Does the ASA Boycott Violate Academic Freedom? How? (Updated)

by Corey Robin on December 26, 2013

Does the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israeli academic institutions violate academic freedom?

According to the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Indiana University (see my comment on that university at the end of this post), and numerous other universities across the United States, the answer is yes. The question is: How?

I asked my Facebook friends that question. A bunch of people—some in favor of the ASA boycott, others opposed, others undecided—answered. I thought the discussion was worth reprinting here.

Fair warning: it is a fairly narrow discussion. We were not considering the pros and cons of the boycott or where justice lies in the current Israel-Palestine conflict. We were simply trying to figure out whether and how the boycott violates academic freedom, which has become one of the standard arguments against it.

To get oriented, you might want to read this helpful Q and A from the ASA, which clarifies what the boycott does and does not entail.

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Chris Bertram What is the argument that this boycott violates academic freedom, Corey? I just can’t see how a refusal of some academics in one country to associate with institutions in another country violates anyone’s academic freedom. Are there any clarifications on this from the opponents?

Siva Vaidhyanathan The boycott has no effect on “academic freedom.” And I say that as a fervent opponent of the boycott. The fact that academics default to that phrase only shows the poverty of the level of thought about the issue. There are a dozen good reasons to oppose the boycott. But “academic freedom” is not one of them.

Corey Robin I suppose the argument would go something like this. In the same way freedom of speech refers both to the individual right of individuals to speak their minds without fear of coercion, and to the actual state of unimpeded discourse and exchange between individuals (the latter is on some accounts Justice Brandeis’s view of freedom of speech), so does academic freedom refer to the right of individual academics to pursue their teaching and research (and perhaps voice their political ideas as well) without fear of coercion, and to the actual state of unimpeded discourse and exchange between professors. If roadblocks are set up that block that exchange, that exchange is diminished. And so is academic freedom. At least I think that’s the argument.

Siva Given that the ASA resolution is not binding on ASA members there are no roadblocks.

Corey But were universities to drop joint programs of exchange and research—as Brandeis University recently did with Al Quds—that would take away a road that had facilitated that exchange and research. Perhaps not the creation of a roadblock so much as the elimination of a road? Or if an Israeli academic and her institution had been part of a joint research program with a group of American academics and their institutions, and that program were ended, that would also make exchange harder. I’m trying to think out loud here. I suppose the argument is that academic freedom is not merely about an individual’s right to pursue a program of research or teaching but also about material conditions and infrastructure that facilitate research and teaching. Again, I’m not sure; just trying to figure out the other side’s argument.

Siva Yes, you are fleshing out that position with an argument that my side has not really made. I can imagine boycott terms that would materially affect one’s ability to conduct and express work. But I tend to think of academic freedom as a matter of content discrimination. If a boycott targeted, say, certain types of research, certain positions on political matters, or particular areas of research that might have applications that could further the strength of the Israeli military, then it would clearly violate academic freedom. I think we are hearing a reflexive call to defend “academic freedom” because it has bumper-sticker currency within the academy.

Aaron Bady I’ve been thinking about this too; after all, if non-association is a violation of academic freedom, then association with Israel is compulsory, no?

Ben Alpers Trying to ban association with an entire nation’s universities is the problem. The fact that an organization like the ASA lacks an enforcement mechanism for its attempted ban just means it’s an ineffectual affront to academic freedom.

Corey Ben, it’s a statement of voluntary non-association. Not by default but by design: see the actual statement from the ASA respecting individual members’ freedom of conscience on this matter (“The Council’s endorsement of the resolution recognizes that individual members will act according to their conscience and convictions on these complex issues.”) The only way to spin that particular aspect into an affront to academic freedom—however effectual or not it may be—is by embracing the position that Aaron describes above: namely, that association with Israel is compulsory.

Aaron Ben, don’t think a “ban” without compulsion or enforcement can be called a ban. If BDS were trying to ban association with Israel, the violence of doing so would be in the compulsion, or force used, to make it something that someone who didn’t want to, would have to do. That’s simply not what’s happening here. Not to mention that, by this logic, every boycott is a ban; if a group of people resolve to boycott Wal-Mart, because of their bad labor practices or something, are those people “banning” Wal-Mart? Not unless they go beyond urging others to join them, I would think.

Aaron Because I’ve been watching The Good Wife—and have courtroom dramas on the brain—I am picturing a prosecutor trying to accuse someone of intended murder, and explaining that even though the accused didn’t have a murder weapon, that just shows that it wasn’t a very effectual murder attempt.

Ben Here’s the AAUP’s 2005 statement opposing academic boycotts in general.

Aaron In what way does the ASA’s boycott “curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues”? Unless there’s an enforcement mechanism, it simply doesn’t.

Corey But if you look at the ASA resolution, Ben, it looks remarkably like what the AAUP says in that statement is “censure,” which it accepts as a legitimate tactic: “The Association is careful to distinguish censure—which brings public attention to an administration that has violated the organization’s principles and standards—from a boycott, by leaving it to individuals to decide how to act on the information they have been given. The AAUP engages in no formal effort to discourage faculty from working at these institutions or to ostracize the institution and its members from academic exchanges, as is the case in AUT ‘greylisting’; but moral suasion could have such results if faculty members were to decide to have no contact with an institution on the censure list.”

Corey Aaron, if said academic colleagues refuse to engage in work with said teachers and researchers, the freedom of said teachers and researchers to engage in work with said academic colleagues is curtailed.

Ben FWIW, the AAUP sees the ASA resolution as an example of the sort of academic boycott it opposes.

Aaron Taking a position on an issue is different from having a coherent rationale for doing so; like Corey, I simply don’t understand the logic.

Corey I know the AAUP does see it that way, Ben, but in this case, it seems to be misapplying its own principles, which it almost implicitly recognizes in its statement on the ASA resolution, when it says, “It will be up to those members of ASA who support the principles of academic freedom to decide for themselves how to respond to this decision.” If that’s the case, by the AAUP’s own criteria, the ASA boycott looks remarkably like a censure.

Ben Surely the ASA could have cleared this up by issuing a censure instead of calling for a boycott (part of the defense of which appears to be that it isn’t a boycott).

Aaron I think the AAUP’s distinction is specious, frankly. I think it is a boycott! But a call to boycott Wal-Mart, say, is not an infringement on their ability to sell products. By the same token, a call to boycott Israeli institutions also does not infringe on their freedom to do what they do: if the only people who participate in the boycott are people who voluntarily choose to do so, then I don’t understand how anyone’s freedom is being curtailed in any way.

Corey No, it’s just not a boycott as the AAUP defines the term, which is rather peculiar, if you ask me. It is however a boycott within any standard definition of the term: namely, it is only as enforceable as the voluntary will of its members. It is a voluntary act of non-association.

Corey Oops, Aaron beat me to it.

Aaron December is apparently the month where Corey and I coordinate our thinking; last year it was Lincoln, this year it’s BDS.

Corey The irony in this whole discussion is that there is one entity in the US that routinely violates the putative academic freedom strictures of all those individuals and institutions who have come out against the ASA boycott: the American state. Its boycotts and sanctions—against Iran, North Korea, and Cuba (I guess now to a lesser degree)—are in fact mandatory for US citizens, but I’ve yet to see a coordinated response from those noted defenders of academic freedom like the presidents of Yale, Harvard, Chicago, and so on, doing anything about that. I mean, it’s a bit rich to hear someone like Larry Summers fulminate on this topic when he was part of the actual government apparatus—in the Department of Treasury, no less—that implemented these boycotts and sanctions.

