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Academic and Community Activism Caucus

Oppose Resolution

It is surprising and disappointing to read the statements of the resolution’s supporters.  Most claims are recycled slogans that are not subjected to serious or scholarly analysis and are contradicted by easily accessible evidence.  Clearly, the goal of protecting Palestinian academic freedom is merely a pretext to make a different agenda seem relevant to the ASA.  No one has even suggested how Palestinian education would be improved by an academic boycott of Israel, but many have pointed out how it would be harmed. 

There is much understandable concern about Israel’s policies—some of which can be severely criticized and in fact are in the contentious Israeli press and Knesset—but what is shocking is that this discussion has barely mentioned the challenges that Israel faces which have forced it to choose between difficult options, and to constantly weigh humanitarian concerns against the safety of its people.  Between 2000 and 2012, Palestinians launched 39,000 attacks against Israelis, including grisly suicide bombings and knifing of infants.  Hamas, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood whose Covenant calls for the murder of Jews, the “obliteration” of Israel (not just an end to the “occupation”) and its replacement with a Caliphate,  took over Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 and since then has fired over 12,000 rockets at Israeli homes, schools, hospitals, and day care centers.  It is unconscionable that this dangerous environment is not even mentioned, and that Israel’s efforts to make peace in 2000 and 2008 through territorial compromises are absent from the discussion.

Furthermore, boycott supporters are misleading the ASA about BDS goals. That goal is not two independent states existing side by side.  A central BDS plank is the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel which, as Arab leaders have said since 1949, and as President Barak Obama repeated in 2008, “would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state”  by turning Jews into a minority population. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xatt3DmTXHo  This would violate the Jewish people’s rights to self-determination and to safe and secure borders, which are enshrined by the UN and in international law and agreements.

Finally, many of the claims are misleading at best and counter-factual at worst.  The theoretical construction of Palestinians as indigenous and Jews as foreign colonialists is simply false.  Jews do not neatly fit modern taxonomies.  They are indigenous to the region where they have an over 3,000 year history, and it would be more accurate to describe the conflict as between two local peoples. The slogan that Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians is also contradicted by the evidence. The Palestinian Arab population in Israel has soared from approximately 160,000 in 1949 to 1.6 million in 2012 while the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza soared from 960,000 in 1967 to over 3 million today.

Nor should ASA members support the resolution under the mistaken impression that “Palestinian civil society” has asked them to. In 2012, notorious Israel critic Norman Finkelstein disparaged the BDS claim that it represents Palestinian civil society.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol8xhTySKfM) “Who are these organizations? They’re NGOs in Ramallah, one person operations, ...If they really were Palestinian Civil Society as they claim, then why can they never organize a demonstration of more than 500 people?...” Others have pointed out that of the 150 organizations who signed the original BDS call, a large percentage are based in Jordan and Syria; most were small NGOs and small trade unions.  In 2009,the largest Palestinian trade union, the PGFTU, representing close to 75% of Palestinian workers, opposed the BDS campaign, arguing it is “bad news for Palestinian workers.” (http://www.tuliponline.org/?p=1053 )  And certainly it would be bad news for the almost 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/20000-Palestinians-working-in-settlements-survey-finds-323222)  and the approximately 16,000 West Bank Palestinian businessmen who have founded companies and factories in Israel and the industrial zones of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/study-palestinians-invest-twice-as-much-in-israel-as-they-do-in-west-bank-1.396979  Once again, extremist leaders seem to be sacrificing the well-being of ordinary Palestinians for their goal of eliminating Israel.

Only twisted logic could lead supporters to claim that Israeli academics will not be affected.  If their institutions are boycotted, they cannot help but be affected.  And only twisted logic could lead some supporters to claim that the resolution protects academic freedom.  At least they should be honest about their belief that the universal principle of academic freedom should be subordinated to political action against Israel.

It would be shameful if this resolution passed.  Israeli universities are at the cutting edge of research and innovations in science, technology, environmentalism, water conservation, and medical and biomedical technology all of which benefit people everywhere. To dismiss all that they have to contribute because of an ongoing political conflict with their neighbors would be to sacrifice these universal endeavors for a narrow and extremist political agenda.

By robertaseid, Fri, November 22, 2013 - 3:40 pm


  1. Speaking of recycling, Rebecca Seid repeats the misleading mantra that Israel’s dispossession, repression, blockade and “transfer” of Palestinians is all about security.  The expansion of the settlements, illegal under international law, to take only one example, does not improve Israel’s security, though it does expropriate Palestinians.  Building over centuries-old Palestinian cemeteries does not improve Israel’s security.  Preventing students from taking up Fulbright scholarships is not in the interest of Israel’s security; nor is labeling Gazan students who wish to continue their studies on the West Bank and preventing them from traveling.  These are all acts of collective punishment and dispossession.  Debate within Israel there may be about specific policy differences, but Israel’s expansion has continued under every Israeli government, Labour, Likud and coalition.  So have the drastic restrictions on Palestinian academic freedom that have nothing to do with security.

    If you are concerned about the impact of violence, disproportionately by Israel agains the Palestinians as it is, BDS, of which the academic boycott is part, offers an increasingly effective non-violent alternative. The claim that the boycott will hurt Palestinians replays the crocodile tears that we heard over and over again about South African divestment.  The call for BDS is widely supported in Palestine, though Palestinians are obviously not in a position to effect it.  That is why we endorse and support that call.

    Rebecca Seid implies that those of us who support the boycott are extremists.  She does not reveal that she is a very active member of Stand with Us, an extreme Zionist organization that has been trying to shut down freedom of speech on campuses in California by claiming that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic.

    I look forward to the day when Palestinian universities will have the freedom to be as productive and creative as Israeli, US or any other institutions.

    Comment by David Lloyd on Thu, November 21, 2013 at 10:12 am


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