A group of academics that has no expertise in Middle East politics has decided to express an opinion about the dispute (if you want to call it that) between Israel and the Palestinians.
The National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) voted unanimously— is it a sign of groupthink or brainwashing?— to boycott Israeli academic institutions. It wants to join the international movement called, BDS— boycott, divest, sanction— that seeks to punish Israel for the way it treats Palestinian scholars.
The New York Times explained what the ASA leaders were voting for:
The proposed boycott calls on American schools and academic groups to ban collaboration with Israeli institutions, but individual Israeli scholars would still be able to attend conferences, lecture at American universities or do research with American colleagues, as long as they did not officially represent Israeli universities or the government.
The larger membership of the ASA— all 5,000-- is now voting online. The results will be announced at the national convention of the Modern Language Association at the end of this month.
As for the way that Palestinian or other Arab cultures treat Jewish or Israeli scholars… of course, such scholars are not allowed to exist in those cultures. And I don’t mean that they are forbidden to teach. In fact, no Jews live in Middle Eastern Arab cultures. The cultures have effectively been rendered Judenrein— thus fulfilling one of Hitler’s great wishes.
Stupidity is not the word that best captures the BDS movement. “Useful idiots” comes to mind. So does “dupes.”
The American Studies Association has cast itself as part of the propaganda arm of Palestinian organizations that want to eliminate the state of Israel.
What does this have to do with American Studies, pray tell? Does the Palestinian Authority or Hamas embody the liberal democratic and free enterprise values that built America?
The feeble minds that now hold forth in Humanities departments of American universities are deaf to such questions. They are engaged in the class struggle against capitalism, imperialism and colonialism. Living, as they do in another century, they see themselves as the vanguard of the Revolution.
At a time when everyone who experienced Communism knows it to be an abomination, only the dimwits of American (and, to be fair, many European) Humanities departments continue to fight the Revolution.
Among their superstars is Berkeley professor Judith Butler, who has famously declared:
Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.
Butler is one of the most muddle-headed thinkers around, but here she states clearly her affinity with Hamas/Hezbollah. Later she added that she did not support violence, but, she is praising and legitimizing terrorist organizations. Saying that you consider Hamas/Hezbollah to be progressive movements bespeaks a profound naivete or an obscene ignorance.
Obviously, Hamas and Hezbollah would like to destroy the state of Israel without having to fire a rocket or to engage in another act of terrorism. That is why both organizations place so much importance on their American academic propagandists, people like Judith Butler.
And, consider this: Judith Butler is commonly considered the queen of American queer theory. How did it happen that she has defended, as progressive, organizations that are part of cultures that see homosexuality as a capital crime? Could she, an openly gay women, live in Gaza or Ramallah… or in Tehran where much of the funding for these “progressive” “social movements” comes from?
Larry Summers stated the case against BDS cogently on the Charley Rose Show:
This particular academic boycott is much worse, it is much worse because the idea that of all the countries in the world that might be thought to have human rights abuses, that might be thought to have inappropriate foreign policies, that might be thought to be doing things wrong, the idea that there’s only one that is worthy of boycott, and that is Israel, one of the very few countries whose neighbors regularly vow its annihilation, that that would be the one chosen, is I think beyond outrageous as a suggestion….
Charlie, I said some time ago with respect to a similar set of efforts, that I regarded them as being anti-Semitic in their effect if not necessarily in their intent. And I think that’s the right thing to say about singling out Israel.
If there was an academic boycott against a whole set of countries that stunted their populations in some way, I would oppose that because I think academic boycotts are abhorrent, but the choice of only Israel at a moment when Israel faces this kind of existential threat I think takes how wrong this is to a different level.
My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool.
Of course, Summers is right. The BDS movement is anti-Semitic. Just think: Hamas fires thousands of rockets into Israel and no one says a word. Israel finally fights back and the world erupts in condemnations of the Neo-Nazi Zionist occupying colonialist entity.
If that isn’t bigotry, the term has no meaning.
And let's not forget our history: during World War II the grand mufti of Jerusalem, uncle of one Yassir Arafat, supported Hitler wholeheartedly.
Of course, many proponents of BDS have suggested that Jews should be held to a higher standard. They do not believe in Israel’s right to defend itself. Seeing Israel as the problem, not the solution, they want Israel to make more and more concessions to organizations that want to annihilate it. They expect nothing from the Palestinians.
The concession dance is a non-violent way to attain a political goal.
You do not need to have a very well-developed sense of history to understand that Jews should never again be caught in a position where they are unable to defend themselves.
Summers recommends that university presidents cease supporting organizations like the American Studies Association by not paying member dues and not paying the travel expenses of those who attend such meetings.
Or better, as Prof. William Jacobson notes, the ASA is a 501C3 organization: it has tax-exempt status.
He recommends that Congress respond:
Perhaps it’s time for Congress, when support for Israel among the American people is at historic highs, to make clear that groups like ASA can spout all the hatred of Israel they want, but if they enter into the new form of international boycott, they should not be subsidized by American taxpayers in the form of tax-exempt status.
Finally, universities should continue the ongoing process of winnowing their Humanities departments. Too many professors in these departments are trying to cover up their ignorance of the Humanities by becoming political activists. They have given up on teaching literature and philosophy to become the propaganda arm of the international terrorist organizations that have made common cause with the radical left.
[Addendum: From an article by Nitsana Darshan-Lietner about the legality of the boycott:
It is highly disturbing that an association of professors and academics could believe that a one-sided resolution targeting only the Jewish State would in any way assist in bringing peace to our region. It is sickening that an organization which claims to be liberal and progressive should undertake the types of boycotts that American Jewish groups like the Wiesenthal Center and ADL have labelled as anti-Semitic. Moreover, it is nothing short of ironic that the ASA, which claims it ‘represents divergent opinions,’ would actively choose to exclude such voices. Even more ludicrous is the resolution’s suggestion that Israel’s academia is anything but free to engage, and well versed, in the vocal criticism of government policy – from all sides of the political spectrum. Israel’s centers of higher learning are also key areas in which Jews, Muslims and Christians work and live side by side, united by academic advancements – a fact that begs even greater questions of the desire to silence their voices.]