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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


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