by William A. Jacobson, legalinsurrection.com, December 21, 2013
Intense condemnation of the boycott from American civil society has boycott supporters upset.
The anti-Israeli academic boycott resolution passed by the American Studies Association was initiated out of the Academic and Community Activism Caucus.
The resolution then was endorsed unanimously by the National Council, and then passed by a majority of those members voting online (depending on which total membership numbers are used, between 16-25% of the ASA membership actually voted for the boycott).
The resolution has been met with widespread condemnation from American civil society, including the Association of American Universities, the Association of American University Professors, and eight Past Presidents of the ASA.
Numerous individual university Presidents have condemned the boycott, including but not limited to the Presidents of UT-Austin, U. Penn, Tulane, Duke, UC-Irvine, U. Kansas, U. Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Michigan State, Cornell, Princeton, Wesleyan, Boston University, Willamette, UC-San Diego (the school where the boycott leader works), and the list likely will be growing with each passing day.
(Added) Based on additional emails forwarded by readers today, we can add George Washington U., Indiana U., Washington U. In St. Louis.
The President of Wesleyan University summed up the sentiment in the title of his Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times, Boycott of Israeli universities: A repugnant attack on academic freedom.
Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg have dropped their Institutional Memberships, while three others (Northwestern, Willamette and Hamilton — update: Temple U. too) dispute that they are Institutional Members despite being on ASA’s list. There may even be an alternative group of American Studies academics formed so that the field of study is not tainted by the ASA boycott.
There also has been widespread commentary in the media against the academic boycott, including from people who are harsh critics of Israeli policies but who view academic boycotts as both unwise and counterproductive.
In seeking to make Israel a pariah, the ASA anti-Israel boycotters have made themselves pariahs in American civil society and severely damaged the reputation of the ASA.
The pressure apparently is getting to those at the ASA who were behind the boycott resolution. The ASA Activism Caucus has issued a statement claiming that its members are the subject of harassment and threats.
More important, the ASA Activism Caucus has threatened legal action against critics in academia and university administrators:
We will try to address any academics and administrators who participate in undemocratic, unethical, and illegal behavior, and if necessary we will take legal action with the support of our legal team.
The statement is curious because it is not issued in the name of ASA, but in the name of the ASA Activism Caucus, as if the ASA Activism Caucus considered itself able to take legal and other actions in the name of the entire organization. That tells you something right there.
The statement is printed below in full. It contains the usual claims of Zionist domination. Interestingly, it claims that comments on ASA’s Facebook page have been a source of intimidation:
The ASA Facebook page has been subject to an avalanche of abusive postings for almost two weeks.
I have downloaded all of the comments from that ASA Facebook page so that we have a historical record of what was on the ASA Facebook page at the time the ASA Activism Caucus claimed an avalanche of “abusive postings,” and they are embedded at the bottom of this post. (Note, I tried to get them all, but because Facebook comments are multi-layered, it is possible I missed some.)
Although I did not read every one of the thousands of comments, there does not appear to be any pattern of abuse. Just people pushing back against the supposed justifications of the boycott and the motivations of the boycotters, and plenty of others supporting the boycott. Judge for yourself.
For Immediate Release: The Time for Intimidation is Over
It has come to our attention that members of the American Studies Association are getting hate mail or threatening mail following the ASA membership vote in favor of a resolution calling for boycott of Israeli universities. The ASA Facebook page has been subject to an avalanche of abusive postings for almost two weeks. In other cases, the intimidation has been less public as senior faculty have explicitly and implicitly intimidated junior faculty who support the boycott. More generally within the academy, some are threatening to cut funds for faculty who want to attend the ASA in the future. We are also learning that individuals and groups outside the academy are threatening legal action against the ASA.
Expressions of hate and intimidation, even if they come from isolated individuals, constitute part of a larger pattern of attack on anyone who criticizes Israel or Zionism. These disturbing messages can take the form of threats. As such, they should not be dismissed or discarded.
If you are subject to a privately delivered expression of hate or intimidation in person, in emails or over the telephone, we recommend that you neither respond to, nor discard these messages. Instead, we suggest you document the incident (when, who, where, what format, content, etc) and report it to the ASA Academic and Community Caucus at [email protected] so that we can address the incident via legal channels, and in a way that is least burdensome to you.
If you receive a threatening message or are subject to intimidation at your university, you should also report it to your university administrators and to the local police. If our university administrators are non-responsive or indeed further intimidate you, please let us know that, too.
Intimidation and frivolous legal arguments against boycott are part of a long-standing history of repression of Palestinian human rights activism in the United States. The ASA resolution for boycott is legal. Tactics of intimidation may be illegal. We will try to address any academics and administrators who participate in undemocratic, unethical, and illegal behavior, and if necessary we will take legal action with the support of our legal team.
We are at a turning point when tactics of bullying and intimidation will no longer work to silence those of us who recognize the injustice of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. There is a growing number of students, junior faculty, senior faculty, and prominent scholars advocating for Palestinian rights in the US, and we are working together, around the country and internationally, in the interest of addressing a social justice issue, one which has been endorsed by the majority of ASA members and the national leadership.
With the vote to boycott Israeli universities, ASA has embraced a legitimate means of addressing Israel’s human rights violations and challenging the US government’s unconditional support for Israel. As we move forward, threats and insults will not silence our voices or undermine the growing support for the academic boycott.