ASA Academic Boycott of Israel

On December 15, in a move condemned by numerous prominent academic scholars throughout the country, the American Studies Association (ASA) membership voted to adopt an ill-advised resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions following a recommendation by their National Council.

To date, 246 universities have publicly rejected the ASA decision, six schools have withdrew membership completely, and 11 schools have flatly denied ever holding membership. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE LIST. (Updated 2/10/14)

Here’s what you need to know:

The Israel Action Network condemned this measure, which followed a recommendation by the ASA National Council to pass the resolution. The approval represents just a narrow fraction of overall ASA members, less than 20 percent of membership took part in the vote.

“The Israel Action Network (IAN) is troubled that members of the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions that directly violates the strongly held principle of academic freedom,” IAN said in a statement. “The resolution, which purports to support academic freedom in which scholars are free to pursue ideas without being targeted for repression, discipline, or institutional censorship, in actuality urges a sweeping boycott of Israeli academic institutions based on tortured logic, factual inaccuracies and distortions of the role of Israel’s universities, public and private, in the implementation of government policy. IAN is disappointed to see the ASA lend its name to such a counterproductive campaign.”

ASA Rejection by the Academic Community:
This issue has gained national attention, yet much of the coverage has been to cast the spotlight on the clear violation of academic freedom. Numerous organizations, schools and academic groups have come forward to reject it on the grounds that academic boycotts undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an influential body of 40,000 higher education professionals committed to furthering academic freedom, came forward to unequivocally oppose academic boycotts. They issued both a statement and a letter urging ASA and other organizations to seek alternative means to pursue their concerns and called the ASA vote a “setback for the cause of academic freedom.”

AAUP is joined by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada, which includes Harvard, Stanford and Yale, who said in a statement: “Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general…Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”

Similarly, the American Council on Education, an umbrella of 1,800 academic institutions that is widely considered the largest higher education organization in the United States, also came forward to condemn the ASA boycott, as did the American Federation of Teachers.

Six universities have already dropped their membership and over 245 schools have publicly condemned the boycott move.

Action Steps:
Despite these public avowals of support, there is work still to be done. We ask you to do the following:

  • There are currently efforts underway by academics both in and outside of ASA to call on their universities to withdraw their institutional memberships from the ASA using the message of the endangerment of academic freedom and the singling out of one country for discriminatory treatment. This effort is best led by academics. Therefore if you are an academic or closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, contact them regarding institutional resignation. However, we are not calling for a counter boycott, and such language should not be used. This is a stand on principles of academic freedom and fairness.
  • Ask your community to write to the presidents and provosts of their alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.
  • Communicate with your networks with articles, emails, and messages that explain why academic boycotts and anti-Israel resolutions, in general, hurt the cause of peace and reconciliation and single out one county for discriminatory treatment.

The list of 246 universities (and counting!) condemning the boycott or withdrawing ASA membership grows daily and is available HERE.

Recommended Reading:

Some Lessons in Effective Scapegoating (Bloomberg)

American Studies Scholars Now Israel-Free (New York Magazine)

Boycotting Israeli Universities: A Victory for Bigotry (Haaretz)

A Vote Against Israel and Academic Freedom (Wall Street Journal)

The Real Problem With the American Studies Association’s Boycott of Israel (The Daily Beast)

The Academic Boycott of Israel Is a Travesty (The New Republic)

Parsing an Academic Boycott of Israel (New York Times)

Boycott of Israeli Universities: A Repugnant Attack on Academic Freedom (LA Times)

The ASA’s Boycott of Israel Is Not as Troubling As It Seems (The New Republic)

Will Congress Stand Up for Academic Freedom? (Politico)

Boycotting and Cooperating With Israel — the ASA, EU and China (Huffington Post)

U.S. Scholars are Misguided in Boycotting Israel (Washington Post)

Say No to Boycotts (Boston Herald)

The ASA’s Assault on Academic Freedom (Times of Israel)

Harvard and Yale Slam American Studies Association Over Israel Boycott (Tablet)

The Un-American Studies Association (Council on Foreign Relations)

Indiana University, Kenyon College Join Schools Leaving ASA over Israel Boycott (JNS)

So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You (New York Times)

Dozens of U.S. Universities Reject Academic Boycott of Israel (Washington Post)

Politics and the Modern Language Association (Times of Israel)

As always, IAN will continue to monitor – and counter – attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel.