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Words of the Week: Op-Eds on the ASA Boycott of Israel

Here’s my take on the American Studies Association (ASA)’s “Academic Boycott of Israel”: It’s a depressing development, although for many reasons, it doesn’t surprise me. It disheartens, dismays, and (further) disillusions me. But it’s not a surprise.

For highly intelligent and eloquent responses to this development, I point you to the following:

  • Jeffrey Goldberg, “Some Lessons in Effective Scapegoating”
  • Walter Russell Mead, “The ASA: Where Foolishness and Ignorance Collide”
  • Leon Wieseltier, “The Academic Boycott of Israel Is a Travesty”
  • Rabbi David Wolpe, “The American Studies Association Needs to Learn Some American Values”
  • Although not exactly an op-ed, this letter, which indicates “the opposition of 70 ASA members to the [then-]Proposed Resolution to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions. Signers include seven former ASA presidents as well as numerous prior council members and recipients of ASA prizes.”
  • Finally, and also not exactly an op-ed, but rather an opinion quoted in a reported article:

    Emily Budick is a former member of the ASA and the Ann and Joseph Edelman chair in American studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The boycott likely won’t have much of a practical effect for her, she said – she’d let her membership in ASA lapse in favor of joining American studies organizations in Europe, closer to home – but in an interview she said she found the move by her former disciplinary association to be “painful” and “wrongheaded.”

    “It’s just very painful, because what you’re dealing with is educated people who have some bizarre notion that this is the major site of moral turpitude in the world, and even that is so misguided; it’s so distorted,” said Budick, who’s also chair of Hebrew University’s English department. “But also to attack other academics, most of whom are probably dispositionally closer to them than not and who are also involved in teaching Arabs, Palestinians, Jews, Ethiopians: we teach everyone….Half of my American literature course last year was [made up of] Arab students. Not all of them were Palestinians. Some of them were Israeli Arabs, but some of them were Palestinians.”

    “I don’t see what the practical implications are,” she said of the ASA boycott. “It seems to me a rather cowardly way of taking a moral stand, quite frankly.”

    I really couldn’t have said it better myself.

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    5 Responses »

    1. A commenter who left his/her name as “Public Poster” has left a message that I’ve debated approving. I don’t particularly appreciate the insults to Jeffrey Goldberg, and I want to remind everyone that this blog is my virtual living room. You’re free to say what you want but I’m free not to engage with (or even publish) what you have to say. My home, my rules.

      Here is the text that “Public Poster” left, confusions and all (I haven’t linked to anything from The Atlantic, but anyway…):

      “Two of the pieces you link to here (Goldberg, Atlantic) take the easy way out here, abetted by a NY Times editor who cut back Marez’s quote to 5 words after the first version of the story included two paragraphs explaining the ASA’s position in more detail. Here is the rest of the quote: ‘He argued that the United States has “a particular responsibility to answer the call for boycott because it is the largest supplier of military aid to the state of Israel.” While acknowledging that the same could be said of a number of oppressive governments, past and present, he said that in those countries, civil society groups had not asked his association for a boycott, as Palestinian groups have.’ Both of these things are true, but it’s far easier for Goldberg and other right-wing hacks to generate a reductive meme that pretends this is all Marez said. Goldberg sounds like a dolt all of the time, not just when someone is cherry picking 5 words and ignoring the rest. It would appear that Goldberg is incapable of confronting the real arguments about this serious issue, if he is reduced to this level of irresponsible, shoddy journalism.”

    2. Remind me to never, ever tick off Leon Wieseltier! Wow, his words were so on target, but yikes! The epitome of scathing intellectual rebuke.

      • Right? As I said on Twitter, having recently exchanged tweets regarding Evelyn Waugh, I was reminded of Waugh’s character Nanny Hawkins in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. At one point, Nanny Hawkins says, regarding a wartime radio broadcast, “If Hitler was listening, and if he understands English, which I doubt, he must feel very small.”

    3. Adding a couple more links to articles I’ve discovered after this post was published:

      Gil Troy, “Why I’m Boycotting the American Studies Association”: http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/why-im-boycotting-american-studies-association

      David Greenberg, “The ASA’s Boycott of Israel Is Not As Troubling As It Seems”: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115995/asas-boycott-israel-not-troubling-it-seems

    4. And this one:

      Jeremi Suri, “Intolerance, Boycotts, and the ASA”:

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