the occupation.

    That said, American Studies scholars can continue important collaborative work with Israeli filmmakers, sociologists, philosophers, archaeologists, or artists outside of Israel. Indeed, their access to independent funding and to international mobility is still substantial. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Palestinian academics whose travel papers and rights to mobility are currently severely restricted by law. So though it is an inconvenience for those Israeli scholars who cannot use institutional funding, it is also (a) much more possible for them to find independent funding, and (b) it gives them a chance to address their own institutions and relay the news that as long as universities and other cultural organizations refuse minimally to oppose the occupation, they will all come under enormous international pressure from the boycott movement. Indeed, according to the terms of the boycott, as soon as a cultural organization or university explicitly affirms its opposition to the occupation, it is no longer subject to the boycott. A new alliance between Israeli institutions and Palestinians can then become possible once they join together to dispute the legitimacy of continuing colonial rule. Some people argue that the boycott cuts ties, but that what is needed is to build ties. But this formulation fails to realize that the ties the boycott movement builds are ones of solidarity in a struggle against damaged rights, occupation, and dispossession, and it is these sorts of ties, not the ones that maintain the status quo, that are most important at this time.

    The upshot is this: if major professional organizations and major universities endorse BDS, even if only one part of the platform, the pressure on Israeli cultural and academic institutions to take a stand against the occupation is increased. The Israeli state may well be compelled to see that the international objection to the continuing colonization of Palestine and its own manifest abrogation of international laws and norms, is no longer sustainable. Indeed, it is sustainable as long as academic, public, cultural, economic, and political institutions either turn the other way or actively support the status quo. It is the support of US institutions in particular that has allowed this status quo to remain in place. The American Studies Association has sought to decide what its public responsibility should be, and other major professional organizations should follow suit.

    Let us remember that academic freedom can only be exercised if there is a freedom to speak about political views, to articulate and defend the views we have, but also if there is a freedom to travel, not just from university to university as US academics are used to doing, but also from ones home to the university. An enormous number of Palestinian university students are put in jail under conditions of indefinite detention because of having espoused political views that are considered unacceptable or because such views were attributed to them without cause. During periods of heightened security control, the periodic shutdowns of Palestinian universities have made it nearly impossible to complete a full semester for most Palestinian students. The delays at the checkpoint that can last between 4 and 12 hours mean that students cannot make it to class, and those Palestinian universities which are not sustained by NGOs have deteriorating infrastructures that make the exercise of academic freedom sometimes quite impossible. Academic freedom can only be exercised when the material conditions for exercising those rights are secured, which means that infrastructural rights are part of academic freedom itself. Otherwise, we imagine a being who can move as she or he wishes, who can go to any conference, or make it to class on time, who has access to books or computers. So given that no Israeli will be discriminated against on the basis of citizenship, and that increasing numbers of Palestinians might well enjoy academic freedom for the first time if the occupation is brought to an end, we can safely conclude that the principle of academic freedom will be more substantially realized through the support of BDS than by opposing it.

    Lastly, I want to say that already within the last two years I have seen how individuals and groups have emerged from their state of mute fear and anxiety into a tentative desire to talk. It seems to me that ASA has helped to make this issue more discussable rather than less. Professional academic associations have a responsibility to engage in public life in thoughtful and principled ways. I commend the American Studies Association for its courage and for assuming the public responsibility to defend equality, justice and freedom.

    Comment by mshihade on Sun, December 08, 2013 at 4:42 pm


  52. The New York Times reported today the ongoing story of several thousand Bedouins—- indigenous Palestinian people—-who are being forcibly relocated off of their centuries-old homeland in the Negev Desert so that Israel may locate two military bases there.  The Begin-Prawer Plan, as it is called, will spend two billion dollars to complete an historical purge of Bedouins from the Negev begun with the 1948 founding of Israel: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/world/middleeast/in-an-israeli-plan-bedouins-see-a-threat-to-their-way-of-life.html?ref=world
    As the Times reported, The Bedouins, seminomadic Arab Muslims, trace their history in the 4,700-square-mile Negev to the seventh century. When Israel became a state in 1948, all but 11,000 of the 90,000 Bedouins fled. Those who remained were granted citizenship but concentrated under military rule in about 10 percent of the area known as the Siyag Arabic for fence that their advocates liken to a Native American reservation in the United States.
    The Israeli states plan to ethnically cleanse a population from its historic home is one of many reasons I support the academic boycott of Israeli Universities.  The recent resolution endorsed by the American Studies Association National Council specifically calls for a boycott based in part on recognition of the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.