Aaron That’s a good point, Corey; but, of course, all the ways in which universities in the Axis of Evil are effectively blockaded is an invisible given. Like arguing that censoring bad books is fine, because they’re bad books. But you can’t, then, demand that it’s bad to censor good books except by appealing to that judgment call.

Corey All this said, I think there might be a way in which you could argue that the boycott violates academic freedom, as I argued at the beginning. In the freedom of speech paradigm, there are two (actually more) ways of thinking about freedom of speech: there is the right of individuals to speak without fear of coercion (call this FS1) and there is the actual state of unimpeded public discourse and exchange (call this FS2). Brandeis, some have argued, was more concerned about the latter, and those inspired by him (like Cass Sunstein or Owen Fiss) are more interested in regulating things like campaign spending (set aside the issue of whether money = speech) and creating viable public deliberative institutions in order to generate a more robust public discourse. Drawing on the model of FS2, one could say that academic freedom refers also to the actual state of exchange and discourse among academics. And to the extent that a boycott impedes that discourse (however voluntarily), either by individual refusing to associate, or by associations and organizations severing ties with institutions, one could say that it impedes academic freedom. Since academic freedom refers to more than the right of individuals to pursue their teaching and research without fear of coercion but also, on this model, to the maintenance of infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research.

Aaron FS2 takes us to an extremely subjective place, though, right? What constitutes a normative level of academic freedom? Anybody’s guess. And I would add, if the absence of infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research is the violation of academic freedom, then the number of “Academics” who lack it is huge.

Corey I don’t know if it’s that subjective. Complicated, yes, but I’m not sure why subjective. As for your second point, yes, that’s the point. Which is why I can’t imagine that critics of the boycott—many of whom include university presidents who are increasingly relying on adjunct labor, which dispenses not only with the infrastructure for cooperative teaching and research, but also tenure and other traditional protections of academic freedom—would actually embrace that position.

Chris Bertram Yes Corey, but the “maintenance of the infrastructure” condition has to be based on some threshold level of adequacy. I can’t claim that my academic freedom has been violated because there isn’t a world lecture tour organized for me! It is very hard to see how tenured Israeli academics, with access to the internet, a range of publishers, journals to publish in, etc., are being denied an adequate infrastructure.

Corey Good point, Chris. So we would say not having a world lecture tour for you is not a violation of academic freedom—though it sucks for the rest of us who can’t hear you!—but would we say that conference attendance is a critical part of academic discourse and life? I’m not sure, just throwing this out there. I mean why is access to the internet, but not access to academics the world over in the form of cooperative research opportunities and conference attendance, not a prerequisite of academic freedom? I would imagine in some fields the latter kind of thing is critical to research, no? What is the necessary infrastructure of academic freedom such that we could say once a threshold is met, academic freedom is secure or maintained?

Chris I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Already I know of several academics who won’t fly to conferences because of the carbon emissions. I don’t think they have rendered themselves “academically unfree” as a result. Kant never made it out of Konigsberg, of course.

Corey What if a university decided to act on the boycott and ended an ongoing joint research program—in some scientific area that relies upon intensive infrastructure support between more than one university—between itself and a university in Israel? I’m just playing this out; don’t really believe it, in part because the only way to make sense of it is to say that academic freedom requires an affirmative duty on the part of individuals and institutions to participate in ongoing exchange, even if they don’t want to.

Sarah Chinn As far as I can tell, here’s one version of how academic freedom might be violated: Israeli universities have partnerships all over the world in various fields (not least of which is the new Technion/Cornell campus on Roosevelt Island). Boycotting Israeli universities means abandoning those partnerships, and depriving those scholars of the opportunity to work on research projects, denying students study abroad possibilities, and shutting down new transnational projects. These relationships are not just one-on-one, scholar to scholar, but require institutional support. It also means that scholars can’t accept invitations to talk or teach at Israeli universities, which violates their freedom to disseminate their research and interact with students and scholars at other institutions.

Timothy Burke On the academic freedom side of things, there seems to me is a huge difference between institutional-level action and individual action. If you’re talking about individuals, then I think your belief that this doesn’t violate academic freedom is right. As a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m not required to go to all possible events, and if I strongly object to a speaker and do not go to the talk or the event, that’s my individual decision. But if I ask my institution to enforce a boycott? To forbid my colleagues from inviting speakers? If I refuse to release departmental funds to support speakers that someone has asked me to support because I have a political disagreement with that speaker? That’s where for me it crosses into a trespass against academic freedom.

Josh Mason I’m glad the ASA resolution passed and I don’t disagree with anything Corey, Chris Bertram and Aaron Bady have said here. But I do wonder if the emphasis on the voluntary nature of the boycott is quite right. After all, the entire point of the boycott, like all outside pressure against the occupation, is to impose costs on Israelis. If American academics face exactly the same choices with respect to collaboration with Israeli institutions that they faced before the resolution, passing it was a waste of effort. And if the choices by American institutions and individual scholars have no effect on the ability of Israeli scholars to carry out their work, then the boycott is ineffectual and pointless.

Corey Josh, I think what Sarah said above answers your question. The ASA is saying it will not engage in those sorts of partnerships. Now of course it doesn’t really do that now. The hope is that other organizations would do the same, organizations that in fact do do that now. And that ultimately universities might do the same. For instance, Brandeis recently severed its program with Al Quds; the idea is that other universities would eventually sever similar type programs with Israeli universities. In addition, individuals would now, if they agree, no longer participate with Israeli academic institutions (accepting offers to speak or teach at those institutions). Before, individuals might not have done that b/c it would have been an entirely personal or individual affair; now, knowing that others will be doing that, they might be more inclined. The only quibble I have with what Sarah said is that scholars would only refuse to accept such invitations voluntarily; I don’t think a voluntary refusal of association constitutes a violation of one’s freedom to disseminate one’s research and interact with students and scholars at other institutions.

Chris Josh, merely making a choice less eligible by raising its cost doesn’t impugn the freedom of someone to make it. (Leaving aside cases where cost of the action so threatens a person’s vital interest that only the heroic or unimaginative would persist in making it.) So if American academics are less willing to collaborate with Israeli institutions because they would face social disapproval, they are nevertheless free do so, but Israelis will predictably find themselves with fewer opportunities to work with Americans.

Josh I agree with Sarah Chinn. I think that if the boycott is meaningful, there will be some sense in which it limits academic freedom for Israeli scholars. Boycott supporters need to be prepared to affirmatively defend that.

Chris writes, “Merely making a choice less eligible by raising its cost doesn’t impugn the freedom of someone to make it.” I don’t agree.

Corey Josh, while I’m sympathetic to the argument that academic freedom requires a certain infrastructure to be maintained—see my comments above—the problem with your argument is that it implies that if a university doesn’t now have partnerships with Israeli institutions, that university is violating the academic freedom of Israeli scholars. (And by extension the academic freedom of scholars at any institution with which it does not have a partnership.) That can’t be true. Or, it requires you to say that any time a university shuts down a partnership with another institution—for whatever reason—it is violating the academic freedom of those who are engaged in the partnership. Again, that can’t be true. The point Chris was saying earlier is that even if we accept the infrastructure of academic freedom argument, we have to establish a threshold by which that freedom can be met. I don’t think we believe that maintaining partnerships is part of that threshold. Or do we? I’m uncertain on all this.

