Breaking With Past, American Association of University Professors Refuses to Condemn Boycott of Israel By Middle East Studies Ass’n
For decades, AAUP has condemned academic boycotts, including boycotts of Israel. Reflecting AAUP’s increasing radicalism and anti-Israel hostility, the association will not offer a statement condemning MESA’s boycott, according to a spokeswoman.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which claims to be a steadfast opponent of academic boycotts, “has no current plan to issue a statement” regarding the Middle East Studies Association’s recently-ratified anti-Israel academic boycott resolution. That’s according to a statement provided to Legal Insurrection by AAUP Media and Communications Specialist Kelly Benjamin.
This is a change for AAUP. In 2005, the association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure issued a strong anti-boycott statement declaring:
[S]ince its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas.
1. In view of the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas, we oppose academic boycotts.
2. On the same grounds, we recommend that other academic associations oppose academic boycotts. We urge that they seek alternative means, less inimical to the principle of academic freedom, to pursue their concerns.
3. We especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test…
While recognizing the decisions of individual scholars to choose not to participate in academic activities, AAUP concluded that an “organized academic boycott is a different matter.” AAUP criticized the Association for Asian American Studies’ 2013 Israel boycott resolution “and would instead urge that organization and its members to find other means to register their opposition to Israeli policies.”
Later that year, AAUP condemned the American Studies Association’s joining the anti-Israel academic boycott:
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is disappointed in the vote announced this morning by the membership of the American Studies Association (ASA) to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. While the AAUP takes no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have opposed all academic boycotts in principle since 2005 when we published our report On Academic Boycotts.
The AAUP has maintained that position ever since. Until now. Now AAUP will remain silent in the face of action by MESA that is an offense not only to AAUP’s stated principles, but to academic freedom, as noted in an Op-Ed last December at the NY Post, Middle East Studies Association’s anti-Jewish BDS backing is a frontal attack on academic freedom
What changed? In a topic Legal Insurrection will be exploring in depth in future posts, AAUP Committee A membership, which governs academic freedom, has become increasingly hostile to Israel and supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Recently, Committee A objected that legislative efforts to fight anti-Semitism, which incorporate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, threaten faculty free speech rights. On March 24, Committee A published a statement complaining that IHRA’s definition “threaten[s] academic freedom” by allegedly suppressing “criticism” of Israel. In fact, the IHRA definition does not condemn mere criticism, but rather points out that efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State (as opposed to criticizing particular policies of the state) are an indicator of anti-Semitism.
“The AAUP’s March 2022 statement is another step in the escalating anti-Zionism of the AAUP’s most important committee, the source of its major statements since 1915,” says former AAUP president Cary Nelson with regard to the Committee A anti-Semitism statement. He continued, “When the AAUP says, ‘There is a clear connection between recent laws on antisemitic speech and those on teaching about racism,’ it means to condemn Israel as a racist state.”
AAUP now is shying away from protecting the academic freedom not only of Israelis, but of Americans who want to interact with Israeli academic institutions. This is a sad day for academic freedom.DONATE
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