    In the case of the Bedouins,  for example, Arnon Sofer, a leading Israeli scholar and Reuven Haikin Chair of Geostrategy at University of Haifa, has long been in the forefront of public calls for state policies which target Bedouins and other populations as a demographic threat to the Jewish majority in Israel.  In a speech delivered in December, 2011, and reported in the newspaper The Marker, Sofer warned of the threat of the Bedouin population in the Northern Negev to the Israeli majority.  According to The Marker report, Sofer said in his speech:
    As far as Rehovot, around the Weizmann Institute, there are about 19 new Bedouin settlements. In Rishon Lezion there are about 12 Bedouin colonies, and near the Asaf Harofe hospital theyve already set up a city without us paying heed. It is starting to come to Tel Aviv. The government must start taking action, and not flounder in the defense. We do not have another country. If I am not wrong about this terrible map, and I hope that I am wrong, Israel will simply be destroyed.
    Sofer offers one clear example of how Israeli Universities contribute research toward public policy which violates the human rights of Palestinian and other non-majority peoples in Israel.  More dramatically, Sofer demonstrates how logics of genocide and ethnic cleansing may be sanctioned and legitimated by racist ethnonationalism masquerading as academic expertise.
    Along with many others like it, the Sofer example is clear demonstration of why scholars in the ASA who support human rights should vote on behalf of the academic boycott.  The boycott demonstrates solidarity not just with Palestinian people, but with Palestinian scholars and students whose daily lives—-not to mention academic freedoms—-are threatened not just by the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, but by the Israeli academic-military-industrial complex that supports it.

    For a report on the Sofer speech see:  http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/professor-hate-israeli-scholar-urges-ethnic-cleansing-bedouins

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sun, December 08, 2013 at 8:36 am


  53. Dear ASA Council and members,

    Congratulations on your courageous and bold move in endorsing the
    academic boycott against Israeli academic institutions that support an
    illegal occupation that has violated all international law in the
    book. It is my hope that your decision will create a ripple effect in
    many more associations that talk the talk but never show initiative in
    effecting radical change.

    On and towards a better future for all

    Dr. Jamil Khader
    English Professor, Stetson University
    Visiting Fulbright Fellow, Bir Zeit University, Palestin

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 10:12 pm


  54. To the National Council:

    I served on the National Council in the 1970s as the graduate representative, and I have always believed that academic organizations
    have a responsibility to take positions on critical issues. I congratulate you on your unanimous vote to endorse the academic boycott of Israel.

    Anita Rapone
    SUNY Plattsburgh NY

    Comment by Bill Mullen on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 10:06 pm


  55. “The ASA Boycott Resolution against the backdrop of South Africa”

    Nelson Mandelas death on December 5 has prompted many radio and journalistic retrospectives of his life; scholars and politicians speak of the way that governments perceptions of him in the West, specifically in the United States, changed from suspicion to grudging acceptance to adulation.  That this country once branded him a terrorist says a great deal about the small imaginations of our leaders who refused to acknowledge the pernicious destruction of the apartheid regime and were unable to register outrage at the oppression of the black, colored, and Indians of South Africa. But civil society groups in the United States and Europe responded to the call of oppressed South Africans; these groups set in motion the long struggle to isolate apartheid South Africa and to force the political leadership of Western nations to sever economic and political ties with the apartheid state.

    Today, a democratic and free South Africa is joining in the fight for Palestinian rights. Ordinary South Africans as well as the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and revered figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu are vocal in their critique of the Israeli state and strongly condemn its apartheid-like policies.  High ranking judges go on visits to Israel/Palestine to see for themselves how it is like to live under Occupation and to be constrained, obstructed, and subjected to surveillance in the most basic activities of daily life. There is robust discussion of Israels policies and vigorous opposition to its efforts to promote brand Israel in South Africa. Particularly noteworthy is that South Africans understand power asymmetry, and they do not make the facile assumption that an interaction between Palestinians and Israelis takes place with equal power on both sides. 

    The people of South Africa are fully aware that their own government has failed them badly by not delivering on essential services like water and electricity and education for all. But they are at once fully engaged national citizens and international citizens.  They see their participation in the fight for Palestinian rights as a moral obligation and as their duty to repay their debt to the international community.  They know oppression and they know apartheid, and they are not afraid to broadcast their insights.

    Nelson Mandela wrote in 2001: Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children. He believed that the goals of the South African revolution remained unfinished as long as Palestinians were not liberated.

    The ASA National Council should feel proud of its stand; the membership of the ASA should endorse this decision and courageously join hands with the people of South Africa who resisted their apartheid regime and who today participate boldly in the struggle for Palestinian rights.

    Rajini Srikanth
    University of Massachusetts Boston

    Comment by RSrikanth on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 9:52 pm


  56. Dear Curtis and ASA colleagues,

    I have not been a member of the ASA for the last four years for a variety of reasons.  Due to your recent BDS resolution, I have rejoined the organization and have cast my vote in favor of the proposed position.  Further, I look forward to joining you at the upcoming annual meetings. 

    I do hope that those members still on the fence reach out to those of us who have been supporters of the BDS campaign.  Rather than make any decisions based on the implicit and explicit Zionist contributions to this Comments Board, or the too easily dismissed celebrity endorsements, simply email one of us who you have known since graduate school, or have learned to respect through our works.  Perhaps we are your colleagues across a campus.  In the last two weeks, due to the ASA resolution, I have been fortunate to have sincere conversations with colleagues originally against boycott strategies on both the methods and aims of the BDS campaign, the actual wording of the ASA resolution, and the tangential issues of academic freedom, open dialogue, and freedom of speech.  Such conversations are, in fact, the proof that the BDS campaign is working. 

    I hope the membership votes in favor of the resolution of course.  We are being asked to support a political movement that aims to protect human rights, a political movement that was advocated by Nelson Mandela, and a political movement that is non-violent in the face of violence.  Hopefully we will look back at Israels apartheid someday as we look back now at South African apartheid.  Critics of the BDS campaign say it will not achieve anything.  As Mandela said, It always seems impossible until its done.

    Thank you, ASA Council, for taking an ethical position that has made me reconsider the value of a professional organization.  Had ASA passed this resolution two years ago, I might never have suffered my own University telling me that I was not allowed to talk about BDS in a college course on indigenous political strategies.  A position my administration still maintains.  I hope, then, that the membership votes to adopt this resolution to protect our collective academic freedom and to uphold the civic role that professional organizations have historically played in society.  Just as the American Anthropological Association has a statement on Race, and the American Psychological Association has statements on sexual orientation, the American Studies Association can and should take a firm stand on our protected right as scholars to engage in research about Israel, Palestine, and the BDS movement.   

    David Shorter

    Comment by David Shorter on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 6:05 pm


  57. From Lara Deeb, Anthropologist, Professor, and Author of the book An Enchanted Modern

    Kudos to the ASA for taking the important step of supporting BDS and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.  It is worth repeating that this boycott is explicitly directly at institutions and not individual scholars in Israel, and that these Israeli academic institutions have been, at best, complicit with Israeli state policies including those that limit the academic freedom of Palestinians.  Many of us in other fields have long looked to the ASA as an academic organization that values and acts on social justice principles. The endorsement of the boycott is in keeping with those principles and serves as a exemplary model for other organizations. Thank you!

    Lara Deeb

    Department of Anthropology

    Scripps College

    Comment by Nadine N on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 1:00 pm


  58. Please see the following note from American Book Award-winning poet Matthew Shenoda: 

    The ASA’s support of BDS is a much welcome and necessary step in equalizing the educational platform for global human rights. Far too many academics and their institutions have taken contradictory and hypocritical positions in touting the values of social justice, while always making exceptions when it comes to the Palestinian people. This endorsement of BDS sends a resounding call throughout academe of the importance of a critical and open discussion on all forms of oppression across the globe. Like the institutions that took a stand against apartheid South Africa, so too will the ASA be remembered for their moral stand against Israeli apartheid. May many more follow suit.

    Comment by salaita on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 11:25 am


  59. I realize this is a controversial resolution, but it is in keeping with our activist history. It is not directed at individual citizens and academics in Israel, but at academic institutions that have been demonstrated time and again their complicity with state policies intended to discriminate against the Palestinian people.