Chris Josh: “I don’t agree.” Well of course you don’t, you’re an economist, and this is one of the conceptual deformations that economists are prone to.

Josh Corey, how about this? Academic freedom requires that when making decisions about academic partnerships, one considers only scholarly criteria. One should not reject an otherwise preferred partner simply because of it its nationality. But this is just what the boycott requires.

Josh Chris, think it is a violation of freedom of speech if the government fines you for stating a political view. That judgment doesn’t depend on whether it’s a big fine or just a little one.

Corey I don’t see how that violates academic freedom, though. I don’t know how administrators make decisions about academic partnerships right now—I would imagine such things as reimbursement rates from governments and other economic considerations play a huge role—but I’m fairly certain that “only scholarly criteria” isn’t entirely accurate. Other factors inevitably come into play. Why is Yale setting up a partnership or whatever it is in Singapore as opposed to Iran? I’m sure it’s not only—or even to a large degree—because of scholarly criteria. But while we can object to those partnerships for all sorts of reasons, I don’t think violations of academic freedom would be among them. Except to point out that those societies may not be exactly hospitable to notions of academic freedom.

Chris That’s true Josh, but it is the law under which you are fined that restricts your freedom (the sovereign is commanding you not to state that view). The fine isn’t the price of violation. Hobbes is quite good on this IIRC.

Chris “Academic freedom requires that when making decisions about academic partnerships, one considers only scholarly criteria.” That’s nonsense! Academic freedom does not require me always to choose a better scholarly collaboration over one that would bring greater financial benefits to me or my institution.

Josh Corey, Chris: I was just putting out an idea. I’m not committed to it.

But again, I feel the specific issue of academic partnerships is kind of a red herring. If this movement is successful, it won’t stop there.

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That was basically the end of the discussion.

Let me make three final comments on issues that didn’t come up in our discussion.

First, most of the major universities in the United States are currently pursuing partnerships with academic institutions in Abu Dhabi, China, and other countries that are not exactly known as bastions of civil liberties. It’s hardly a surprise then that the presidents of these universities would come out against the ASA boycott.

Whatever their personal beliefs about the Israel-Palestine conflict—like other members of the American power elite, I suspect university presidents mouth the party line in public, while acknowledging the reality in private—they have a vested interest in no one raising human rights concerns when it comes to the American academy’s dealings with other countries.

Their ultimate concern has much less to do with Israel/Palestine than with the opportunities for expansion in China and other parts of East Asia. That doesn’t prove their arguments wrong, by any stretch, but it’s important to keep in mind as critics of BDS start racking up statements from them.

Second, the president of Indiana University has announced that the university is withdrawing its institutional membership in the ASA because of the boycott. In the name of academic freedom. The statement makes no mention of whether the American Studies faculty were consulted on this decision, much less voted on it.

But the bottom line is this: Indiana University is so opposed to boycotts of academic institutions in Israel that it is going to boycott an academic institution in the United States.

I eagerly await the statements from the presidents of Yale, Harvard, and elsewhere, denouncing this decision. In the meantime, let’s look on the plus side: even the critics of the ASA decision have accepted that it is perfectly legitimate for academics and universities to sever relations from institutions they find politically objectionable.

Finally, you’ll notice that nowhere in this discussion does the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars come up. That’s not a fault of the participants; it’s a function of how I raised the issue. Even so, it’s a mirror of how the larger discussion in this country has gone down.

Here we are, twisting ourselves into pretzels in order to figure out how exactly the academic freedom of an Israeli scholar would in theory be violated, when it wouldn’t require a high school sophomore more than a moment’s reflection to see how it is already being violated, routinely, in Palestine. Have American academics ever put this much effort into worrying about the academic freedom of Palestinians?

If you’ve ever wondered at the bitterness of the Palestinian people, perhaps you could put yourselves into the shoes of a fellow academic or intellectual in the West Bank or Gaza, as they read these pronunciamentos from the Ivy League.

So much concern for the Israeli scholar, who—even with the boycott—will have tenure; a comfortable, well-paying job; an easy way to get there; access to all the academic journals; an office, a classroom, students, and the internet; the ear of the world.

And for the Palestinian scholar? Not a word.

Update (December 28, 1 pm)

Another entry in the Annals of Chutzpah….

NYU President John Sexton has come out against the ASA boycott of Israel because it is “at heart a disavowal of the free exchange of ideas and the free association of scholars that undergird academic freedom; as such, it is antithetical to the values and tenets of institutions of advanced learning.”

NYU has a campus in Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

Guess who is banned from entering the United Arab Emirates? Israeli citizens.

So, according to Sexton, it is a violation of academic freedom for the ASA to refuse to partner with Israeli academic institutions; it is an affirmation of academic freedom for NYU to partner with Abu Dhabi, which not only refuses to partner with Israeli academic institutions but also forbids Israeli citizens from entering the country.

{ 144 comments }

1

Claude Fischer 12.26.13 at 10:46 pm

There is a simple point: Making it harder for a scholar to engage in scholarly exchange because of his or her nationality, institution, and/or political beliefs violates academic freedom — whoever does that. (Two wrongs do not… etc.) Either the ASA policy does hobble Israeli scholarly institutions and thus hobble its scholars, or it is a toothless, symbolic gesture. It has to be one or the other. ….. More generally, is CT going to be a platform for BDS and its double standards?

2

SoU 12.26.13 at 11:24 pm

Strictly defined, the idea that this restricts academic freedom is laughable. Loosely defined, it most certainly violates it, but not in a way that is worth any special attention – for one could name any number of similar injunctions which violate this expanded notion if academic freedom. I mean, under the expansive understanding of AF does the tenure process even pass the test?

Will Academic freedom suffer? Sure, money is fungible after all. Is it the issue of primary concern? I can,t speak across the board here, but when I saw the name of my alma mater,s president on that objection letter from AAU, suffice to say the only surprise was that his name was not higher on the list.

3

MarkusR 12.26.13 at 11:35 pm

From the website:
” Israeli scholars critical of their country’s policies also face sanction since it is a civil offense for scholars in Israel to endorse the boycott.”

If this is true, then all we would need is for an Israeli academic to do just that, repeatedly, and then we could boycott Israel for its academic “political prisoners”.

4

Marc 12.26.13 at 11:41 pm

Point 7 of the ASA response highlights what I find most troubling:
—————————————–
Q: What is required for an Israeli university to no longer be subject to the boycott?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. The boycott is designed to put real and symbolic pressure on universities to take an active role in ending the Israeli occupation and in extending equal rights to Palestinians. The international boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement has called for a boycott to be in effect until these conditions are met.
————————————————————————–
There is apparently no action that any Israeli institution can take that would lift the boycott. I’m not comfortable with collective punishment of this sort.

5

SoU 12.26.13 at 11:42 pm

@3 and what then Markus! would that be supporting academic freedom, or defending it??? it would be a great way to short circuit this silly handwringing. Academic freedom, like most of the slogans in this category, is like a fishing net – before you leave port you make sure the holes are narrow enough to catch what you are hunting for, but wide enough to let the other stuff slip through with ease.

