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ASA issues member talking points to counter university pushback over Israel boycott

ASA issues member talking points to counter university pushback over Israel boycott

American Studies Association coaches members how to defend ASA academic boycott against criticism by Deans, Administrators and Faculty.

The decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions is a discriminatory, malicious action which ranks with the odious Zionism is Racism resolution passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1975 and later rescinded.

Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers correctly calls it anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent, and called on Universities not to use their funds to support faculty participation in ASA.

Fox News reports on some of the pushback, Tax-exempt academic group’s boycott of Israel draws fire:

Officials at the Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, blasted the development as a “shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack” on academic freedom.

“Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is manifestly unjust,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement. “We commend those members of the ASA who boldly spoke out and voted against this shameful resolution. We further applaud the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for reiterating its opposition to academic boycotts which ‘strike directly at the free exchange of ideas.'”

The Fox News article then goes on to discuss my intention of challenging ASA’s tax-exempt status.

ASA should be worried about how this anti-academic freedom resolution will be received. The ASA resolution is anathema to academic freedom, and has been criticized by the Association of American University Professors, among others.

As I noted, the ASA resolution also would prohibit ASA from cooperating with joint educational programs between American and Israeli Universities, such as the massive Cornell-Technion campus being built on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

Apparently ASA is so concerned about how its academic boycott will be received at Universities around the country that it has posted talking points on its website.

One of the documents is titled, Points for talking to Administrators about the Academic Boycott (PDF) which reads in part:

Answering questions about the ASA boycott from Department Chairs, Deans, Administrators

With the boycott resolution, the ASA takes a principled position while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership. The National Council understands that some of the Program Directors and faculty, and Regional Chapters representatives, may come under particular pressure from your institutions, administrators, or local organizations about the ASA boycott. We emphasize that we uphold your right to say whatever you wish to administrators or university officials who are hostile to this action.

In some circumstance the following general statements may be appropriate:

“While I may not agree/don’t know where I stand on the issue, I support the right of scholars and students to take ethical stands on important public issues.”


“The ASA recognizes the rights of its members to act in accordance with their own conscience and convictions and to disagree with the resolution. As an association that upholds the principle of academic freedom, the ASA exercises no legislative authority over its members. (By contrast, it is a civil offense for scholars within israel to endorse this boycott.)”

If you experience confused, puzzled or critical reactions that prove difficult to manage, please contact the ASA office for further assistance.

Below are some suggested responses to particular questions.

ASA also provides a sample letter for members to send, preemptively, to administrators. The sample letter reads in part:


I wanted to alert you to activities in the American Studies Association that people at UCSD might be interested in….

The resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The proposed resolution expressly DOES NOT endorse a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-­‐level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication. U.S. scholars are not discouraged under the terms of the boycott from traveling to Israel for academic purposes, provided they are not engaged in a formal partnership with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is not designed to curtail dialogue. Rather, it emerges from the recognition that these forms of ordinary academic exchange are often impossible for Palestinian academics due to Israeli policies.

The ASA recognizes the rights of its members to disagree with the resolution and that individual members will act according to their conscience and convictions on these complex issues. As an association that upholds the principle of academic freedom, the ASA exercises no legislative authority over its members. By contrast, it is a civil offense for scholars within Israel to endorse this boycott.

I wanted to let you know about this in case you were interested and in case you receive any questions about the ASA. And while I know this is a difficult issue for many, I hope you will join us in affirming the right of scholars and students at our university and elsewhere to take ethical stands on important public issues.


From what I am seeing in my email inbox, on Facebook, and in news articles, I do expect the pushback to be fierce.

As it should be.


Featured image from Facebook profile of ASA member and boycott advocate Cynthia Franklin.  The image is a play on Benjamin Netanyahu’s image used to demonstrate the Iranian nuclear threat to destroy Israel in a speech at the United Nations.  That a leading ASA boycott advocate views the ASA boycott as a bomb set to explode on Israel tells you everything you need to know about the hatred of Israel behind this resolution:

Cynthia Franklin Profile Netanyahu ASA Bomb

Update 12-17-2013: Mark Rice, Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, who publicly opposed the resolution, has started a blog documenting the reaction, you should check it out, The Future of American Studies.

Also, Boycott, Divest and Sanction the American Studies Association.


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I love it!

They have Cliffs Notes for nervous boycotters!


“If you experience confused, puzzled or critical reactions that prove difficult to manage, please contact the ASA office for further assistance.”

Dang, Dude! They’ve got Navigators!

You could be lucky caller number One !!

Remember, this step should only be taken after you’ve said, verbatim, “While I may not agree/don’t know where I stand on the issue, I support …”

In other words, if you disagree or think this whole thing was a waste of time and energy … it’s not too late to show your support for what you don’t support!

