US academics seeking to boycott Israel universities

US academics seeking to boycott Israel universities
Thu Dec 5, 2013 12:30:40

The American Studies Association leadership has endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities over what it describes as the Israeli regime’s violation of international law and ethical codes.

The decision posted Wednesday follows a contentious debate at the group’s annual meeting last month and 10 days of deliberations that were supposed to last a morning. The boycott resolution was approved unanimously by the 20-member national council.

“We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given US 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,” the council announcement said.

The council, however, is seeking the endorsement of the group’s entire membership, including 5,000 members.

“The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions,” the announcement said. “Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.”

Voting will be conducted electronically. If a majority of the association’s voting members do not vote to endorse the boycott resolution by December 15, the national council said that it will withdraw the resolution and determine next steps.

Boycott opponents, speaking Nov. 23 at an open meeting called to discuss the resolution during ASA’s annual conference, had recommended a body-wide poll. Such a poll is unusual, and boycott proponents strongly opposed it. The national council representatives at the meeting said they would consider the resolution the following morning and would likely have a decision that day, but the mulling lasted a week-and-a-half.

ASA describes itself “devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.” Voices at the open meeting overwhelmingly favored the boycott, but those opposed said they were not representative of the organization’s broader membership.

According to the Frequently Asked Question page posted on the ASA website, the boycott will not inhibit collaboration with individual Israeli academics.

American Scholar Stehpen M. Walt wrote for the Foreign Policy magazine on Nov. 9, 2011: “If we had a normal relationship, then US leaders would also be free to criticize Israeli policies that don't make sense and that are not in the US interest, like the continued expansion of settlements and the denial of Palestinian rights”.


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