ASA membership votes to boycott Israel by landslide
The full membership of the American Studies Association (ASA) has voted by a two-to-one margin to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, it was announced today.
The referendum was called after the National Council, the ASA’s governing body,endorsed the boycott itself on 4 December.
The vote is likely to be seen as an historic milestone in the Palestinian campaign forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), particularly in the United States, where university administrations have forcefully opposed student and faculty initiatives of this kind.
The ASA describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”
It has 5,000 individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.
More can be read HERE
ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel
One year ago, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) asked the Executive Committee (EC) to consider a resolution to honor the call from Palestinian civil society to support the academic boycott of Israel. The EC forwarded the resolution to the National Council. Following the deliberative procedures detailed below, the Council unanimously decided to issue a revised version of the resolution, which we now recommend to members of the ASA. Please follow this link to read the resolution.
The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.
We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a 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 a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.
Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.
The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.
The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions. Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.
Background on the Resolution
The resolution is the culmination of a long history of discussion and debate in the ASA. In 2006, in response to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the ASA International Committee (IC), including a former ASA President, discussed the possibility of endorsing a boycott. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s military assault on Gaza and in response to requests from ASA members, several bodies in the Association again took up the question of a boycott: the IC, the Program Committee for the 2009 convention, and the Executive Committee, which included the current ASA President. The consensus then was that members needed more opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues and so the Program Committee organized two featured panels: “Palestine in Crisis” and “Academic Freedom and the Right to Education: The Question of Palestine.” Scheduled in prime times on Friday and Saturday of the convention, the panels addressed the plight of Palestinian universities and academics and the profound pressures on teaching and research contexts in the U.S. and Palestine where education and intellectual freedom were under attack. The second panel focused in particular on the boycott movement.
In the wake of such discussions, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus (ACAC) met at the 2012 ASA convention to consider a resolution and gather signatures. This resolution was then submitted to the Executive Committee and, in December, posted on the Caucus’ page on the ASA web site. Information about the resolution was also included in the December 2012 ASA Newsletter distributed to all ASA members.
In March of 2013, the Program Committee for the 2013 ASA convention met and discussed ways to create opportunities at the meeting to discuss issues related to calls for boycott. The resulting program included 8 sessions on “Middle East American Studies,” with four focused specifically on United States/Israel/Palestine. At the same time the Ethnic Studies Committee organized two panels about settler colonialism that discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the ACAC organized a panel called “Boycott as a Non-Violent Strategy of Collective Dissent.”
In May 2013 the Executive Committee met and discussed the proposed resolution submitted by the ACAC at great length. It agreed that it would be in the best interest of the organization to solicit from the membership as many perspectives as possible on the proposed resolution to aid the National Council in its discussions and decision-making. With the past President and a prominent, senior member of the Association serving as moderators, it held an open session during the November National Convention at which the National Council was present to hear directly from the membership. Members were notified of the open discussion well in advance of the convention and it was highlighted as a featured event in both online and print versions of the program. Additionally, members who could not attend the session or the convention were encouraged to contact the EC directly via email, and many did so.
The Saturday November 23rd open discussion was attended by approximately 745 ASA members. Members distributed information about the boycott in advance, and the hall was filled with leaflets representing different views. The moderators carefully and clearly articulated the different actions that could be taken and the process for deliberation. To guarantee an orderly and fair discussion members who wished to speak put their name in a box from which speakers were randomly selected. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes, providing the opportunity to hear from forty-four different speakers during the time allotted for the special session. The discussion was passionate but respectful. Speakers included students, faculty, past Presidents, former members of the National Council, former and current members of the AQ editorial staff, American Studies department chairs, and an ASA member also representing the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. While different opinions were articulated, the overwhelming majority spoke in support of the ASA endorsing an academic boycott.
Remaining in session over the course of 8 days after the open session, Council members spoke and wrote from different perspectives, debated different possibilities, and critically yet generously engaged each other. The resulting resolution reflects, we think, the history and present state of conversations within the ASA, offering a principled position for the Association’s participation in the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership on this issue.
In the last several decades, the ASA has welcomed scholarship that critically analyzes the U.S. state, its role domestically and abroad, and that reaches out beyond U.S. borders. Our commitment to cutting-edge and transnational scholarship has been accompanied by the comparative study of borders, migration, and citizenship. The ASA also has a history of critical engagement with the field of Native American and Indigenous studies that has increasingly come to shape and influence the field and the Association, and the Council acknowledged the force of Israeli and U.S. settler colonialism throughout our deliberations. Finally, the resolution is in keeping with the ASA’s continuing commitment to ethical research and the right of scholars to dissent and to take public positions.
The Council believes that the resolution is of particular significance to scholars of American Studies. Together, we endorse it, and recommend that ASA members endorse it as well.
The ASA National Council
Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University
Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin
Jeremy Dean. University of Texas, Austin
Lisa Duggan, New York University
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
Marisol LeBrón, New York University
Karen Leong, Arizona State University
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis
Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego
Roya Rastegar, Bryn Mawr College
Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley
María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University
Due to a family emergency, Juri Abe, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, was not present for the National Council meeting where the resolution was passed.
And the zionist response …
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said, “This vote to boycott Israel, one of the most democratic and academically free nations on the globe, shows the Orwellian anti-Semitism and moral bankruptcy of the American Studies Association.”
“The Middle East is literally filled with dead from governments’ reaction to the convulsions of the ‘Arab Spring,’ but the American Studies Association singles out the Jewish state, the one Middle Eastern country that shares American values, for opprobrium?”
Full Report HERE
And of course there’s ‘The Mouse That Roared’ …..
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued 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 a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.
We commend those members of the ASA who boldly spoke out and voted against this shameful resolution. We further applaud the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for reiterating its opposition to academic boycotts which “strike directly at the free exchange of ideas.”
Although the ASA resolution will likely have limited practical impact on Israeli academic institutions and on Israeli academics, those members of the ASA who voted in favor of this resolution should also understand the hateful message they are sending. As Lawrence Summers, who, when he was president of Harvard a decade ago said about an initiative to boycott Israel, “Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”
We call on academic institutions across the United States to enhance their existing relationships with Israeli universities and research institutions and stand resolutely in support of open exchange, dialogue and study.