    During the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, we attempted and in some cases successfully closed American colleges and universities because they were part of the military-industrial complex.

    This resolution does the same kind of work.

    During the Divestment campaign to prevent retirement (and other) funds from being invested in companies doing business with Apartheid South Africa, we recognized the importance of what was at the time termed “symbolic action.” (In fact, divestment resulted in real economic consequences for South Africa).

    This resolution does the same work.

    Please vote in favor of this resolution. We are activists for social justice or we are not.

    I hope we show ourselves to be activists.

    John Carlos Rowe
    University of Southern California

    Comment by John Carlos Rowe on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 9:50 am


  60. Letter from Carolyn Karcher:

    Dear ASA Colleagues:

    As an ASA member for thirty-nine years, and as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, I have just voted in favor of the final ASA Resolution on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, and I urge you to do likewise.  Having returned home two weeks ago from an eleven-day trip to Israel and Palestine with Interfaith Peace-Builders, during which I was more profoundly shaken than I could ever have imagined by the brutality toward Palestinians that I saw with my own eyes, I feel more strongly than ever the urgency of taking a stand in solidarity with both Palestinians and the Israelis of conscience who brave social ostracism to ally themselves with Palestinians.  The ASA Boycott Resolution does exactly that by expressing solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and by voicing an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.

    I truly believe that a careful reading of the final Resolution and of the ASA Councils letter endorsing it, cannot support the arguments opponents have invoked against it.  In particular, nothing in the boycott resolution can fairly be said to discriminate on the basis of national origin, restrict [ASA members] academic right to research, and collaborate with colleagues as [they] see fit, or collectively punish every Israeli . . . regardless of their political views.  As Council members explain in their letter,
          Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.
          The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication.  The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.
    Moreover, far from squelching dialogue, the ASA resolution fostered the first Association-wide dialogue ever to have been held about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the role of the US in enabling itan almost two-hour Open Discussion attended by approximately 745 ASA members, 44 of whom spoke.  It was tremendously moving to hear some of the younger scholars talk about how much they valued ASA as a home in which they could critically engage with all forms of oppression, as academics and as activists.

    The real threat to academic freedom, both in the US and in Israel, has been the taboo against criticizing Israels policies or supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at changing those policiesa taboo frequently enforced by such punitive measures as denial of tenure, promotion, academic positions, or fellowships.  We need only remember the enormous pressure recently brought to bear against Brooklyn College to compel it to cancel a panel on BDSpressure the College courageously resisted despite threats to withhold the institutions public funding. 

    As for Israel, the award-winning investigative journalist Max Blumenthal describes two ways in which state policy compromises or outright suppresses academic freedom.  According to his new book GOLIATH: LIFE AND LOATHING IN GREATER ISRAEL, Whether they liked it or not, every Jewish Israeli citizen was a potential recruit for the national hasbara [propaganda] brigade.  While Tel Aviv University sent hasbara delegations to campuses across Europe and the United States, the National Union of Israeli Students offered Israeli college students $2,000 to spread propaganda from the comfort of home (213-14).  The hasbara campaign illustrates how Israeli policy compromises academic freedom.  The case of Anat Mattar, one of the first Israeli citizens to publicly promote a boycott, illustrates the states suppression of academic freedom, with the complicity of many academics.  A professor of sociology at Tel Aviv University . . . , Anat Mattar quickly became a hate figure for right-wingers in the Knesset, who demanded she be ousted from her tenured academic post.  Speaking at Tel Aviv University, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who led the charge against Brooklyn College, inspired 250 of [Mattars] academic colleagues . . . to sign a public letter condemning her in vitriolic terms (218).

    These examples concern Israeli Jewish scholars and students.  The ASA resolution rightly points out that there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation.  To cite only one case, on our first day in Bethlehem, my husband and I met a young man who had received a scholarship from George Mason University, but was not granted an exit permit by the Israelis (although, as he said, no one in his family had ever been associated in any way with terrorism) and after several vain applications, had to resign himself to a job selling souvenirs to tourists.

    The ASA resolution also pays tribute to Israeli scholars and students who are critical of Israeli state policies and who support the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement under conditions of isolation and threat of sanction.  I would like to quote statements by two of them. 

