American Studies Association Calls for Boycotting Israel Academia for Academic Freedom

The American Studies Association does not care about academic freedom

What does the American Studies Association have to do with Israel? Absolutely nothing. But its National Council passes ridiculous resolutions on the thinnest of pretexts.

In 2006, the ASA National Council adopted a resolution calling for a withdrawal from Iraq because the war "threaten academic freedom and compromise scholarly integrity".  Also because "military recruiters are disproportionately enlisting working-class students and students of color, and interfering with their completion of secondary and higher educations".

Apparently the ASA had never heard of the GI Bill which actually made the expansion of the universities that host them possible.

Now, after an extended debate, the American Studies Association's National Council has rammed through a resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli academia... for academic freedom.

The American Studies Association leadership endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities, but also sought the approval of the body’s 5,000 members. The decision posted Wednesday follows a contentious debate at the group’s annual meeting last month and 10 days of deliberations that were supposed to last a morning.

So as with the Park Slope co-op, the real battle is just getting started.

The American Studies Association's National Council resolution starts out by condemning anti-Semitism and then perpetuates it with a thoroughly unique boycott that it has not leveled against any other country.

"Whereas there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation."

The resolution does not bother to justify or defend this ridiculous claim. Gaza and West Bank universities are not run by Israel. Nor does Israel even govern the general areas. These universities routinely feature calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews... making it obvious that Israel really does not run them.

On the other hand, China and Russia run universities and make academic freedom impossible. But the American Studies Association has not issued a call to boycott China or Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran or any of the other countries that violate academic freedom.

Worse still, Educational International lists Palestine as one of the countries violating academic freedom

PALESTINE (Autonomous Palestinian Territories): Since the Palestinian Authority took control of the universities in the Autonomous Territories, issues concerning restriction of academic freedom have centred around the control exerted by the Authority on university policies.

So the ASA is boycotting Israel, a country that does have academic freedom, on behalf of Palestine, an entity which does not have academic freedom.

EI is critical of Israel, on dubious grounds, but still lists it as Category Two, no restrictions, alongside Italy, the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Palestine on the other hand is Category Three, Academic Freedom Restricted, alongside Zimbabwe, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So this isn't about academic freedom. This is about boycotting Israel. If the ASA wanted to make a statement about academic freedom, it could speak out on Turkey.

Why Turkey? Let Nature, the magazine, answer that question.

Turkey cracks down on academic freedom

Turkey is upping the pressure on scientists and students who question its policies, and international human-rights advocates are taking notice.

In the past few years, the government has clamped down on the independence of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and the Turkish Academy of Sciences (see Nature 477, 131; 2011). It has also harassed and jailed individual academics and students. Now, an international network is launching a campaign to support Turkish scientists whose academic rights it considers to have been violated.

The American Studies Association does not care about academic freedom. And it should be honest about that. Its position on Israel has as much to do with academic freedom as its position on the War on Iraq had to do with Academic Freedom.

And if it insists on paradoxically boycotting Israeli academia in the name of Academic Freedom, it should have the intellectual integrity to drop the academic freedom nonsense until it's ready to stand up for academic freedom in Turkey, Russia and China and around the world.