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Academic and Community Activism Caucus

USACBI Workshop, November 9, 2014

Dear ASA Colleagues,

Last year the American Studies Association voted by an overwhelming 2-1 margin to support a boycott of Israeli Universities.  Since that time, ASA’s membership ranks have increased substantially as have financial contributions to the ASA.  Subsequent to the ASA vote, a number of student governments at American University campuses, including Loyola University Chicago, UC Riverside and Wesleyan, have voted to support campus divestment from Israel.  Just yesterday, the Presbyterian Church of the U.S. Voted to divest from Israel, the largest American organized church to do so.

These actions demonstrate the long-term success of USACBI (the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel): http://www.usacbi.org  USACBI, launched in response to PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was formed in early 2009 by a group of faculty in response to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza. Since 2009, more than 1,000 university professors, including many members of ASA, have signed USACBI’s call for AN academic and cultural boycott of Israel. 

On November 9th, 2014, the last day of the American Studies Association annual meeting in Los Angeles this year, USACBI will hold a workshop to discuss the past, present and future of the academic boycott movement.  The workshop is meant to build the academic and cultural boycott movement in the U.S. and is intended for those who have already expressed support for the USACBI call for boycott of Israel.

The workshop will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 9th at the Southern California Library.  The Library located in downtown Los Angeles.  Here is a link to the Library: http://www.socallib.org/  Directions to the library are here: http://www.socallib.org/getting-here/ 

Below is a provisional agenda for the afternoon workshop.  Additional details will be posted to this site as they develop.

For now, we encourage you to make arrangements to attend.  This is an extremely important moment for ASA members in particular to build on the momentum of last year’s historic vote.  Please RSVP to indicate your attendance by writing to Bill Mullen at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Malini Schueller at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) 

USACBI 2014 Conference Agenda

—-The ethical and political rationales of academic boycott and the current state of the movement.

—-Assessing current USACBI tactics and strategies in light of recent academic and cultural boycott campaigns and BDS victories and planning for future campaigns.

—-How to help other academic associations put forward academic boycott resolutions. 

—-How to better coordinate USACBI work nationally and regionally and expand our network of support for the academic boycott movement in the US and for those facing backlash due to support of academic boycott.

—-How to support SJP chapters in BDS organizing and how to facilitate relationships between faculty and students around academic boycott and BDS activism

—-How to work with and build alliances with non-academic groups in the Palestine solidarity and other progressive movements.

—-How to build broad support for USACBI and foreground its work and message.

By Malini Schueller, Fri, August 15, 2014 - 6:08 am
Categories:

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:

http://www.change.org/petitions/members-of-the-asa-support-resolution-to-boycott-israeli-academic-institutions

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:
http://www.usacbi.org/mission-statement/

2. PACBI Guidelines:
http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

3. Frequently Asked Questions about Academic Boycott:
http://www.usacbi.org/faqs/

4. Cancellation of Gaza Student Scholarships:
http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/under-israeli-pressure-us-cancels-gaza-scholarships-showing-need-academic-boycott

5. South African Union of Students on BDS:
http://www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/08/blog-post.html

See also: University of Witwatersrand student council unanimously adopts bds
http://www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/08/university-of-witwatersrand-student_29.html

6. Palestinian Queers for BDS:
http://www.pqbds.com/about/

7. Salim Vally on South Africa, Israel, and academic boycott:
http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2006/SO/Boycott/The+SouthAfricanBo
ycott.htm#salim

8. Lisa Taraki and Omar Barghouti’s essay opposing AAUP’s rejection of academic boycott:
http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2006/SO/Boycott/Critics.htm

See also:
http://electronicintifada.net/content/aut-boycott-freedom-vs-academic-freedom/5609

9. California Scholars for Academic Freedom¹s statement on the Irvine 11
http://www.usacbi.org/2010/08/california-scholars-for-academic-freedom-statement-on-the-uci-11/

10. Angela Davis on Palestine and Jim Crow
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/angela-davis-dismissal-of-palestinians-is-reminiscent-of-jim-crow-days-9753

11. UC Student Association Resolution in Support of Academic Boycott:
http://mondoweiss.net/2012/09/resolution-uc-student-association-opposes-all-racism-whether-anti-semitism-on-campus-or-racism-of-israeli-human-rights-violations.html

12. Social Text/Periscope dossier on Palestine by US scholars’ delegation
http://www.socialtextjournal.org/periscope/palestine/

13. Demanding equality - how is that illegal?
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/2012121493851318854.html

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

A Time to Break the Silence

I endorse the resolution placing the American Studies Association on record in support of the academic boycott of Israel. I view the resolution as a collective and non-violent way to voice opposition to the unjust, brutal and illegal actions of the Israeli government and to promote a change in policy. I do so with deep recognition of the complexity of the political situation in Israel, with full respect for those who feel that principle demands that they oppose the resolution, and with great concern about the ways in which political polarization can divide the organization and disrupt our work. Yet I think that at this moment in history we cannot remain silent about the treatment of the Palestinian people. We must pressure governments, corporations, and individuals in our nation and around the world to find a just alternative to the downward spiral of violence and dehumanization which continues to cause so much pain and suffering.
      What we do in response to this resolution is important, but so is the way in which we do it.  In political fights like this one, righteousness can quickly slide into self-righteousness. Desires to win an argument can easily lead people to find excuses for winning at any cost. Political passion can lead people to treat each other as mere instruments—as either mechanisms useful for achieving our own ends or as obstacles that impede them. Passions unleashed in the process of struggle can become so seductive that they make it impossible to see how enemies might yet become allies. It would have been better if the supporters of the resolution had gone to the membership first and waged a long educational campaign inside the organization and built consensus on this issue, rather than making a top-down decision to rush to a vote. It would have been better if the tactic of the boycott could have been considered in competition with other strategies. It would be good if all sides in the debate realized that no one has a monopoly on virtue .Even during the peak of agonistic struggles, both sides need to prepare the ground now for future reconciliation and cooperation.  I think it is not too late to do this.  Sitting in the comfort of our homes and casting a vote one way or another on this resolution is not enough. Both proponents and opponents of the resolution have an obligation to work together in the years ahead to promote justice. We can both oppose the corporations who profit from commerce in the occupied areas,  pressure our own government to change its foreign policy, and oppose the forces on our campuses that deliberately misrepresent criticism of Israeli domestic and foreign policy as anti-Semitism—that amplify the self-perceived interests of the Israeli state while marginalizing and suppressing the just demands of Palestinians.
    Every year I teach a course that entails studying Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s opposition to the war in Vietnam. In a speech delivered at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King described a circumstance very much like the one we face in respect to our Palestinian brothers and sisters. He acknowledged the limits of his own knowledge and vision. He conceded the confusing and perplexing nature of the conflict. He noted that it is not easy to oppose the policies of one’s own government or to go against the grain of dominant public opinion. King made it clear he was not attempting to portray the National Liberation Front or the government of North Vietnam as paragons of virtue. Yet he asserted his duty to speak out against the war, echoing the words of a statement by the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam that “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”  For Dr. King, that time had arrived in respect to the war in Vietnam. For us, that time has arrived now as we consider where we stand on the boycott resolution. “We must move past indecision to action,” King implored. In words that speak directly to our situation today, on that night in 1967 he declared, “The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
George Lipsitz

By glipsitz, Sat, December 14, 2013 - 7:18 pm
Categories:

The ASA and the NAS

Opposition to the ASA’s resolution to honor and endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions is beginning to reveal some significant bedfellows.  The recent letter signed by eight former presidents is small news: many of them are not currently active members of the Association and five had already signed a previous letter that opposed the resolution and circulated at the Association’s Open Meeting to little avail.  It joins the efforts of an external organization, the American Association of University Professors, to harass the ASA’s officers into giving its letter opposing the boycott special prominence on the Association’s website, despite the fact that it spreads manifest misinformation about the resolution.  What all three documents of the opposition seem to have in common is an appeal to authority—the authority of the institution or of past presidencies—that seems to believe that in the democratic deliberations of any society such authority, even when in the minority, should outweigh the democratic voice of the membership as a whole.

They are now joined in this by the National Association of Scholars, who have posted on their site a letter opposing the boycott resolution and stating that they “applaud the fifty-plus ASA members, including seven past presidents, who signed a letter opposing the boycott as an infringement of academic freedom.”  Members of the American Studies Association should be wary of the National Association of Scholars, better known by its suggestive acronym, the NAS.  During the “culture wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, it was the NAS that led the assault on multiculturalism and on the effort by students and faculty to desegregate US campuses and end “apartheid on campus”.  Echoes of those battles are still readable on their website via its tab on “Western Civilization” and it is no wonder that they cast the current work of American Studies, with its crucial legacy of anti-racist scholarship and critiques of US imperialism, as spelling “the enervation of the discipline”.  Members of the NAS were among the most active in pushing for the denial of tenure to scholars of color in the 1990s when the push-back against affirmative action began under the threadbare cover of “civil rights initiatives.”  Since then, with rather more sinister import, the NAS has become an important conduit for the normalization and sanitization of Islamophobia, its defense of “Western Civilization” spilling over into its battery of postings on “Islamic Extremism”.

The NAS’s claim to be an organization that seeks “to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate” aligns with the AAUP’s surprisingly vigorous campaign against the current boycott resolution in the name of academic freedom, a campaign that finds it in very partisan and proactive alliance with Zionist lobby groups.  The ASA, however, does not need instruction on academic freedom from such organizations.  Its 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 present resolution in response to the call of Palestinian civil society for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions presents the ASA with such a choice and such a possibility.  As the great majority of those who spoke at the open meeting affirmed, the choice for justice has no need of the sanction of authority or the approval of institutions.  That has been the extraordinary and moving lesson of the open and democratic process that has been taking place within the association and that is clearly having its impact well beyond the shelter of the academy as more and more people around the country attend to this ongoing open meeting on Israel’s own version of apartheid.