    The first, by a spokesperson for the Israeli group Boycott from Within, whom we met in Tel Aviv, was addressed to the ASA Council and says: We are a group of political activists, academics, and workers based in Israel who have joined the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against complicit Israeli institutions. . . .  After decades of struggle for the rights of Palestinians we have come to the conclusion that international pressure needs to be applied to Israel to make it halt its policies of systematic dispossession of Palestinians. . . .  We call on the American Studies Association to join other academics and artists and answer the call by Palestinians and refuse to cooperate with complicit Israeli institutions. 

    The second statement, by the renowned Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, appeared in Haaretz on November 30.  Levy writes: It appears that international sanctions work and that a boycott is a tool like no other. . . .  This applies not only to Iran, where the theory is being proved before our eyes, but with another country that does not obey the decisions of the international community. . . .  The success achieved with Iran must become the worlds road map in how to end the Israeli occupation and the denial of the Palestinians rights. . . .  We have had a failed diplomatic effort and decades of the peace process, the longest in history. We have had endless peace plans buried in drawers, while Israel has continued to build without restraint in the settlements in contravention of the worlds position.  So the time has come for sanctions. When these are felt in Israel, only then should an international committee be formed, whether in Geneva, Jerusalem, Oslo or Ramallah, where the world will translate economic sanctions into political achievements.  Levy specifically includes universities among all the Israeli institutions complicit in the occupation: Every Israeli organization, institution or authority is somehow involved with whats going on beyond the Green Line. Every bank, university, supermarket chain or medical institution has branches, employees or clients who are settlers. The settlements are an all-Israeli project and the boycott cant be limited to them, just as the boycott of apartheid-era South Africa couldnt be limited to the institutions of apartheid.

    In sum, if Israelis of conscience can join the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israeli institutions complicit in the occupation, including universities, why should ASA members hold back?  I hope I have convinced you to vote in favor of the Resolution on the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.

    Carolyn L. Karcher
    Professor Emerita, Temple University

    Comment by smaira on Sat, December 07, 2013 at 12:48 am


  61. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2294

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Fri, December 06, 2013 at 12:15 pm


  62. A good article that points out the hypocrisy of the resolution, including the fact that it is supported by pro-queer members when Palestinian society is hostile to homosexuals and Palestinian gay rights organizations find much more freedom in Tel Aviv. The article also points out that the boycott does not extend to “Gaza’s Islamic University, which is under the thumb of the theocratic butchers of Hamas” or to US universities that collaborate with Israel. It would be more painful to boycott one’s own university; easier to target a faraway one in Israel. - See more at: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2013/12/a_watered-down_boycott_resolut.html#sthash.hWX35s0y.dpuf

    Comment by Debby Rosenthal on Fri, December 06, 2013 at 9:41 am


  63. I am a Professor of American Studies at UC Davis and while I am not a member of the ASA this year (I did not attend the conference this year) I have been a member for many years and will certainly be a member in the future.  I am writing to convey my wholehearted support for the ASA resolution to endorse and honor the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I am very glad that the ASA National Council has adopted the resolution. Since I can’t vote this time I wanted to pass along my support as an academic in the field and to say that I think the debate has been a healthy and important one. My thanks to everyone involved.


    Caren Kaplan
    Professor, American Studies
    Interim Chair, Cultural Studies
    UC Davis

    Comment by smaira on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 11:50 pm


  64. American Studies Association launches landmark academic boycott of Israel:


    Comment by smaira on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 11:14 pm


