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The American Studies Association’s Badge of Shame

Posted By Joseph Puder On December 20, 2013 @ 12:10 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 26 Comments

The American Studies Association (ASA) voted this week for an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The action taken by the ASA is nothing less than a badge of shame. The ostensible reason given was “solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge the freedom for all, including Palestinians.” The truth is, however, that the ASA has never targeted any other country for a boycott.  Israel, a democracy that protects the civil liberties and religious freedoms of its minorities, while protecting its citizens from constant Palestinian terrorism, is the ASA’s sole target. While measures such as checkpoints are used by Israel to protect its citizens from Palestinian suicide bombers, one can hardly regard them as a form of injustice.  Palestinian students might arrive late to class on occasion but the measures do not impede their studies or academic freedom.

The ASA is alleged to have 5,000 members, and the association has described itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.” In the vote to endorse the boycott, 1,252 members voted. Of those, 66% voted for the boycott, 30.5% voted against. Following the vote, the ASA announced, “We believe that the ASA endorsement of the boycott is warranted, given U.S. military and other support for Israel. Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many of the ASA…”

Abe Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director responded to the ASA boycott with the following statement: “This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the American Studies Association should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change. 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 based on myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict, and it is manifestly unjust.”

The arbitrary focus on Israel by the ASA, while ignoring the Muslim world where women and religious minority rights are routinely violated, reveals a clear prejudice on the part of the ASA. The ASA’s own words suggest an ideological bias in declaring, “Given U.S. military and other support for Israel,” as if the U.S. does not give military and financial aid to other countries, including the Palestinian Authority. U.S. aid to the Palestinians hasn’t curtailed its encouragement of hatred and intolerance towards Jews and Israel throughout its educational system. Palestinian campuses are hotbeds of anti-Zionism, and the professors and administrators have openly and consistently spawned terrorism against the Jewish State. And, while Israeli-Jews are unwelcome on Arab or Palestinian-Arab campuses, Arabs in Israel enjoy academic freedom – including the right to wage raucous demonstrations against the Jewish state. ASA members should ask the simple question pertaining to freedom and human rights: Could a Jewish-Israeli student survive on a Palestinian campus? The obvious answer is no. He or she would likely be killed.

Another reason given for the ASA boycott against Israeli academic institutions is allegedly “Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions.” This shameful excuse by the ASA is indicative of malice, if not ignorance. The ASA should know that the UN has been stacked against Israel almost from the beginning. The combination of the Muslim and Soviet blocs could have passed a resolution in the General Assembly that the “earth is flat” and it would have won by an overwhelming majority. Today, while the Soviet bloc is gone, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is still the largest and most influential voting bloc in the UN. Insofar as international law is concerned, UN Security Council Resolution 242 speaks of Israel exchanging “territory,” not all the territories in the West Bank or Judea and Samaria it liberated from Jordan in 1967. Jordan occupied these territories during the 1948 War of Independence and its annexation attempts were never recognized by the international community. Egypt and Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel and the former received the entire Sinai Peninsula in return. Jordan, too, settled its claims with Israel.

In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan, transferred responsibility for the future of the West Bank to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), who chose the armed struggle and terror against Israel rather than peace negotiations. The Oslo Accords signed in September, 1993, were violated in September, 2000, when Yasser Arafat launched the Second Intifada rather than agreeing to an “end the conflict with Israel” at Camp David, held under the auspices of President Clinton. Israel has not violated international law. It is the Palestinian refusal to compromise that has kept “the pot boiling.”

It is apparent that the ASA is only willing to use the boycott weapon against the Jewish State. When Jewish and pro-Israel students’ human rights were violated on Canadian campuses in 2010, there was no call by the ASA for a boycott of those academic institutions. Writing for Canada Free Press, Richard Cravatts, Ph.D., stressed that “ A recent incident that took place at the beginning of February, York University in particular, has now revealed a troubling pattern of tolerating physical and emotional assaults by pro-Palestinian radicals against Jewish students and others who dare to demonstrate any support for Israel or question the tactics of Islamists in their efforts to destroy the Jewish state.”

Professor Cravatts added, “Violence, and threats of violence, against Jewish students during conversations about Israel have occurred at other Canadian universities, as well. At the University of Toronto’s insidious 2009 Israeli Apartheid Week, for instance, the annual event had so devolved into a racist, rabid rally that proceedings were closed to cameras and reporters, and individuals who actually attempted to participate in a dialogue about the issues being raised by the noxious event in the first place were confronted with physical intimidation and threats, encountering the dark side of pro-Palestinianism.”

At the University of California campuses, verbal and physical attacks against Jewish and pro-Israel students have become commonplace. Pro-Israel speakers are usually harassed and sometimes attacked. That is certainly a violation of human rights and academic freedom. Has the ASA boycotted the University of California system for violating the human rights of pro-Israel students?

The New York Times quoted Curtis Marez, President of ASA as saying that the “ASA has never before called for an academic boycott of any nation’s universities.” Marez conceded that many nations including Israel’s neighbors are generally judged to have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s. But, Marez concluded, “One has to start somewhere.” Larry Summers, former President of Harvard University, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, appearing last week on PBS with Charlie Rose, ridiculed the notion of the boycott against Israel and called for a counter boycott of the ASA and its events.

To select Israel as deserving of a boycott when genocide and oppression are being perpetrated by the Iranian and Syrian regimes, to mention but two examples of global evil, is an outrage. Given Israel’s circumstances as an island of progress, democracy, and human rights in a sea of repressive dictatorships and rogue nations, one can only call it anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. This action by the American Studies Association confers upon it nothing less than a badge of shame.

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