The uproar against the American Studies Associations (ASA) has created a huge backlash against the organization as reported in Part II
However, in a sign that boycott advocates are regrouping, there are indications that the backlash created a "backlash against the backlash."
The following call for an Urgent-Counter Campaign against the attack on the ASA is indicative of the new line of argument. The argument of the boycott supporters is simple: Israel and its supporters in the United States have mobilized to silence the critics of Israeli occupation and mistreatment of the Palestinian population. Supporting the ASA (and other professional association that may contemplate a similar resolution) is a fight for academic freedom against forces that would want to silence criticism of Israel and the United States that supports it.
For instance, Henry Siegman, the former National Director of the American Jewish Congress is frequently cited in this context, along with a Jewish professor from Temple University who wrote a passionate op-ed in the Los Angeles Times detailing the allegedly arbitrary policies of the Israeli authorities who prevent Palestinian students to leave for study abroad.
The tenor of the "backlash against the backlash" echoes the work of John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, The Israel Lobby. The two professors accused the Israel lobby of controlling American foreign policy in the Middle East and silencing all critics; in spite of fierce criticism, the book has become a academic best-seller and is taught in numerous classes on American campuses. Undoubtedly, for boycott advocates, the backlash against the ASA is one more indicator of the power of "Israel lobby."
Even if other professional organizations, notably the large Modern Language Association, can be dissuaded from passing a boycott resolution, the academic boycott discourse is not expected to die down. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and its American supporter, ASA National Council member Sunaina Maira, a key organizer in the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, already announced that they will keep the debate alive. Research on the fight to abolish the apartheid in South Africa indicates that, the academic and cultural boycott was instrumental in keeping the issue in the headlines, leading to a slow build up of economic pressure.
International Relations theory indicates that, once an issue reaches the so-called "tipping point," changes in international values will follow. Though it is too early to speculate whether the Palestinian issue has reached such a point, the recent moves by the European Union in its Horizon 2020 document have definitely made boycott a legitimate topic of discourse.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: One Democratic State Group
Date: Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Dear Comrades, Friends, Colleagues
Please see the message (attached) and share it with other people/groups/e-mail lists. There is a huge pro-Israeli campaign that just started against the American Studies Association for adopting the resolution to boycott Israel. We need your help urgently.
In addition to the actions specified in the attached document, please send letters of support to the ASA to the address:
Your support is so much need now.
Background: In an act of international solidarity, congruent with its historic mission to advance social justice, the American Studies Association (ASA) announced on December 16, 2013, that it endorses an academic boycott of Israeli universities. This decision came about following an open public debate at the national convention in November 2013 and an unprecedented membership-wide vote. More ASA members voted on this resolution than in any previous ballot in the association’s history. A significant majority (66.05% “yes” to 30.5% “no”) of the voting members endorsed the boycott resolution. Read the ASA National Council statement on the Resolution.
The ASA’s position is coherent with its long-standing commitment to social justice issues in the United States as well as in international sites where the US has significant political involvement. See for example, What does the academic boycott mean to the ASA. The association’s endorsement of the boycott is an expression of the academic freedom, whose commitments to social equality, anti-racism and anti-colonialism have been at the forefront of critical transformations in the humanities and the social sciences. A similar resolution was passed in April, 2013, by the Association of Asian American Studies in 2013 and another was recently passed (December 2013) by the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Numerous internationally renowned scholars, such as Judith Butler, Angela Davis, Richard Falk, Robin D. G. Kelley, George Lipsitz, and John Carlos Rowe, have endorsed the ASA’s position. But most importantly, the ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott of Israeli universities reflects the democratic will of the voting membership in December 2013. The ASA endorsement is part of a growing movement among professional academic associations in the United States and Europe that question Israel’s policies toward Palestinians and the US government’s unconditional support. Individual members are not required to
Many in the US are unaccustomed to public criticism of Israel. Some organizations and individuals are now mounting a campaign to discredit the ASA. The ASA’s elected leaders have been harassed and are receiving hate mail. The ASA office is being flooded with insulting and threatening phone calls. The ASA Facebook page has been subject to a barrage of inflammatory attacks. National organizations, including Stand With US, are mounting campaigns to undermine the ASA in the academy by appealing to donors and students to call on university administrators to withdraw support from ASA: http://www.standwithus.com/news/article.asp?id=2944 The Caucus on Academic and Community Activism has already published a press release responding to these attacks http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/15687/the-time-for-intimidation-is-over but we need more support.
Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members. (ONLY 83 schools are institutional members.)
Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations.
Support ASA-related activities. The ASA remains at the forefront of critical scholarship in many areas crucial to the study and teaching of labor relations, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, popular culture and technology, political organizing and social movements. ASA scholars’ interdisciplinary work addresses US history, politics, and culture, both within and beyond its borders. Over the last two decades, American Studies has internationalized, responding to the global conditions of the present. And as Richard Falk, the international legal theorist, has noted: “The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment.”
Defend the right of the ASA to develop independent political positions based on the scholarship and research of its members. The resolution is based on documented history of Israeli human rights abuse and violations of international law, which are acknowledged in the Israeli press and by scholars. For example, Professor Henry Siegman, the well-known scholar of Mid-East politics and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress, has written in an article titled “There is no Bigotry in the Boycott,” (Haaretz Dec 20, 2013): “As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.”
Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA. The ASA is a small academic professional association, but because it dared to express criticism of Israel, powerful and well-funded academic and non-academic organizations have mounted a public campaign aimed at destroying the Association. These organizations falsely accuse the ASA membership of being anti-semitic, bent on the destruction of Israel. But the goal of the boycott is to show solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians, who have been subject to decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Jewish members of ASA support the resolution. These include Eric Cheyfitz, who posted this comment to the ASA website: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.” Seehttp://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_members_vote_to_endorse_academic_boycott/
Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:
· Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership. The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.
· Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices. All university programs receive federal and/or state funding. Government officials should not discriminate in the allocating of public funds simply because they disagree with the positions of a professional association.
For more information or to report intimidation: