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Anti-Israel academic boycotters threaten legal action against opponents

Anti-Israel academic boycotters threaten legal action against opponents

Intense condemnation of the boycott from American civil society has boycott supporters upset.

The anti-Israeli academic boycott resolution passed by the American Studies Association was initiated out of the Academic and Community Activism Caucus.

The resolution then was endorsed unanimously by the National Council, and then passed by a majority of those members voting online (depending on which total membership numbers are used, between 16-25% of the ASA membership actually voted for the boycott).

The resolution has been met with widespread condemnation from American civil society, including the Association of American Universities, the American Association of University Professors, and eight Past Presidents of the ASA.

Numerous individual university Presidents have condemned the boycott, including but not limited to the Presidents of UT-Austin, U. Penn, Tulane, Duke, UC-Irvine, U. Kansas, U. Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Michigan State, Cornell, Princeton, Wesleyan, Boston UniversityWillamette, UC-San Diego (the school where the boycott leader works), and the list likely will be growing with each passing day.

(Added) Based on additional emails forwarded by readers today, we can add George Washington U., Indiana U., Washington U. In St. Louis.

The President of Wesleyan University summed up the sentiment in the title of his Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times, Boycott of Israeli universities: A repugnant attack on academic freedom.

Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg have dropped their Institutional Memberships, while three others (Northwestern, Willamette and Hamilton — update: Temple U. too) dispute that they are Institutional Members despite being on ASA’s list. There may even be an alternative group of American Studies academics formed so that the field of study is not tainted by the ASA boycott.

There also has been widespread commentary in the media against the academic boycott, including from people who are harsh critics of Israeli policies but who view academic boycotts as both unwise and counterproductive.

In seeking to make Israel a pariah, the ASA anti-Israel boycotters have made themselves pariahs in American civil society and severely damaged the reputation of the ASA.

The pressure apparently is getting to those at the ASA who were behind the boycott resolution.  The ASA Activism Caucus has issued a statement claiming that its members are the subject of harassment and threats.

More important, the ASA Activism Caucus has threatened legal action against critics in academia and university administrators:

We will try to address any academics and administrators who participate in undemocratic, unethical, and illegal behavior, and if necessary we will take legal action with the support of our legal team.

The statement is curious because it is not issued in the name of ASA, but in the name of the ASA Activism Caucus, as if the ASA Activism Caucus considered itself able to take legal and other actions in the name of the entire organization.  That tells you something right there.

The statement is printed below in full.  It contains the usual claims of Zionist domination.  Interestingly, it claims that comments on ASA’s Facebook page have been a source of intimidation:

The ASA Facebook page has been subject to an avalanche of abusive postings for almost two weeks.

I have downloaded all of the comments from that ASA Facebook page so that we have a historical record of what was on the ASA Facebook page at the time the ASA Activism Caucus claimed an avalanche of “abusive postings,” and they are embedded at the bottom of this post.  (Note, I tried to get them all, but because Facebook comments are multi-layered, it is possible I missed some.)

Although I did not read every one of the thousands of comments, there does not appear to be any pattern of abuse.  Just people pushing back against the supposed justifications of the boycott and the motivations of the boycotters, and plenty of others supporting the boycott.  Judge for yourself.

Here is the statement, as reprinted at the anti-Israel Mondoweiss website (also at the Jadaliyya website, which has an automated audio version):

For Immediate Release: The Time for Intimidation is Over

It has come to our attention that members of the American Studies Association are getting hate mail or threatening mail following the ASA membership vote in favor of a resolution calling for boycott of Israeli universities. The ASA Facebook page has been subject to an avalanche of abusive postings for almost two weeks. In other cases, the intimidation has been less public as senior faculty have explicitly and implicitly intimidated junior faculty who support the boycott. More generally within the academy, some are threatening to cut funds for faculty who want to attend the ASA in the future. We are also learning that individuals and groups outside the academy are threatening legal action against the ASA.

Expressions of hate and intimidation, even if they come from isolated individuals, constitute part of a larger pattern of attack on anyone who criticizes Israel or Zionism. These disturbing messages can take the form of threats. As such, they should not be dismissed or discarded.

If you are subject to a privately delivered expression of hate or intimidation in person, in emails or over the telephone, we recommend that you neither respond to, nor discard these messages. Instead, we suggest you document the incident (when, who, where, what format, content, etc) and report it to the ASA Academic and Community Caucus at [email protected] so that we can address the incident via legal channels, and in a way that is least burdensome to you.

If you receive a threatening message or are subject to intimidation at your university, you should also report it to your university administrators and to the local police. If our university administrators are non-responsive or indeed further intimidate you, please let us know that, too.

Intimidation and frivolous legal arguments against boycott are part of a long-standing history of repression of Palestinian human rights activism in the United States. The ASA resolution for boycott is legal. Tactics of intimidation may be illegal. We will try to address any academics and administrators who participate in undemocratic, unethical, and illegal behavior, and if necessary we will take legal action with the support of our legal team.

We are at a turning point when tactics of bullying and intimidation will no longer work to silence those of us who recognize the injustice of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. There is a growing number of students, junior faculty, senior faculty, and prominent scholars advocating for Palestinian rights in the US, and we are working together, around the country and internationally, in the interest of addressing a social justice issue, one which has been endorsed by the majority of ASA members and the national leadership.

With the vote to boycott Israeli universities, ASA has embraced a legitimate means of addressing Israel’s human rights violations and challenging the US government’s unconditional support for Israel. As we move forward, threats and insults will not silence our voices or undermine the growing support for the academic boycott.