6

LFC 12.26.13 at 11:42 pm

SoU@2
when I saw the name of my alma mater’s president on that objection letter from AAU, suffice to say the only surprise was that his name was not higher on the list.

That letter from AAU, which Eszter Hargittai posted here earlier, says at the very beginning that it is a statement of the org’s Executive Committee. So presumably the university presidents who signed it are the members of the Executive Committee. (Which is also, btw, why E.H.’s expressed pride in the fact that Northwestern’s president signed the letter is perhaps a bit misplaced: he signed it b/c he’s a member of the committee that issued it.)

7

Scott P. 12.26.13 at 11:43 pm

Based on the arguments Corey is making here, it doesn’t appear that the Hollywood Blacklist would qualify as a boycott.

8

SoU 12.26.13 at 11:46 pm

Marc@4
i think that this lack of specification of the exit mechanism is due to the lack of an enforcement mechanism at the level of the ASA. both the enforcement and the criteria for ‘getting off’ are subjectively defined in the eyes&ears of the individual in question considering collaboration. you don;t seriously believe your final statement, that there is no conceivable action that one could take to get the boycott lifted on their department/institution, do you?

9

P O'Neill 12.27.13 at 12:02 am

Corey’s first point among the final list is very important.

Several major American universities have branch campuses in the Arab Gulf. Students and professors at these campuses (whether enrolled/hired or visiting for seminars etc) can’t get admitted to the host country if they have an Israel stamp in their passport, or indeed if anything about their surname or profile draws the interest of the security apparatus in these countries. Now that’s a threat to academic freedom!

10

Marc 12.27.13 at 1:11 am

@8:

11

Collin Street 12.27.13 at 1:55 am

There is apparently no action that any Israeli institution can take that would lift the boycott.

They could move to cyprus.

12

Collin Street 12.27.13 at 1:56 am

Or otherwise cease to be “israeli”

13

GiT 12.27.13 at 3:37 am

Here is a question: Under what circumstances would an institutional authority’s decision to fund/not fund or sanction/not sanction research or other varieties of academic participation count as an assault on academic freedom?

Part of the point of the boycott seems to be to get both boycotting organizations and the boycotted Israeli universities to exercise some degree of internal institutional discipline, and we can come up with what this might look like as far as possible policy interventions go

Do blanket prohibitions – e.g. ‘the ASA will not give awards to boycott-breakers’ – or ‘Princeton will not reimburse travel to/from Israel’ – or, I guess, as a real-world parallel, ‘APSA will not hold conferences in states with anti-Gay laws’ – violate academic freedom?

Does it matter what variety of institution does this? There is clearly a difference between, ‘the NSF will not fund research in Israel’, ‘the University will not fund…’, ‘the Department will not fund…’, ‘the Discipline’s Professional Association will not fund…’, ‘the Association for the Study of Minor Sub Topic will not fund…’, and ‘the Red Crescent Society will not fund research in Israel.’

As a sort of extreme, idealized case – suppose someone’s tenure/job-review solely evaluates the quality of their research output/teaching/service, regardless of how embroiled with Israel it happens to be, but the university will not reimburse their travel to Israeli universities, send post to those universities, or process/accept grants from Israeli institutions, or in general offer any institutional support outside of whatever salary, leave, and lab/office resources they would have at their disposal regardless of where they dig up rocks, conduct surveys and interviews, read books, or etc. Does this violate their academic freedom?

Related to this is something which has already been brought up, more or less: does academic freedom entail equal-treatment/non-discrimination along a particular spectrum of practices and characteristics (race/sex/religion/ideology/etc), and does the practice/characteristic of participating with a particular country’s governmental/academic institutions rise to the level of a protected category?

14

christian_h 12.27.13 at 5:59 am

Anyone who supports “Israel’s right to defend itself” (i.e., thinks that killing people is an acceptable method of political struggle) but professes to be outraged by an alleged violation of academic freedom has an utterly warped view of what is important. That to me is the crucial point – of course Israeli academics will be inconvenienced or, ideally, inhibited in their work, by a boycott. So what – on what planet is the right of the academic to be heard inviolate but the right of the teenager not to be blown to shreds by a missile conditional?

15

Mao Cheng Ji 12.27.13 at 9:04 am

The right of return is not mentioned in the ASA Q&A. As long as that is not settled, rockets will fly, and teenagers will be blown to shreds. And the world will remain more violent and dangerous for all of us than it could’ve been. What makes the source of all this, a flagrant violation of the rights of indigenous population, unmentionable in the West? Almost everyone here would’ve cried in righteous indignation if I said that the American civil war was about anything other than slavery, but in this case somehow it’s just a conflict between two ethnic identities, no deeper reason necessary. Go figure. One expects more from academics.

16

MDH 12.27.13 at 12:44 pm

Josh’s formulation was getting somewhere, I think, but had it basically backwards. One violates academic freedom (another’s? in general? unsure) if the other’s scholarly work can never be the basis of the decision to associate. It’s not that it must be the only, it’s that it must be possible. If your decision to associate with me, or to develop mutually supportive infrastructure with me, is completely orthogonal to the quality of my scholarly contribution — if I am unable as a condition of your policy to interest you in an association no matter how good my ideas — then some violation has occurred. Or so it seems to me. And that’s prior to your asserting that I must think or otherwise say or act in a very specific way before you’re willing to reinstate “the merit of my scholarly output” onto the long list of reasons you consider before deciding whether to deepen your engagement with me.

17

Kaveh 12.27.13 at 1:46 pm

@16 & others:
If your decision to associate with me, or to develop mutually supportive infrastructure with me

I think this was mentioned in the OP, but just in case, the ASA boycott does not try to prevent individual professors at Israeli universities from presenting at ASA conferences, or even really discourage individual ASA members from collaborating with Israeli colleagues. Maybe people are using the language of individual relationships b/c it’s simpler, but I thought I’d throw that out there just in case… I think it’s an important thing not to remind people of.

18

Glenn 12.27.13 at 3:19 pm

I’m no fan of Israel, and am not an academic so I don’t really have a dog in the ASA fight. But speaking as something of an outside observer, I would think that any academic associated with an American institution, and with an ounce of self-awareness (and self-interest), would see the danger in adopting the principle that the sins of the government should be visited upon the academic institutions of that country.

19

Bloix 12.27.13 at 3:51 pm

#17 -”the ASA boycott does not try to prevent individual professors at Israeli universities from presenting at ASA conferences, or even really discourage individual ASA members from collaborating with Israeli colleagues.”

The ASA boycott resolution is ambiguous. The accompanying statement is disingenuous. No one can be sure what it means until it is put into practice, and its main effect (aside from publicity) is likely to be its chilling effect.

The key statement in the ASA resolution is this:

“It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”

http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel

The “call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott” has a definite referent: the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS,” available here, http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

The “Call for BDS” states:

“We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel.”
http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

As applied to “Israeli academic institutions,” the “Call” is particularized in the “Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in 2004. The key section of this “Call” states (italics in original):

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to *comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions* as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

This is the “Call for Boycott” that the ASA has resolved to “honor.” What does it mean to “honor” this “call”?

