Last month, Brandeis University announced that it was severing its decade-long relationship with the Palestinian university Al Quds. Since 2003, the two universities have engaged in sustained academic exchanges, involving joint research projects, conferences, study abroad programs, and more.
Brandeis severed the relationship in response both to an Islamic Jihad rally on the Al Quds campus that featured Nazi-style salutes, military-style outfits, and fake weapons, and to the failure, in Brandeis’s eyes, of the Al Quds administration to respond appropriately to that demonstration. Three Brandeis professors who have been involved in the Al Quds exchange wrote a lengthy report protesting this decision by Brandeis.
In terms of actual academic exchange, the Brandeis decision has a substantive impact. It ends a real relationship, with real infrastructure and opportunities for scholars and students to communicate with each other and work together.
To my knowledge, not a single professor of American Studies at Brandeis has publicly protested the decision of the university. Indeed, the only public comment on the controversy by an American Studies professor at Brandeis that I could find was a criticism of the three professors’ report protesting the decision.
Now the ASA has voted for an academic boycott of Israel. In response, the entire American Studies department at Brandeis has resigned from the ASA in protest. Claiming, among other things, that “we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture–freedom of association and expression.”
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In related news: In response to the BDS movement against Israel, critics say, “It’s not South Africa!” Turns out that in response to the sanctions movement against South Africa, critics said, “It’s not Palestine!” Seriously, they did.