By David Lloyd, Fri, December 13, 2013 - 12:56 pm
Categories:

Open Letter to Mae Ngai

Dear Mae,

Thank you for your opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its aggression, and its treatment of Palestinians.  And thank you for your support of divestment campaigns. All that, which you posted on ASA’s Facebook page, is good to hear and all valuable.  Nonetheless, we are sorry to hear that you continue to believe that the boycott resolution “violates the principle of academic freedom and free speech.”  It does neither.  As has been frequently explained throughout ASA debates on the resolution, and on many other occasions, the boycott targets institutions not individual academics.  Israeli academics remain free to enjoy all the benefits of academic freedom: their right to research and publish, to travel, to attend conferences, including the ASA.  None of these freedoms are guaranteed to Palestinians, and more often than not they are denied by Israeli practices, laws and policies.  Still less does the boycott deprive anyone of their freedom of speech, though Palestinians are regularly imprisoned, batoned, shot with rubber bullets and gas canisters, and even live ammunition, for seeking to claim their rights to speak out against oppression and dispossession. 

Institutions, however, do not enjoy academic freedom, though they are called upon to protect and further it. What the boycott seeks to do is to persuade all of us to obey our consciences in withdrawing our consent from any collaboration, material or intellectual, with institutions whose actual complicity in acts of occupation, dispossession, and colonization fare outweighs any hypothetical restriction on Israeli academic privileges that might ensue from our refusal to collaborate.

You ask why this focus on boycott.  The principal reason is that the great preponderance of Palestinian civil society organizations has asked us to honor their call boycott as well as divestment and sanctions.  It is not for us, and not especially for any Israeli scholar or national, however progressive they may be, to instruct the Palestinians on the proper means and limits of their struggle.  Would you have told the Civil Rights activists that they should not boycott buses for fear of alienating the good white citizens of Alabama?  Or the UFW not to boycott grapes for fear of damaging Californian grocers?  Why then seek to limit the parameters of Palestinian struggle in order to protect the feelings and efforts of the Israeli left?  To say this is not to offer insult or to be divisive.  It is merely to state a fundamental principle of all solidarity: we do not instruct the oppressed on how to fight their fight.  With all due respect to Michael Zakim, it is clear enough that decades of well-meaning “dialogue” have changed nothing and at best offered cover to continuing Israeli expansion.  Now it is time to listen to the Palestinian movement for justice and honor and endorse the boycott they have called for.

David Palumbo-Liu
David Lloyd

By David Lloyd, Fri, December 13, 2013 - 11:16 am
Categories:

From Anan Ameri

“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

By Nadine N, Sun, December 08, 2013 - 4:23 pm
Categories:

ASA National Council Calls for Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

American Studies Association Calls for Academic Boycott of Israel

Following the annual meeting of the American Studies Association (ASA) in Washington D.C. on November 21-24, 2013, the National Council of the ASA voted to endorse the call from Palestinian civil society for an academic boycott of Israel.

The National Council - composed of elected representatives from the general ASA membership - voted affirmatively in support of the Resolution, put forward by the Academic and Community Activism Caucus. The Resolution recognizes that, due to the Occupation, Palestinian students and scholars currently face severe obstructions to their right to education through “restrictions on movement and travel that limit their ability to attend and work at universities, travel to conferences and to study abroad.”  Citing a United Nations report that outlines how the Israeli occupation of Palestine has impacted students “whose development is deformed by pervasive deprivations affecting health, education and overall security,” the ASA Resolution resolves to honor the call for a boycott of Israeli universities as a means of showing solidarity with Palestinians.

At an open forum held at the annual meeting, 44 speakers were chosen at random from the audience to speak on the topic of the Resolution; 37 spoke in favor, with only 7 opposed. Members recommended endorsing academic boycott as part of a broader movement de-normalizing the unparalleled military and financial ties between the U.S. and Israel, interrogating U.S. complicity in a global structure of settler-colonialism, and creating more academic freedom for critical reflections on Israel within the U.S. academy. A petition, circulated at the conference and on-line, has gathered over 1,000 signatures in favor of the Resolution at the time of this press release. This is a significant number, given that total membership of the ASA is 3884, with registration for the annual conference at 1970. The petition and the open forum indicate the overwhelming support of the membership for the Resolution. This support was echoed throughout the annual meeting in a great number of panels. In these sessions of the annual conference, leading scholars in the fields of History, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Critical Race Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Studies, and Legal Studies spoke eloquently and passionately in favor of the Resolution, calling upon the American Studies Association to show its support now for the oppressed Palestinian people, and their decades-long struggle to end the Israeli occupation and achieve self-determination.

The Academic and Community Activism Caucus congratulates the National Council on a decision in keeping not only with the spirit of the Open Meeting, but in accord with the principles of the American Studies Association, which has in its recent history expressed a strong commitment to the study and critique of racism, colonialism, and other forms of social injustice.

The Resolution in full is available here:
http://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/council_statement_on_the_academic_boycott_of_israel_resolution/

Press Contacts: David Lloyd .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and Steven Salaita .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) ASA Activism Caucus Representatives

By Jordana Rosenberg, Wed, December 04, 2013 - 1:39 pm
Categories:

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