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American Studies Association boycotts Israeli academic institutions

Kavish Harjai, News Editors

The American Studies Association’s National Council announced on Dec. 4 that they supported a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. During a 15-day voting period, the members of the ASA also voted in support of the boycott.

On Dec. 20, NYU President John Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin sent a letter to the ASA opposing the boycott and asking the ASA to repeal it, saying that the boycott goes against academic freedom.

NYU professor of social and cultural analysis and president-elect of the ASA Lisa Duggan said that the ASA’s boycott does not breach anyone’s academic freedom and is instead against Israeli restriction of Palestinian professors and students.

“We are inviting Israeli as well as Palestinian scholars to our fall 2014 conference,” Duggan said. “We value our continuing collaboration with all our colleagues, in Israel and around the world. We are boycotting academic institutions in Israel with the goal of protesting discrimination against Palestinians, and with the hope of expanding academic freedom for all.”

An NYU alumnus and contributing editor to Forbes Magazine Richard Behar spoke out against the boycott and Sexton’s response in a 14-page open letter to Sexton published in Forbes magazine on Jan. 14. His letter was titled “Why The American Studies Assn.’s Israel Boycott Makes Me Ashamed To Be An Alumnus.” In this letter, he urged Sexton to send a stronger message against the ASA.

“If they are disseminating provably-false information, through speeches or papers or petitions and resolutions — while parading around the country as representatives of NYU — then that should give everyone pause,” Behar wrote in an email. “Their actions may also be in violation of the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their aim is the delegitimization of a nation-member of the UN, and they are huddling under NYU’s banner while they’re doing it.”

Behar believes that the relationship between NYU and the ASA should be made clear.

“[Sexton] also needs to get the ASA to clarify publicly if it’s NYU as an institution that is the member — as ASA lists it on its website — or if it’s just a studies department at NYU,” Behar said. “This may sound like hair-splitting, but it’s not.”

NYU spokesman John Beckman said the university disagrees with Behar’s assertions.

“We do not accept that the opposition NYU’s president and provost have expressed on this matter is different in kind or degree than statements issued  by other like-minded university presidents,” Beckman said. “Indeed, I do not see how their views on the matter could be clearer or more firm — they have said it contravenes the tenets of academic freedom, and called on the ASA to overturn the vote.”

The NYU Students for Justice in Palestine applauded Duggan and the ASA for their work.

“The ASA resolution responds to the routine denial of scholarly freedom to Palestinian students and academics,” they said in a statement. “Taking action against abuses by the U.S. and its allies is never easy or convenient, and the ASA deserves tremendous credit for its courage in standing up for justice.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 27 print edition. Kavish Harjai and Ann Schmidt are news editors. Email them at [email protected]

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4 Responses to “American Studies Association boycotts Israeli academic institutions”

  1. Arafat on January 27th, 2014 10:30 am

    The following was written by Jon in response to a similar article.
    “While I find it highly questionable that “not a single Israeli
    academic institution has petitioned their government to protect the
    Palestinian right to education,” perhaps that is because they are too
    busy giving those students an education (including building the very
    Palestinian universities that didn’t exist until the start of the
    dreaded “Occupation”).

    And the accusation that Palestinians students are “forced to remain
    silent or face persecution” would be news indeed to that Tel Aviv
    University graduate student Omar Barhouti who has not only benefited
    from being enrolled in a world class Israeli university (a subject he
    would rather not discuss or have discussed) but is also free to travel
    the globe as leader of the BDS “movement” calling for the very school he
    attends to be shunned.

    This is type of hypocrisy (one which applies to the author of this
    piece much more than those she criticizes) that is not just personal but
    institutional within a BDS “movement” which devotes limitless time and
    energy into demonizing Israelis (including Israeli academics) but cannot
    seem to find a moment to help those Palestinians they claim to care for
    so much.

    While flotillas may float to Gaza to provide non-existent
    humanitarian aid to the segment of Palestinian population most likely to
    pull a trigger or launch a rocket, has this writer (or any of her BDS
    allies) sent so much as a single textbook over to the West Bank to
    support student learning there (or recommended the study of math,
    science or divinity vs. hatred of the Israeli “other”)?

    The fact that Ms. Faria expresses expresses her views with sincerity
    does not make the fact that BDS is the propaganda arm of a war movement
    (rather than the inheritor to Gandhi and King) any less true. For as
    her studies would attest, most of history’s greatest evils were
    perpetrated by those who sincerely believed in their own outstanding
    virtue and the unquestionable justice of the cause they fought (and
    killed) for.”

  2. Arafat on January 27th, 2014 10:41 am

    Kavish’s and Ann’s recommendations are no different than what people have been doing to
    Jews for thousands of years. Strip their rights away one at a time.
    Dress it up in flowery language to protect the writer’s supposed
    integrity and decency, but the true intentions (Jew hatred) are as clear
    as day.

    The Nazi’s boycotted Jewish institutions too. That was the start of their final solution.

    Kavish and Ann, Muslims have killed millions (mostly one another) over the past couple of decades. A million in the 7 year Iran/Iraq War, 500,000 in Sudan, 200,000 so far in Syria, untold number of Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc….

    I’m curious why I cannot find an article from either of you on the endless Muslim bloodshed and ethnic cleansing by Muslims? Surely killing millions, gang-raping countless helpless women, shoving their religion down the throats of kidnapped Christian children is far more egregious than anything Israel has done yet you focus all your angst against Israel.

    But, of course, you are not Jew haters. Why would anyone ever think that is what really motivates you. Sarc/off.

  3. Ellis on January 27th, 2014 1:08 pm

    The title of this article should be changed–the ASA boycott does not target individuals.

  4. Ray Turner on January 28th, 2014 7:02 pm

    For scholars who dismiss bible
    prophecies, I say that you do so at your peril. Most nations on earth will go
    against Israel. “It is written!” The good news is that Israel will never again
    be displaced from its land. “It is written!” You can trust me on his one. There
    are scriptures concerning the delusions of “foolish” men, who think themselves wise.
    True wisdom comes from the Creator, Yeshua Ha Mashiach, the Son of the Most High
    G_d, Ha Shem. May the God of Israel bless Israel and keep them from all of their
    enemies. Amen and Shalom

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American Studies Association boycotts Israeli academic institutions