Monday, November 25, 2013

From Inside Higher Ed:
The National Council of the American Studies Association is deliberating a proposed resolution to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities, and a decision is expected before Thanksgiving, according to the executive director of the association, John F. Stephens. The council had a long meeting on Sunday morning, at which many thought there would be a decision, but the meeting is still technically considered to be in session.

The resolution, which was proposed by the ASA’s Academic and Community Activism Caucus, has been endorsed by the current president and president-elect of the association, and attracted strong support from members during an open forum at the association’s annual conference on Saturday. A letter opposing the resolution on academic freedom grounds was signed by more than 50 members, including seven past presidents. Comments on the resolution continue to pour in.

The National Council, which is a body of about 20 elected representatives within the ASA, may choose to endorse or reject the resolution as is, to rewrite or revise it, or to refer it to the general membership for a vote, among other options.

...[S]entiment at Saturday's open forum for ASA members skewed pro-boycott by a huge margin.

Isn't it interesting that so many of these anti-Israel initiatives are scheduled on Saturdays?

Both pro- and anti-boycott scholars claim the mantle of academic freedom. Opponents of the boycott cite the AAUP's stance that boycotts cut off free exchange between scholars, while those in favor describe a desire to increase academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars specifically. The resolution presented to the National Council outlines concerns about the closure or destruction of schools as a result of Israeli military strikes and restrictions on the ability of Palestinian students and scholars to travel.

“It’s very important that when we think about this issue, if we’re going to think about it, as well we should, in the context and framework of academic freedom, that we keep primarily in mind the freedom and ability for Palestinians to study free of a military occupation,” said Steven Salaita, an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech.
So let's punish Israeli schools because, allegedly, Palestinian Arabs can't easily get to school!

Proof that this was a well-organized anti-Israel initiative meant to overwhelm the ASA council comes from this telling detail:

Speakers on Saturday overwhelmingly urged the council to immediately act and approve the resolution -- any delay, they argued, was a tactic for defeat.
Like a car salesman telling you that if you don't buy it today, the opportunity will be lost forever. Don't think! Don't deliberate! Just do as I say! Now! or else there will be terrible consequences! The last thing these haters want is a sober discussion of the facts, because the facts are not on their side. These pseudo-academics are using emotion to subvert the very standards of objectivity and evidence that they pretend to uphold.

Can you imagine the outcry if people said to boycott Palestinian Arab schools because of the pro-terror atmosphere they encourage? Even though some Palestinian Arab universities are directly complicit in terrorism?

Yet boycotting Israeli universities - whose connection to the crimes alleged by the haters is extraordinarily tenuous - gets respectful hearings from academics???

It is obvious that the motivation here isn't academic freedom for Palestinian Arabs. If it was, then they would mention the restrictions that Palestinian students face in Lebanese public universities, including a quota system  limiting "foreign students" (aimed specifically at Palestinians) and some courses and majors that are simply off limits if you are Palestinian.

Yet no one is bringing that up. No one is criticizing Lebanon for its institutionalized bias against Palestinians, including specifically against Palestinian students.

This isn't about education. This isn't about helping Palestinian Arab students. This is a thinly veiled attack on Israel, period. It uses "academic freedom" as an excuse to betray academic freedom.

Some see this clearly:
Simon J. Bronner, a distinguished professor of American studies and folklore and chair of the American Studies Program at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, criticized what he described as “the curtailing of academic freedom in the name of somehow guaranteeing academic freedom.” The letter opposing the boycott, which Bronner signed, states that the adoption of a boycott resolution would “do violence to this bedrock principle of academic freedom."

“Scholars would be punished not because of what they believe – which would be bad enough – but simply because of who they are based on their nationality. In no other context does the ASA discriminate on the basis of national origin – and for good reason. This is discrimination, pure and simple."
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East wrote a lengthy and devastating fisking of the anti-Israel resolution, pointing out its lies and errors.

Simon Bronner set up a petition to counter the anti-Israel resolution. If you are an academic you may want to sign and give your reasons. (Although it appears that the anti-Israel petition is being signed by non-academics as well.)

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