Now cram before the sh*t hits the fan!

1. Isn’t the boycott movement extreme/fringe?

The ASA was founded in 1948 [that’s not answering the question] and is thus the oldest [so, tradition is good, eh?] and most venerable [spelling? venereal?] professional association devoted to the study of US history and culture; [so, Israel is the 51st state?] the fact that its members [some] have endorsed the boycott [fact] suggest [sic; seriously … “suggests”?] that the movement is becoming mainstream [meaningless “suggestions” aside: so you are admitting it is somewhat extreme/fringe at the moment, your actions and imagined suggestions aside, right?].

I coulda been a contender as a professor.

The study of US history and culture is in the hands of these complete boobs?

Oh, Jeez.

Short version: Jooos are bad, we hate eeeevil Jooos. We stoopid hateful morons.

1. Isn’t the boycott movement extreme/fringe?

The ASA was founded in 1948 and anti-Semitism has been around even much, much longer!

If you experience confused, puzzled or critical reactions to this appeal to evil ancient authority, please contact the ASA office for further assistance.

LHC (who, in the double-blind experiment testing whether a few beers (too many) with dinner facilitates the raising of one’s dander, is pretty sure he’s not in the placebo group)

ASA members should wear a bright uniform or hat or something to identify themselves.

I would hate to accidentally brake for one of the bastards.

3. Why endorse a boycott resolution now, when higher education is struggling to defend its existence to the public and maintain funding?

One potential [very potential] difficulty higher education faces is the public perception [perception or understanding?] that it is disconnected from or irrelevant
to real world issues [try disconnected from reality and irrelevant to learning and students’ employability].

The ASA resolution helps to counter such a view by demonstrating the significant role of academia in addressing
pressing human problems.

See Duke Group of 88.

How Could 88 Professors Possibly be Wrong?

The U.S. gives Israel 3.1 billion [yen? pesos? Proofread?] in aid [so you want to cut off all foreign aid? Or only Israel, again?] at a time when public funding for education is in decline, [nothing can keep going up forever, right? Especially when test scores are falling or flatlining at the same time … and let’s be honest … ain’t much decline in funding] and the boycott helps raise important
questions about our skewed spending priorities [how about our skewed learning priorities?] in which all universities have not only an ethical but also material stake [i.e., stop giving money to those Jews, throw them to their enemies, give the money to us, and we’ll teach your kids even better!!!]

LHC (who was never a great Evelyn Woods speed reader because he was always lollygagging reading between the lines)

[…] plans to file a lawsuit challenging the tax-exempt status of the American Studies Association, has posted the talking points that the ASA has provided members who may feel hostility from colleagues and administrators at […]

This idiocy must rank as one of the most absurd events in Western intellectual history, comparable only to the church’s condemnation of Galileo. While condemning the only democracy in the Middle East, the academics of the ASA have no problem in staying silent about the countries that devalue women, persecute homosexuals and deny not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion to their citizens. But then, we shouldn’t really be surprised. After all, the universities and academics were some of the earliest and most ardent supporters of the Nazis. History is repeating itself.

Fairly absurd response to ASA given the Israelis refusal to issue visas to anyone it doesn’t like. Its fine to support all things Israeli but don’t be hypocrites about it. The ASA certainly isn’t the first organization that recognizes to the need to express its criticism of Israel in a concrete way.
Somehow, I suspect Mr. Jacobson is strangely silent when Israel denies travel rights to Palestinian students or bars academics from entry into to the W. Bank or Gaza.

    So a nation must issue travel visas to everyone… kind of defeats the purpose of a visa doesn’t it?

      autolegal in reply to JDmyrm. | December 17, 2013 at 10:59 am

      So, denying a visa to academic or student is OK, unless its an Israeli academic or student? And, not simply a disagreement over policy and how to influence policy but, instead “Antisemitism” worthy of the KKK?

        if the ASA boycotted every other nation in the world that denied travel and student visas to people “it didn’t like” I would have no argument, but given that every nation in the world does do this and ASA singled out Israel… it belies your point.

    onlyabill in reply to autolegal. | December 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Being an open and free democracy does not have to include giving aid and comfort to your enemies or those that seek to destroy you.

This group is the same as the old anti semites.They just changed the code words.

“until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.”
Professor, you posted earlier the ‘legal case for Israel’, youtube this lecture and commit it’s finer points to memory to counter this scurrilous meme of ‘international law’.

Perhaps the ASA needs its own navigators.

It is somewhat amusing that ASA purports to be an association of scholars, but feels it must tell its members what to say when their policy is questioned.

You’d expect scholars could figure that out on their own, would you not?

ASA motto: “NOT the best and the brightest, ’cause that would be racist.”