The ASA’s accompanying Statement provides the following explanation:

“Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

“The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.”

http://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/council_statement_on_the_academic_boycott_of_israel_resolution/

It’s fairly clear that the Statement is at odds with the Resolution. Nothing in the Resolution “understands” the boycott to be “limited” in any way. To the contrary, the Resolution resolves to “honor” the Call wholeheartedly and without limitation.

The “statement” says that the boycott will apply only to “formal collaborations with … institutions … or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives … of those institutions …” and not to “individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange” But the academic Call that will be “honored” asks academics to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation” and the more general call seeks the imposition of “broad boycotts.” There are no exceptions for “individual Israeli scholars” in the Call.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the resolution will not “discourage individual ASA members from collaborating with Israeli colleagues.” I would think that any scholar who might someday benefit from assistance provided by the ASA or its council members will think twice about working with an Israeli counterpart.

20

Patrick 12.27.13 at 4:34 pm

I don’t think any of Corey’s final three points hold water:

1. The ASA’s statement has been publicly denounced by a ton of academics, many of whom have nothing to gain from the development of new campuses in China/the middle east/etc. I don’t see any special reason to think that the presidents of the AAU are motivated by this, either. Of course, I can’t disprove Corey’s claim that they are, but that’s the whole problem with these sorts of conspiracy theories–there’s nothing that critics of BDS could say that would convince its supporters that they don’t have some secret (evil) motivation (and that the supporters can therefore take the critics’ arguments a bit less seriously).
2. I don’t think the analogy between the proposed BDS boycott and IU’s (and others) decision to withdraw from ASA is a good one. Israeli academics have little or no control over the sorts of problems the ASA boycott is intended to address (this is one reason why academic boycotts of this type are so useless, and why the AAU is right to oppose them), whereas the academic members of the ASA are directly related to IU’s decision. In any case (just like the point above), these sorts of hypocrisy charges are basically ad hominem attacks, so I’m not sure why they are relevant.
3. While supporters of BDS often bring up the plight of Palestinian academics, I don’t see the relevance, and I think that BDS opponents are right to resist attempts to “reframe” the question in this way. BDS supporters are proposing a boycott of Israeli universities, and the onus is on them to defend that. Unless they can provide some evidence that their proposed boycott will actually help Palestinian academics, they shouldn’t be talking about them.

I also find the claim that “academic freedom” can’t be curtailed by the voluntary actions of individual ASA members a bit baffling, as several people have already pointed out. In many cases, institutional racism and sexism are maintained by the voluntary actions of in-group members, and these certainly curtail freedom. It would be more coherent (though still wrong-headed wrong-headed, in my view) to claim that Israeli academics’ loss of freedom is *justified* in a way that the loss of freedom of minorities/women isn’t.

21

Anarcissie 12.27.13 at 4:47 pm

Glenn 12.27.13 at 3:19 pm (18) — I don’t see how persons can be employed by or otherwise related to a central state institution like an accredited university and reasonably think they are not involved with the government of that state.

22

novakant 12.27.13 at 5:13 pm

I don’t see how persons can be employed by or otherwise related to a central state institution like an accredited university and reasonably think they are not involved with the government of that state.

If that is indeed so how can US/UK/AUS academics assume that they are in a position to pass moral judgement on other academics after Iraq, Afghanistan, drones blowing up wedding parties in Yemen and all the other sh@t that’s being done in their name?

23

Donald Johnson 12.27.13 at 6:04 pm

“If that is indeed so how can US/UK/AUS academics assume that they are in a position to pass moral judgement on other academics after Iraq, Afghanistan, drones blowing up wedding parties in Yemen and all the other sh@t that’s being done in their name?”

If you polled them I suspect that most American academics who favor a boycott on Israel are also appalled by the drone assassination program. And Israel’s crimes are essentially done in our name. The US government and most US politicians support Israel and look the other way when Israel uses US-supplied weapons to kill civilians. You can ignore this if you wish, but it’s true all the same.

HRW report on cluster munitions in 2006 Lebanon War

24

christian_h 12.27.13 at 6:10 pm

What does “moral judgement” have to do with anything? We are discussing a tactic in a political struggle here. Passing moral judgement on individuals has nothing to do with it.

25

SoU 12.27.13 at 6:25 pm

Patrick @ 20:
on #1 – you are kidding yourself if you do not think that the endowment and their ‘legacy’ is weighing on the minds of certain university presidents. don’t give us the whole ‘that is like a conspiracy theory’ talk – that line of argument ends in some absurd naivete where you just take the words of someone like larry summers at face value.
on #3: that’s the basic problem tho – no one wants to be talking about them, its never the right time to talk about them, its always ‘shifting the discussion’ or whatever. That is the beauty of privilege, now isn’t it? you get into a position where anyone who wants to talk about the broader whole is changing the conversation, where, ‘you have to justify your actions in a vacuum’ (this is just a re-hashing of the Pareto criterion). When do we get to talk about the Palestinians, anyway? You can’t talk about the Palestinians when you discuss BDS, even though the entire proposal is a movement in solidarity with Palestinian society, even tho the entire aim is to assist them in their struggle for justice?

finally – this notion that any individual’s subjective opinion on any other bears upon academic freedom goes to ludicrous ends. What if Mary thinks that Joe smells really, really, bad, and refuses to be in the same room with him? Or Bert doesn’t like Chester’s accent?

26

Patrick 12.27.13 at 7:18 pm

SoU@20:
(1) While you seem to think it’s a reductio ad absurdum, I don’t see what’s wrong with taking Larry Summer’s arguments at face value. E.g., I don’t agree with his argument for central bank independence, but I think that I’d need to show this by considering his evidence. His motivations are (for the purposes of analyzing arguments, at least) irrelevant. These motivations would be relevant when considering something like appointing his as Fed chair, but that’s not analogous to what we’re talking about here. In case, I agree this point is a bit naive, in the sense that its the sort of thing we try to beat into student’s heads in critical thinking, but it seemed like a relevant to make.

(3) I understand that BDS supporters want the boycott to be about the rights of Palenstinian academics, which would certainly be a just cause, but wanting it doesn’t make it so. In just war theory, for instance, you can’t make your war about a “just cause” just by repeatedly claiming it is. Among other things, you’d need to show that the response was proportional, that you had exhausted all possible options, etc. My bet is that many of the supporters of the BDS movement were pretty intolerant of the right-wing “lets talk about the plight of Iraqi civilians” in the run-up to the Iraq war. They would (rightly) have felt this was something like a red herring.

finally – again, this seems like a trivial point, but institutional racism and sexism are (at least to some extent) driven by subjective opinions (“I’d just rather go with the white man–he just feels like the right candidate”). I’m not sure why you think this is a contentious point–John Stuart Mill (among many, many others) have made this point repeatedly. The sort of defense offered here (“Individual choices don’t impact freedom”) is exactly analogous to the sort of argument WFB (among others) offered against the Civil Rights Act (“It’s the free choice of white businessmen, and is thus irrelevant to the political rights of minorities.”)

27

christian_h 12.27.13 at 7:30 pm

“I’m not sure why you think this is a contentious point–John Stuart Mill (among many, many others) have made this point repeatedly.”

So b/c John Stuart Mill made a point it can’t be contended? Curious.

