ASA has awakened a sleeping giant.
I really hate boycotts. I have been highly critical of various forms of boycott, not just limited to the anti-Israel and mostly anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS)movement.
At some point though, unilateral disarmament doesn’t work anymore. Even those who love peace sometimes need to fight back.
This is not a partisan issue — support for Israel among the American public and in Congress and State Houses is at historic highs and cuts across both political parties. American civil and political society stands with Israel.
The hatred of Israel is not a significant part of our national landscape, except in some parts of academia and the BDS movement.
And so it is with the BDS resolution passed by the American Studies Association singling out Israel, and Israel alone, for an academic boycott. The only country whose very existence is threatened and who lives in a region notoriously devoid of academic freedom, is singled out. The most academically free country is the most despised at ASA.
I often wondered how it must have felt for American Jews watching the rise of fascism in Europe in the early 1930s. I now know. As I look upon the rise of the BDS movement worldwide and now in the U.S., I wonder how we have remained passive for so long.
BDS has take a grip in Europe, and the result is the rise of anti-Semitism and violence against Jews such that wearing a yarmulke will get you attacked in many European cities.
The tactic is known — the Big Lie. Although in Israel’s case, it is many Big Lies.
You will hear endlessly about the “Apartheid Wall,” but will never hear that the wall (actually a fence in most places) was a reaction only last decade to a Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that took hundreds of Israeli civilian lives in cafes, restaurants, buses, holiday parties and even the cafeteria at Hebrew University. The separation barrier put an end to that. To this day, weapons for use against Israeli civilians are confiscated at the much maligned check points.
You will hear endlessly that Israel is an Apartheid State because it is a Jewish state. Yet no such claims of Apartheid are made against the many Islamic states, and the reality is that Israel is a multi-racial state, where half of the Jewish population are refugees or the descendents of refugees from Arab states. Unlike Apartheid South Africa, majority rules in Israel and minority rights are protected. That protection is not perfect, as it is not perfect in the United States, but we don’t hear calls to boycott U.S. universities because of “institutional racism” or white privilege, or any of the other claims that we remain a racist society.
I could go on and on about the numerous Big Lies which are behind the BDS movement and which have worked their way in the ASA boycott resolution and justification.
BDS and violence against Jews go hand in hand. The excessive and obsessive demonization of everything having to do with Israel and the portrayal of the establishment of the Jewish homeland in the Jewish homeland as an act of colonialism and Apartheid has had its natural consequence. It is no surprise when BDS supporters like Roger Waters easily slide from anti-Israel to anti-Semitic rhetoric, that BDS events in Washington State attract open Hezbollah supporters, and that BDS student groups in South Africa sing “Shoot the Jew.”
The ASA boycott is a wake up call.
While you were minding your own business, going about your professional and family lives, a vicious movement organized by those who seek the destruction of Israel, and nothing less, was growing. Well-funded and focused on one goal, that movement now is a danger to academic freedom everywhere.
Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers argues in favor of universities cutting off support:
My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association bur really more of a political tool.
Professor Reynolds, linking my prior post, suggests:
AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION BOYCOTTS ISRAEL, issues talking points to members. The response should be withdrawal of funding to attend ASA events. Let legislators and Trustees know.
I think that’s right. ASA receives direct funding in the form of memberships from approximately 140 institutions (we are in the process of obtaining the list — Update: available here), and university money is used to fund travel and participation in ASA events. Some of that money is taxpayer supported when done through state universities.
It’s not enough to resign from the organization, although that might be an understandable reaction given the radical self-parody that has become “American Studies”:
Been @AmerStudiesAssn member since 1998. Served on 3 committees, presented/chaired 9 panels. Sad to see it go this direction. I'm leaving.
— Adam B. Golub (@adamgolub) December 16, 2013
Criticize Israel all you want, but when an academic organization (with tax exempt “educational” status, no less) joins BDS, that is where it must stop.
More to follow.
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