Academic Backers of Boycott Israel Movement Take Aim at Bigger Targets

Modern Language Association Next After ASA Win

thinkstock

By Nathan Guttman

Published December 18, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Focusing on treatment of Palestinian scholars in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the resolution states that boycotting Israel “represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.”

The practical ramifications of the boycott will be minor. Even backers of the move, such as former ASA President Matthew Jacobson, described it as “very tempered and much more symbolic” than the original resolution backers of the boycott brought to the association.

Jacobson, a professor of American studies and history at Yale University, said that although the decision does not change much in practice, it has a moral importance. “There is a real sympathy with the notion that this is something the organization should speak out on,” he said.

But others viewed the ASA vote as less about the ASA than about what it might mean for the future of the BDS movement in America, where it has, up to now, gained little traction.

“This experience should serve as a wake-up call regarding the organization of those advocating for academic boycotts and the need of those of us who oppose such actions — on any grounds — to organize to preserve academic freedom for all,” said Sharon Musher, an associate professor of history at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey and one of the organizers of the ASA anti-boycott drive.

The MLA conference may be a harbinger of things to come. It will for the first time include a panel discussion on the issue of boycotting Israel. The expected panelists include Israeli Palestinian Omar Barghouti, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University and one of the leaders of the Palestinian campaign for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

The MLA panel will not debate any specific resolution calling for a boycott, but sources involved in the discussion said such a resolution could be added to the conference’s agenda at the last minute. Meanwhile, the Israel-related resolution that the association will vote on calls on the U.S. State Department to “contest Israel’s arbitrary denial” of some requests by American scholars to attend academic events in the West Bank and Gaza.

Another group potentially considering anti-Israel measures is the 62,000-member American Library Association, where several members have called for action against Israel.

Activists have also said that the leadership of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, which has 749 members, is also considering a resolution supporting academic boycott on Israel.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.