  65. I want to thank the ASA for taking this position which is long overdue. Even though normally the ASA Council, which is elected body by the whole members of the ASA, makes the decision about the resolution without going back to the whole membership for ratification, it decided to adopt the resolution because it was proposed last year, members interested voted on the proposed petition (large majority voted in its support), and one event was held at the ASA meeting, where speakers were selected randomly, where overwhelming support for the solution was voiced by students, early career faculty, and senior faculty. This was at the risk of challenging a taboo in American academy, to voice opinion freely about Israel.  So, this issue is not about academic freedom for Palestinians in Israel/Palestine, but about ending the silencing atmosphere in U.S. academy about Israel as well.
    I am a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and have gone through the Israeli education system. So, I know first-hand how racist and demeaning of Arabs that system is. I never learned anything good about the Arabs in school, but to the contrary. On the other hand we were fed with plenty of Zionist propaganda, misinformation, and upfront racism towards those who were either not Zionist, or anti-Zionist.
    My education was blocked in the country, and it forced me, like most Palestinian citizens in Israel, to go abroad. It is only abroad that I learned about Arab philosophy, some of which I have been using in my work today.
    My academic career is blocked in Israel because I am of Palestinian origin. Too many Israeli citizens, who are academics but of Palestinian origins face the same fate. Only few are hired at Israeli universities (who are almost all Government/State owned universities). There is no single senior scholar in Israeli academia that is of Palestinian origin. When looking for employment in this country (the U.S.), I faced similar blockage to my career as pro-Israeli and Zionist faculty members are not in favor of hiring scholars critical of Israel and Zionism. Zionists do not like to see critical Palestinians around them neither in Israel, nor anywhere else, and do not like to have their input heard. 
    Israeli universities do not offer equal access to Palestinian students. But also, when Palestinian students join Israeli universities (often majoring in subjects not of their choice), their voice on campus is silenced and repressed by campus administrations.  These are facts that are supported by studies done by different organizations in Israel itself (e.g. Adadalah.org, musawah.org, among others). Israeli Jewish faculty members that are openly critical of state policies are also marginalized. Any research that they wish to do that challenges Israeli propaganda about history is not supported. Some choose to leave (like Prof. Ilan Pappe), others remain there fighting for change, and many of them call for boycott against Israel.
    At this moment, I teach at a Palestinian university in the West Bank (Birzeit University). Our student body became localized, because students from other parts of Palestine either have a hard time coming to Birzeit, or are not allowed (like Palestinians from Gaza). Our faculty members have difficulty going abroad for conferences. They have to ask Israeli authorities for permits to travel. If a permit is granted it is only at the last minute. Sometime faculty members lose the airline ticket that the paid for because they cannot wait for the last minute to buy one, but then they are not granted a permit to travel by Israeli authorities. Students coming from abroad cannot study easily at Birzeit. Israel allows them only a visitor/tourist visa for 3 months.  If we get international students, we are forced to change the semester to fit the time they can be there by adding required hours for their daily meetings. That too does not allow these international students enough time to interact with the Palestinian community because they have to spend more hours daily on campus. We cannot also have international faculty come to teach in Palestine so easily for the same reason. The 3 months tourist visa forces many of them either to come only for a short time (just for conferences or short visits), keep leaving the country every three months to be able to renew the visa, or not to come at all. There are also cases where Israeli authorities denied visa for visiting scholars.
    It is not the Israeli educational system alone, but the entire Israeli system is a racist one. So, this campaign is an anti-racist campaign, a campaign to challenge complicity and silence about Israeli colonial and racist practices, and it is one of the only methods to open up space for talking about Israeli policies, open the debate in the academy, and also outside, to take seriously the U.S. unique and exceptional complicity i.e. military, economic, political and diplomatic support for Israel. It is an exceptional complicity and cannot be compared to U.S. relations with any other country. Scholars that are critical of any other country, except Israel, are never silenced, nor blocked from opportunities here in the U.S. academy. Neither is the U.S so complicit with any other countys policies. There is also no other country like Israel that is so complicit in American war and repression policies abroad by being a proxy for arms sales in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and by pushing for wars like the case with Iran at the moment.
    So, American citizens are all already involved in this, but so far, with few exceptions, are silent about the role that the U.S. has in supporting Israeli racist policies. I am very glad to see that the ASA is taking this position that will help in opening more space for freedom of thought and discussion and research, and I hope that this case will be the beginning of much larger engagement of the academy with the racist policies of the U.S. itself not just Israel.
    I want to thank those who support this resolution. I hope that those who do not support it till now, because they are not sure, will take a stand. For those who oppose it, I also wish the best. Some of them are typical pro-Israeli demagogues who repeat misinformation, make threats; a typical pro-Israeli/Zionist misinformation and scare tactics. But, we are not afraid, nor confused. We are here for justice in Palestine and everywhere. We are here for freedom of thought about Israel and elsewhere. These hundreds of members who support this resolution are also concerned about injustice everywhere, including injustice in the U.S itself.
    Supporting this resolution is to open space for discussion about Israel and U.S. complicity. It is also a way to open the way for the academy to take its role more seriously in making a real difference and to challenge long held taboos here and elsewhere.  It is also a way to thank the ASA council for reflecting the majoritys wishes including students and junior faculty, for taking such a stand. Thank you all for your efforts, and I hope that we remain civil in our discussion and not allow the misinformation and propaganda campaign to confuse any of us. There so many reports and studies from Israel itself, in addition to many international ones, that testify to the validity of this resolution.

