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December 31, 2013 5

Bigotry Questions About the ASA’s Boycott of Israel

With the flurry of con­dem­na­tions issued by uni­ver­sity offi­cials and aca­d­e­mic asso­ci­a­tions against the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Association’s vote to boy­cott Israeli aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions, much of the focus has, of course, been on how the boy­cott sup­presses basic prin­ci­ples of aca­d­e­mic free­dom and sti­fles the free flow of ideas. Less atten­tion, how­ever, has been paid to the other deeply dis­turb­ing ele­ment of the boy­cott — - tar­get­ing Israel for such unfair and harsh treat­ment by the ASA.

Jeff Rob­bins, a for­mer U.S. del­e­gate to the United Nations Human Rights Com­mis­sion and cur­rent Board Chair­man of ADL’s New Eng­land Region, exam­ines the big­otry embed­ded in these impor­tant aspects of the ASA boy­cott in an op-ed for the Boston Her­ald. Mr. Rob­bins rightly con­cludes that the res­o­lu­tion was moti­vated by some­thing other than facts-on-the-ground and a sense of aca­d­e­mic moral respon­si­bil­ity, and points out the trou­bling role that big­otry plays when Israel is sin­gled out for boycotts.

The fol­low­ing is an excerpt from Mr. Rob­bins’ piece titled “Israel Boy­cott Raises Big­otry Issues”:

In the case of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion boy­cott of Israel, how­ever, the prob­lem is not unfa­mil­iar­ity with the facts. It is the dis­re­gard of them. For the ASA boy­cotters, as for those urg­ing that the Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion endorse a sim­i­lar boy­cott, it is not that they are unaware that the Israelis have repeat­edly had their offers rejected by the Pales­tini­ans, or that accep­tance of these offers would have ended the con­flict. It is that these facts are quite imma­te­r­ial to them.

Con­fronted with the ques­tion why his orga­ni­za­tion has never pro­posed a boy­cott of insti­tu­tions any place other than Israel, yet alone places with human rights records far less admirable than that of Israel, ASA head Cur­tis Marez offered this disin­gen­u­ous reply: “One has to start somewhere.”

But Israel is where the boy­cotters start, and also where they fin­ish.

 

Mr. Rob­bins goes on to point out the gross human rights vio­la­tions by Hamas in Gaza, the restric­tions on basic free­doms imposed by the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity in the West Bank, the dis­turb­ing human rights infringe­ments in Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia.  He notes: “The ASA would never dream of a boy­cott against the government-run uni­ver­si­ties in Gaza.  There is no boy­cott of insti­tu­tions in the West Bank.  Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties such as George­town and George Wash­ing­ton receive sig­nif­i­cant Saudi Ara­bian fund­ing. This, too, is appar­ently unde­serv­ing of a boycott.”

He quotes Michael Roth, pres­i­dent of Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity, who called the boy­cotters “phony progressives.”

He ends with this impor­tant obser­va­tion: “They are that, to be sure. But the sin­gling out of the Jew­ish state legit­i­mately raises the trou­bling ques­tion of whether they are big­ots as well.”

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