28

christian_h 12.27.13 at 7:41 pm

Patrick, just out of curiosity, what tactic of struggle do you believe would be “proportional” to the oppression and ethnic cleansing faced by Palestinians? Nicely asking maybe – or would that be an unconscionable attack on the colonizers’ feelings?

More seriously, you are of course completely missing or ignoring the point SoU actually makes. That being precisely that the debate never even is allowed to be about whether the tactic of BDS is an appropriate tactic given the injustice it is aimed at addressing – rather the tactic itself is declared to be wrong as an absolute, without regard for the particulars of the conjuncture in Palestine itself. The debate is steered to be about the question “is academic boycott an attack on academic freedom”, or “is a boycott of Israel ipso facto antisemitic” etc.; at that point Palestinians themselves have been successfully elided from the discourse.

In contrast, the left (as opposed to pacifist) criticism of the Iraq war was fundamentally about the people of Iraq – they were central to the argument against war.

29

Bloix 12.27.13 at 8:25 pm

Thought experiment:

The signatories to the resolution by the ASA council are listed alphabetically. The first happens to be Prof. Jennifer Devere Brody, chair of the Department of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford with an appointment at Stanford’s Clayman Institute of Gender Research.

Imagine yourself an ambitious junior faculty member at West Coast State. You’re not Jewish and you have no particular interest in Jews or Israel – your area is religion in theater. In an article you wrote you touched on the play Women’s Minyan, about an ultra-orthodox woman’s treatment at the hands of the rabbinical courts. Your article caught someone’s eye and you are invited to give a talk at a conference at Tel Aviv University. It would be fun and professionally useful to go, but there are other conferences you could attend.

As you weigh the options, do you think, why should I go out of my way to offend Prof. Brody and who knows who else? Or does that play no role at all in your decision?

30

Bloix 12.27.13 at 8:31 pm

PS- this thread is drifting way off target here. It’s supposed to be about whether the Resolution is a violation of academic freedom. My little thought experiment is designed to show that the Resolution will have a chilling effect on academic freedom – in fact, that’s probably the only effect it will have.

I don’t doubt that that’s the intended effect. The combination of statement and resolution implies to me that the signatories are being disingenuous – sending the message to anyone that they may have some degree of power over that any affiliation with Israel or Israelis will be judged negatively, while swearing that that’s not what they are doing.

31

Kaveh 12.27.13 at 8:34 pm

Bloix, in all of that text you quoted from the Palestinian call for boycott, you didn’t find one single line that says American institutions should exclude individual Israeli academics from anything–literally every single statement you quoted talks about relationships between institutions–and then you blithely declare ‘well, but they must have meant that, because the boycott call says it’s supposed to be broad’. But let’s suppose you’re right that the Palestinian boycott call strongly suggests that individual Israeli academics should be excluded. It doesn’t, but let’s suppose. You say that the Palestinian call is very broad, the ASA call doesn’t seem to be quite as broad. You seem to conclude from this that ASA members are going to closely read the Palestinian statement and follow the strongest form of that call, while claiming only to follow the looser text of the ASA boycott call. Because they’re worried about remaining in good standing with the ASA? (lol!) Because the fact that 2/3 of them voted for the boycott proves they are all antisemites and will interpret everything in whatever way is most unfavorable to Israel (then why did they need a boycott statement in the first place? Israeli universities must be already struggling b/c American scholars don’t want to work with them! (lol!)) Wouldn’t the much more logical conclusion simply be that the ASA wasn’t willing to go as far as the Palestinian call for boycott asked? There’s nothing ambiguous about their statement, and even it was at odds with the original Palestinian boycott call, that wouldn’t make it nefariously ambiguous, that would just make it… at odds with the original Palestinian boycott call.

Since people seem to wonder what the point of this boycott call is–is it really superficial, or is it superficial but the first step in much stronger boycott…?–I will offer my $.02. Although I’m not really more informed about this than anyone else here, especially not about what’s going on in the ASA. I think the goal of this boycott call is to encourage other academic organizations to establish similar, mostly-symbolic boycotts, and encourage non-academic organizations to establish their own boycotts. Academic organizations can even directly honor the boycott by encouraging university endowments to divest from companies that profit from the occupation, and by not buying products for conferences and other events from companies that do (Sabra hummus seems to get called out for this a lot, for some reason).

If S Africa is the model, and S Africa boycotts made it a special point not to target universities, I can see how it would make sense for Palestinian BDS to depart from that because academics in the humanities are terrorist-loving moral relativists are maybe a bit more self-confident about the whole issue of liberation movements that have resorted to inhumane tactics nonetheless being motivated by legitimate grievances, and also educated enough about historical antisemitism to tell the difference between real antisemitism and bull$hit accusations of antisemitism, and to make that distinction with confidence. I suspect that leftists outside academia are more likely to have insecurities about those issues, and as a result academics have a greater responsibility to lead the way on the issue of Palestine. And it would be silly to say “you all should boycott Israel but we shouldn’t because academics are special.” Because, really, that would be silly. But–and again, this is just a guess, I can’t read everybody’s minds, but it’s what makes the most sense to me–I think that is actually what they are trying to do–legitimize a much broader boycott movement by giving it the endorsement of a group of people who clearly know $hit from shinola when it comes to racism, antisemitism, and liberation movements.

32

Kaveh 12.27.13 at 8:40 pm

@29 It plays no role at all in your decision.

33

JW Mason 12.27.13 at 8:59 pm

As you weigh the options, do you think, why should I go out of my way to offend Prof. Brody and who knows who else? Or does that play no role at all in your decision?

I would hope it plays a role. That’s the whole point of BDS — to make the occupation more costly for Israel.

34

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 12.27.13 at 9:08 pm

Have American academics ever put this much effort into worrying about the academic freedom of Palestinians?

Good question. We all know the answer.
~

35

Phil 12.27.13 at 9:30 pm

Further to Bloix’s thought experiment: a point which often seems to get lost in discussions of boycotts is that they’re costly to the participants: when you boycott supplier/trading partner/nation X you’re knowingly giving up something of value to you. If the thing being abandoned weren’t of value to you, you wouldn’t be staging a boycott – you’d simply be exercising rational choice (by choosing things which were of value instead).

36

William Burns 12.27.13 at 9:35 pm

Bloix,

What if professor Brody has no involvement with the ASA, but is a well-known champion of Palestinian rights? Wouldn’t the same “chilling effect” apply? Should senior academics never express political opinions, for fear of “chilling” junior academics?

37

Bloix 12.27.13 at 9:46 pm

#31- what I assume is that relatively powerless people, like my hypothetical junior faculty member, will see that relatively powerful people, like the very real Prof. Brody, are on record as supporting a boycott of Israeli institutions. Will the jnr prof say, no fear, the statement means I can go to the conference? Or will she say, hmm, maybe I don’t want Tel Aviv University on my c.v. – I’ll go to that other conference in Italy?

As #33 says, quite forthrightly, the whole point of the boycott is to interfere with the freedom of individual academics to make decisions based solely on academic considerations. He understands it perfectly. You do too, I imagine.

Oh, and #34 – Outside the area of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Palestinian academics play little role in the academic life of American institutions. Israeli academics play a world-wide major role in any number of general interest fields. Only 26 countries have even one university in the top 500 world universities. Israel has seven – or four in the top hundred, by a competing count, which puts Hebrew University at No. 21. http://cwur.org/top100.html One of the few fields in which academics don’t have much interaction with Israelis is American studies.