    Comment by mshihade on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 10:00 pm


  66. It is misleading of a previous commentator to cite a New York Times article from 1981 to show that Israel shut down Bir Zeit University. If you go to the University’s web page, you will see the University is open and running. http://www.birzeit.edu/  The incident you cite was more than 30 years ago.

    More to the point is the very recent and lamentable decision by Hamas to refuse to let 8 Palestinian National Merit Scholars leave to study in the US. See http://www.jta.org/2011/08/31/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/hamas-bans-palestinian-merit-scholars-from-leaving-gaza

    Or the 2012 report by human rights organizations that Hamas refuses to let the Holocaust be taught in Gaza schools.

    Will ASA members adhere to the BDS terms by refusing to cooperate with Israeli Arab academics?

    This whole discussion has been about academic freedom but it is a Palestinian terrorist group, which uses school books and the airwaves to incite hatred and murder of Jews, who is denying its own teens the freedom and opportunity to study.

    I agree that no one wants to support illegal political prisoners, bombing campaigns, and torture, so I hope ASA members are also against the launching of thousands of rockets into civilian territory, suicide bombers, military training of children, the placement of rocket launchers in schools and mosques, and using children as human shields.

    Comment by Debby Rosenthal on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 8:08 pm


  67. Dear ASA members,

    For those of you who wish to vote responsibly on this issue and rise above the polemics that accompany it, I encourage you to read five scholarly and thoughtful articles from the most recent on line edition of the Journal of Academic Freedom. The authors strongly oppose academic boycotts for a variety of reasons. They can be read at

    Kenneth Waltzer: Narrowing Academic Freedom, Discriminating against Israeli Nationals

    Gerald M. Steinberg: Boycotts, Bias and Politics in the Arab-Israeli Conflict
    Kenneth L. Marcus and Sitara Kedilaya: The Very Foundations of the University

    Samuel M. Edelman: Binding Academic Freedom with Ideological Bonds

    Peter Haas: Clear, Simple and Wrong

    Roberta Seid

    Comment by robertaseid on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 6:58 pm


  68. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/american-studies-association-national-council-endorses-israel-boycott

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:13 pm


  69. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/american-association-academic.html

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:13 pm


  70. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=653670

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:13 pm


  71. http://www.salon.com/2013/12/04/academics_should_boycott_israel_growing_movement_takes_next_step/

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:12 pm


  72. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/steven-salaita/asa-decision-boycott-israeli-institutions-four-years-making?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=info@electronicintifada.net

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:12 pm


  73. http://www.jta.org/2013/12/04/news-opinion/united-states/american-studies-association-posts-boycott-outlines

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:11 pm


  74. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/05/council-american-studies-association-backs-boycott-israeli-universities

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:11 pm


  75. http://www.albawaba.com/news/us-israel-boycott-538452

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:10 pm


  76. Dear ASA members,

    Congrats to each and all who made this happen. One day, when Palestinian intellectuals, university academics, writers and students will have the freedom to travel and to speak freely, (freedoms we in Europe and the US now take as customary), and when Palestinians generally enjoy national self-determination, hopefully on some genuinely shared or pluri-national basis, it will be possible to have a real critical engagement with all sides involved on the extraordinarily tragic nature of Israeli-Palestinian history and on the dilemmas that history provoked.

    I believe such steps as this slowly but surely advance the conditions, in the Middle East, Europe and the US, that might eventually make this kind of non-coercive, egalitarian and civic republican critical engagement possible..

    Warmest regards,

    Joe Cleary

    Comment by Cynthia Franklin on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 1:00 pm


  77. Jewish Voice for Peace in solidarity with the ASA boycott resolution:


    Comment by smaira on Thu, December 05, 2013 at 12:45 pm


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