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Major Academic Organization Votes to Boycott Israel

Citing “Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions,” members of the American Studies Association (ASA) voted in December 2013 to boycott any further formal collaboration with Israeli academic institutions or with any persons representing the Israeli government. The ASA, an interdisciplinary academic organization devoted to the study of American culture and history, consists of approximately 5,000 members, 1,252 of whom participated in the vote.  66% voted in favor of the boycott.  As Haaretz’s Yarden Skop reported, “The decision made ASA the largest American academic organization thus far to support an anti-Israel boycott.”

Equally notable has been the backlash in response to the association’s vote.  Calling the ASA boycott a blatant affront, unjustifiably targeting Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations undertook a major protest. According to the organization, as of December 31, 2013, at least 90 American universities and colleges have rejected the American Studies Association membership vote in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.

As Larry Derfner reports, boycotts and other sanctions intended to punish human rights violations are currently underway around the world. For example, Russia is experiencing boycotts due to its anti-gay laws and statements, and gay bars around the world are boycotting Russian vodka, while a movement to boycott the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is soaring. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently joined other world leaders, including President Obama, in approving a boycott of Russia’s Winter Games. The world stands up to global issues, large and small, while Palestinians continue to fight for basic human rights. According to Derfner, when understood in context of the “punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.”

In January 2014, the Modern Language Association—with nearly 30,000 members from 100 countries—is set to debate an academic boycott of Israel.

Sources:

Larry Derfner, “The World’s Blatant Double Standard- In Israel’s Favor,” 972 Magazine, December 27, 2013, http://972mag.com/the-worlds-blatant-double-standard-in-israels-favor/84499/.

Yarden Skop, “US Academic Group Votes to Boycott Israel,” Haaretz, December 16, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.563875.

“Dozens of U.S. University Heads Have Slammed ASA Boycott of Israel, Presidents Conf. Says,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), January 2, 2014, http://www.jta.org/2014/01/02/news-opinion/united-states/dozens-of-u-s-university-heads-have-slammed-asa-boycott-of-israel-presidents-conf-says#ixzz2pjwoY6mi.

“Netanyahu Joins Western Leaders in Rejecting Sochi Invite,” Haaretz, December 23, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.565013.

Student Researcher:  Pippa Whelan (College of Marin)

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