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December 24, 2013
Take a Stand Against BDS
The decision by the American Studies Association to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is an act of hypocrisy, indecency and stupidity.
For such ignorance to emanate from a presumably intelligent group of professors speaks poorly of the state of American academia. Now it is up to other academics and universities to denounce the move, beat back other attempts at similar resolutions and make clear once and for all that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has no place on our college campuses.
The association, known as the ASA — with nearly 5,000 members — passed its resolution earlier this month by a 2-to-1 margin in an online vote in which about a quarter of the members participated. The vote endorsed the position of the group’s national council, which claimed there is “no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation.”
“One has to start somewhere,” was the lame excuse that Matthew Frye Jacobson, the ASA president, offered when asked why the association targeted Israel rather than true offenders of academic freedom and human rights, like China, Iran or Syria.
There was no hint of irony in taking aim at a country that boasts one of the best records in the world when it comes to academic freedom and robust political debate.
The reaction among some in academia has been encouraging. The executive committee of the Association of American Universities issued a statement opposing the boycott, saying that “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.”
The boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the statement said, “clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”
Several individual universities also have condemned the ASA boycott, JTA reported. Penn State Harrisburg and Brandeis University went one step further, withdrawing their membership from the ASA in the wake of the vote.
But more voices must be heard. The BDS movement against Israel long ago crossed the line between legitimate debate over Israeli policies and rejection of the Jewish state itself.
Every university and college in the Delaware Valley and beyond must make unequivocally clear that such perverse targeting of Israel is not acceptable. For a list of schools that have already rejected the boycott, click here. If your alma mater isn't on it, it should be — and it's up to you to let the school's administration know it.
The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Sherrie Savett, also issued a letter to the community's leadership blasting the boycott and urging a call to action.
It is up to each administration to take the lead and set the tone. Now, as one year ends and another begins, is the perfect time to take the right stand.