The anti-Israel academic boycott launched by the American Studies Association and two smaller groups has been denounced by several dozen universities and colleges, among others, as a grievous attack on the academic freedom of everyone. The rebukes have been stunning in their severity.

Here are just three examples from dozens of University statements rejecting the academic boycott of Israel :

  • Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now President of Purdue University: “This is as clear a violation of academic freedom as one can imagine.  We (Purdue) do not appear to have any institutional relationship with the American Studies Association, but are checking to see whether any of our departments do.”
  • Ron Liebowitz, President of Middlebury College: “the vote is a sad reflection of an extreme and hateful ideology of some members of the academy ….  I urge others in the academic community to condemn the ASA boycott and reaffirm their support for academic freedom.”
  • James F. Jones, Jr., President of Trinity College (CT) writing to the President of ASA: “Trinity once years back was an institutional member… Were we still an institutional member, we would not be any longer after the misguided and unprincipled announcement of the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East…. As President of the ASA, you have tarnished a once distinguished association”

The accumulation of similar statements from University Presidents and others — including people who are critical of Israeli policies — surely must sting the academic boycotters, who are under the misconception that the American world is run by the “Israel Lobby.”

To the contrary, there is near universal condemnation from a wide range of American civil society — that condemnation is heartfelt, willingly given, and reflects the best traditions of American academic life.

The refusal of American civil society to acquiesce in the anti-Israel boycotters’ attack on academic freedom is not itself an attack on academic freedom.

The boycotters also complained of Facebook harassment, but the evidence they point to is nothing more than people vigorously disagreeing with them, something that probably doesn’t take place in their classrooms.

The pressure is mounting in myriad ways, with at least four cancellations of Institutional Memberships, and numerous other Universities which say they never should have been listed as members in the first place.

Even politicians are getting involved, including a NY Assemblyman who requested a NY State Attorney General investigation because the boycott appears to be based on national origin, which violates the NY Human Rights Law.  The law applies equally to all, including anti-Israeli boycotters.

Now those behind the boycott are complaining that their academic freedom to engage in an academic boycott is being violated by those who disagree with them!

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), the umbrella organization behind all these efforts, is trying to rally support for ASA by encouraging individual and institutional memberships, among other things, Support the ASA: What you can do.

USACBI claims that the academic freedom of the academic boycotters is under attack (bold in original):

Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations….

Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership. The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.

Am I allowed to say “Chutzpah”?

Update: Something interesting that shows how the USACBI and the ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism (the group at ASA that offered the boycott resolution) are intertwined. The anti-Israel website Mondoweiss ran a version of what appeared on the USACBI (similar appeal, not quite as detailed) but identified it as coming from the Activism Caucus:

The following is a statement from the ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism. It is not from the American Studies Association.

ASA has been completely taken over by anti-Israel radicals who don’t seem to care what damage they do to ASA and academic freedom as long as they advance the global BDS movement against Israel.


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