One of the reasons American universities are so alarmed at this, I would imagine, is that regardless of what the gender studies departments may think, the medicine, econ, computer science, bio-engineering, and math faculties are freaking out at the idea of an Israel boycott.

38

Bloix 12.27.13 at 10:04 pm

#36 – Every professor, as a citizen, has the right to express her views on any subject, regardless of whether she has any professional expertise or experience in that area. When she does, she should take care that she is not, and does not appear to be, using the professional status and power granted by her university to coerce other scholars for reasons having nothing to do with scholarship.

39

William Burns 12.27.13 at 10:27 pm

But surely “expressing one’s views on any subject” would include expressing one’s support of a boycott?

40

christian_h 12.27.13 at 10:44 pm

The reality of US academia is of course the opposite of Bloix’s hypothetical – it is those academics expressing support for the rights of Palestinians that are facing intimidation, from colleagues, administrators, politicians (viz., the IU president’s intervention for just one example). In this context, the vote by the ASA does in fact increase academic freedom since it provides organizational support to the idea that academics are in fact allowed to speak out on the issue of Palestine.

41

SoU 12.27.13 at 10:59 pm

echoing christian_h who is on point here – do we not all remember that panel at Brooklyn College where Judy Butler and Omar Barghouti were going to do a talk about BDS and things, and the collective academic and local political establishment flipped out?? where was the AAU statement on that?
if you want to talk about academic freedom, that is all well and good. its just you need to give something in the manner of a coherent definition, a bright-line, or be at least marginally consistent in your outrage.

42

Bloix 12.27.13 at 11:21 pm

#40 – Christian_h, you’re correct that the current reality is that academics have faced intimidation and discrimination for their views in support of Palestinians. Typically these have been scholars with expertise in the field. A number of universities have behaved pusillanimously or worse in failing to vindicate their academic freedom.

The ASA boycott, as you point out, is in part an effort to change the reality. It attempts to do so by restricting the academic freedom of people who have no expertise on the Israel/Palestine conflict and simply want to do their scholarly work. Such people, unlike professionals in the field, have nothing at stake in the conflict and thus are more likely to yield to even the mildest pressure.

Partisans to a conflict typically try to make it impossible to be a neutral. The philosophy is that those who are not for us are against us. The ASA Resolution is a step in that sort of strategy.

The ASA claims the right to discipline members who choose to attend academic conferences in Israel:

“Q: Would ASA members be permitted to work with Israeli scholars, Palestinian scholars in Israel, and/or collaborate with Palestinian research institutions in Israel?

A: Under most circumstances, yes … However, the boycott does oppose participation in conferences or events officially sponsored by Israeli universities.”

http://www.theasa.net/what_does_the_academic_boycott_mean_for_the_asa/

This is the most overt expression of the ASA’s intent to enforce the boycott coercively. But anyone concerned about the effects on his or her own career would have to be worried about any appearance of a pro-Israel or even neutral stance on a c.v. that might be reviewed by a member of the ASA council.

I just don’t buy the argument that academic freedom is increased by coercion against academics.

43

LFC 12.27.13 at 11:40 pm

I’ve just looked briefly at the opening paragraphs of the ASA’s Q-and-A linked by Corey in the OP. What’s written there raises a couple of questions in my view. First, there’s the ASA’s assertion that (I’m paraphrasing/quoting from memory) “Israel’s system of racial discrimination” at “all institutional levels” is comparable to apartheid, followed by a ref to the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court.

The comparison to apartheid is presented as if it were self-evident, or close to it. Yet I think this assertion is more controversial than, say, the statement that Israeli occupation of the W.Bank is illegal under int’l law, which is very widely accepted. Apparently when the majority of ASA members voted for the boycott, they were endorsing, if the Q-and-A is any indication, the view that Israeli policy is comparable to apartheid.

Then, more pertinently to the issues in this thread, there’s the paragraph beginning w the assertion that Israeli univs are “a central part” of the occupation (how they are is not detailed); it goes on to say that Palestinian students’ cultural and political expression is restricted (presumably this means on both Israeli and Palestinian (W. Bank/PA) univ. campuses, though it’s not spelled out); and then there is the observation that Israeli univ. campuses are patrolled by armed guards/police or soldiers, with the implication/statement that they are there to suppress protests; but this can be seen as an understandable security measure given that terrorist attacks have taken place on Israeli univ campuses in the past (something the ASA does not note). So I find the first few paragraphs of the ASA’s Q-and-A somewhat less than persuasive. Which is not necessarily to say they *can’t* possibly justify the boycott, just to say that I don’t think the opening of the Q-and-A is an esp. satisfactory justification. (I personally would be more interested in supporting a campaign to pressure the US govt to exert real leverage on Israel when it comes to the current negotiations, but I guess many people feel, perhaps w some reason, that that wd be a waste of time.)

44

Kaveh 12.27.13 at 11:42 pm

Oh, and #34 – Outside the area of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Palestinian academics play little role in the academic life of American institutions.

And yet Al-Quds did have a substantial relationship with Brandeis…

Bloix, regardless of what JWMason says @33, if we’re talking about people doing things the boycott doesn’t actually call for because they think it will make them more likeable to the boycott-supporters, then it doesn’t really matter that it’s a boycott, and not any other kind of statement–you could say that expressing any opinion about any issue will have a chilling effect/impinge on academic freedom/whatever…

But also, because the state of debate on Palestine in the US is that people who speak up on behalf of Palestinians sometimes face very real, severe intimidation, and people who defend Israel simply do not face that kind of intimidation, I simply wouldn’t let it affect my decision about that conference, if I were in that person’s shoes. Unless I thought that Prof. So-and-so is a really fanatical partisan of the Palestinian cause–but again, in that case we’re not really talking about the boycott anymore. If (or actually, when, because I actually have to make choices like this in my real life career) I find myself in that kind of situation, I simply will not worry about people trying to enforce a boycott on non-supporters of the boycott. I’m willing to bet that for the most part the boycott-supporters are probably just happy to be able to make a statement, and to practice the boycott in the way they actually said they are practicing it–on relationships between institutions, not between individuals, or institutions & individuals–and also to amicably disagree with non-supporters.

45

Bloix 12.27.13 at 11:43 pm

#41 – Butler and Barghouti did speak at Brooklyn College. The College President, Karen Gould, stood up for the academic freedom of her school’s students and faculty against the threats of politicians and ideologues.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/172665/new-york-dems-shouldnt-make-political-hay-brooklyn-colleges-panel-bds

On the other hand, a Festschrift in honor of a U of Texas professor could not be published because Palestinian authors would not permit their work to appear in the same volume as Israeli authors.

“Huzama Habayeb, the Palestinian writer who organized the boycott …said she was thrilled that her efforts had killed the anthology…

“[A]cademics the world over need to ensure that Israel is isolated for its immoral and illegal actions in occupying Palestine and repressing the Palestinian people. The pen is mightier than the sword.”

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/31/boycott-kills-u-texas-project-women-writers-middle-east#ixzz2oinia2m5

That’s the boycott that ASA is supporting. They may claim to be supporting some other boycott, but that’s the boycott called for by “Palestinian civil society.”