American Studies Assoc Facebook Pg 12-21-2013 356 Pm Eastern by Legal Insurrection

Update:  It is only a matter of time before American political society also gets involved. I received this email from Governor Rick Perry’s office:

“Governor Perry is a very strong supporter of Israel and he opposes this boycott.”

(Featured Image source: Change.org)

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Comments

BannedbytheGuardian | December 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I am just not sure what it has to do with American studies.

Claims of abuse, hatred and threats seem to be SOP for simply disagreeing with the perennially aggrieved. Saying no results in tantrums.

“Abuse and intimidation” is code for “disagreement”. These people want to “debate” by fiat; they are singularly unwilling to deal with pushback on their position.

“We are at a turning point when tactics of bullying and intimidation will no longer work to silence those of us who recognize the injustice of Israel’s Arab treatment of Palestinians Israel.”

FIFT

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to genes. | December 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    ASA=KKK?
    The KKK also were against people of Israeli persuasion.

    ““We are at a turning point when ASA tactics of bullying and intimidation OF OTHERS will no longer work to silence ASA Critics…” THERE I fixed it to what you really mean, you new KKK.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to genes. | December 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    ASA=KKK?
    The KKK also were against people of Israeli persuasion.

    ““We are at a turning point when ASA tactics of bullying and intimidation OF OTHERS will no longer work to silence ASA Critics…” THERE I fixed it to what you really mean, ASA.

    mackykam in reply to genes. | December 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    What the hell does your declaration mean? The Jews are treating their Arabs better than arab regimes treat their own people? That Israelis aren’t taking genocidal actions against their arab population like what is happening in Syria?
    That the Jews are not bombing arabs at funerals, at food markets or in mosques?
    Israelis aren’t letting arabs honor kill their wives and daughters?

    Blaming Israel for all of this, are you?

So what’s your sense of who’s behind this? Saudi money, or just Obama worshipers who see for to attack what he hates?

These people are clowns.

I thank the stars that it was not this way when I was at college.

I could hardly guess the political leanings of my professors, but they sure pushed me to defend my ideas no matter what the ideas were, and to acquire the abilities to think for myself.

This is sadly lacking in academia today. But thanks to the ASA, a window opens that allows a breeze for change.

I suspect that the unrealistic threats of legal action are preemptive warnings to their employers. Some of the junior faculty and non-tenure track, and even some of the tenured professors, may be concerned that their vicious anti-Semitism will be held against them in hiring, teaching assignments, tenure discussions, promotions, raises, and funding.

However, it might actually be a wonderful result if an ASA member could successfully make a claim of view point discrimination in employment. There are many more conservative and middle-of-the-road faculty and aspiring faculty who face consistent discrimination for their view points than there ever will be radical anti-Semites, Marxists, or leftists facing discrimination. Let them say that universities can’t make employment decisions based on opinions, view point, politics, and types of publications.

Remember that it would be entirely in-character for the Activism Caucus to send abusive posts to its own members’ Facebook pages to justify its outrageous outrage. The ACA seems to have bought in to the grievance industry, and if you don’t have enough grievances you make your own.

9thDistrictNeighbor | December 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Waiting to hear from Sean Decatur, new President of Kenyon College.

I’ll tell you, there were once plenty of professors in the history department who would not stand for this at all…but that was in the proverbial dark ages.

Not A Member of Any Organized Political | December 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

ASA and
Obama’s Holiday message:

“Those chestnuts roasting on an open fire?
They’re mine. Help me pull them out.”

From Bob Boyd over at http://althouse.blogspot.com/2013/12/watch-out-for-pajama-boy-virus-its-hard.html

So let’s get this straight — condemnation, demands for change, and threats to boycott directed at the ASA and its individual members are bullying, harassment, and intimidation? Isn’t that exactly what the ASA is doing to the nation of Israel, its academic institutions, and individual citizens? I guess the members of the AntiSemitic-American Studies Association don’t like being the subject of their own tactics!

While the implications for scholarship and the potential effect on Israeli institutions and scholars is evident, this is just another example of leftists trying to silence any opposition.

Leftists are totalitarians, period. Sure, there are some who do not believe in totalitarian principles, but they do not fight against them, and enable them just as surely as Lenin’s “useful fools” aided the Soviet state.

innocent bystander | December 22, 2013 at 8:18 am

They thought it would be free. They thought we were suckers.

WTell wrote “concerned.” I would have written “fearful.” I don’t know whether or not that fear is realistic. But, I’m sure it takes a toll, psychologically. (And that’s the idea: make them pay for it.)

Socratease wrote “to its own members’ Facebook pages to justify its outrageous outrage.” The message was sent to the ASA general webpage. That suggests that the Activism Caucus is trying to shore up support within the ASA. And, that suggests to me that this is has been damaging to their collegial relationships. (And that’s the idea: make them pay for it.)

Any legal threats against people publically pushing back against the ASA seem unrealistic to me (not a lawyer). We are just exercising our rights to free speech. I doubt that even the ACLU would take that case. Which means that, in the unlikely event that they actually have hired lawyers, they’re paying for them. (And that’s the idea: make them pay for it.)

Academic and Community Activism Caucus has a new name!:

Academic and Community Activism and Rule-Making Caucus.

Rule #1: It’s not Kosher to push back against our insanity.

overseers never like it when the overseen refuse to be beaten or even just browbeaten anymore.

Somehow peaceful protests turn into riots and unlawful assemblies and the police get called out.

This is just an electronic strike against bigotry and lies.
So of course they’ll threaten with lawyers and suits.

Good luck with that.

Who is “caucus activism, gainesville, United States”?

No American would list their address that way. It’s “Gainesville, FL”.

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