46

LFC 12.27.13 at 11:44 pm

p.s. it’s the same link as given by Bloix @42

47

Collin Street 12.27.13 at 11:50 pm

Every professor, as a citizen, has the right to express her views on any subject, regardless of whether she has any professional expertise or experience in that area.

Is this a normative statement, or an observation?

[Do you even know the difference?]

48

Kaveh 12.27.13 at 11:56 pm

Bloix, you quote the passage that discourages individual scholars from participating in conferences officially sponsored by Israeli universities and state that “This is the most overt expression of the ASA’s intent to enforce the boycott coercively. “

But the ASA statement clearly says they do not intend to enforce it on anyone who does not wish to participate:

As a large member organization representing divergent opinions, the National Council further recognizes the rights of ASA members to disagree with the decision of the National Council. The Council’s endorsement of the resolution recognizes that individual members will act according to their conscience and convictions on these complex issues. As an association that upholds the principle of academic freedom, the ASA exercises no legislative authority over its members.

But I was wrong to say that they are categorically not boycotting interaction between individuals & institutions, clearly they are opposed to American scholars being sponsored by Israeli universities. This however has no bearing on your hypothetical scenario, beyond the boycott functioning as a statement of opinion, because again, they are very clear that they will not coerce people to participate.

49

Collin Street 12.28.13 at 12:10 am

The comparison to apartheid is presented as if it were self-evident, or close to it. Yet I think this assertion is more controversial than, say, the statement that Israeli occupation of the W.Bank is illegal under int’l law, which is very widely accepted.

Remember, about 20% of the population of israel-proper is non-jewish and largely arabic-speaking [arabic is an official language], yet — to pick a random point — there’s no arabic-language university in israel-proper as far as I can see and anyone has pointed out. Certainly we know that arabic-language education is grossly underfunded in comparison to the hebrew system.

[the real core of the apartheid sits in the leasehold nature of israeli land tenure [and also the existence of the JNF as a quasi-governmental entity], which laws-as-practiced allow government agents to keep populations segregated and provide different levels of government service to different areas. But digging out that stuff is a bit hard and I’m not an expert.]

50

Bloix 12.28.13 at 12:12 am

#48 – the language that you quote is like a non-apology apology. It’s a non-promissory promise of non-retaliation. It merely “recognizes” the obvious – that as a private membership organization, the ASA doesn’t have the power to force people to do anything. The reference to academic freedom is in a dependent clause that has nothing to do with the main statement in the sentence and appears to have no purpose other than to create a false sense of assurance. Of course the ASA doesn’t exercise “legislative authority” over its members. That fact arises from its nature as a voluntary membership organization. It’s got nothing to do with academic freedom, and the quote is entirely ambiguous about what academic freedom might require in this context.

There was probably a fair amount of lawyering that went into the statement and the FAQ and the rest of that stuff. And presumably the ASA doesn’t want to provoke any of its 2200 institutional members into dropping their financially essential memberships. But the Resolution itself has no caveats. And that’s the thing that the council members signed.

51

JW Mason 12.28.13 at 12:29 am

I’m willing to bet that for the most part the boycott-supporters are probably just happy to be able to make a statement

Kaveh, I’m curious what you base this statement on. My impression is that many of those in favor of the boycott genuinely support the cause of Palestinian self-determination and would like to use the institutional resources available to them to advance it.

52

Bloix 12.28.13 at 12:29 am

#47 – it is, among other things, a paraphrase of the relevant section of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, co-sponsored by the AAUP and the AACU, which after 73 years remains the most broadly accepted statement of the meaning of academic freedom. On the question of the freedom to speak publicly on issues outside the areas of one’s teaching and research, the 1940 Statement observes:

“College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

http://www.aaup.org/report/1940-statement-principles-academic-freedom-and-tenure

53

Kaveh 12.28.13 at 2:03 am

JW Mason @51

I’m willing to bet that for the most part the boycott-supporters are probably just happy to be able to make a statement

Kaveh, I’m curious what you base this statement on. My impression is that many of those in favor of the boycott genuinely support the cause of Palestinian self-determination and would like to use the institutional resources available to them to advance it.

My original sentence:

I’m willing to bet that for the most part the boycott-supporters are probably just happy to be able to make a statement, and to practice the boycott in the way they actually said they are practicing it–on relationships between institutions..

Deleting that much of the sentence changes the meaning. But yes, I think the ‘statement’ implicit in the fact that they were able to pass this boycott w/ a 2/3 majority advances the cause of Palestinian self-determination in addition to (& probably more than) the material effects of the ASA boycott itself–the real threat is the boycott spreading, the dreaded “delegitimization,” &c..

And because the real value of a boycott statement like this is getting the boycott to spread and showing people that a boycott is a legitimate, non-violent response to Israeli violence, the boycott-supporters have every reason not to be pushy towards people who don’t share their views. If I were one of the ASA professors who signed that document, I’d be making every effort to show that I’m not trying to force other people to go along with the boycott it if they don’t want to, that I am a reasonable person willing to disagree amicably… BTW re Bloix @42 about the festschrift, shutting down a project by refusing to collaborate yourself is not coercing other people to honor a boycott.

Bloix @50 I gather “legislative authority” in this context means the authority to censure members or revoke membership b/c somebody doesn’t abide by the rules of the association. In theory, that kind of authority could actually be effective very coercion, b/c it would mean you can’t present at or even attend ASA conferences, which is probably a very important conference for people in American history, lit., &c. But, I can’t possibly imagine them trying to force people to abide by the boycott in that way, even if they hadn’t explicitly stated that they won’t do so. There’s just no way people would be ok with that kind of coercion, it would be a fiasco. So what is left is a refusal to have official collaborations between the ASA and Israeli institutions, which AFAIK are already rare, and a general statement of opinion that Israel should be subjected to a boycott–which, in your West Coast State scenario, is not really different from knowing that Prof. So-and-so at Stanford holds pro-Palestinian views and that this Palestinian civil society call for boycott exists. I mean, if you’re going to not take them at their word, why not just go whole hog and say that any outspoken critic of Israel is probably really supporting the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, regardless of what they actually say, so better not to go to that conference in Tel Aviv…?

@45, “That’s the boycott that ASA is supporting. They may claim to be supporting some other boycott…

So they are actually supporting the boycott you think they are supporting, and not the one they said they are supporting? Why should I believe that? Even if it were true, the chilling effect would have already been huge without the boycott, the boycott statement itself would be irrelevant.

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Kaveh 12.28.13 at 2:04 am

Sigh. And that’s why I wasn’t using ‘blockquote cite’…

55

Ed Herdman 12.28.13 at 3:35 am

The discussion around Bloix’s interestnig hypothetical reminds me of the failure to find a middle ground – you have people (apparently; I haven’t met them though I know they are there) who lean towards Israel, and you have people who see themselves as balancing that effect.

In truth I think that the people who are thought of as being rabidly “pro-Israel” are actually just status quo fans who are intimidated by the broader sensitivities of the issue in Israel and the West. Definitely I agree that the Palestinians have little room left in the discussion when it is framed this way, but finding a constructive way to deal with the issue that isn’t a giant pendulum swing seems very difficult.

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Ed Herdman 12.28.13 at 3:40 am

Also, about the festschrift: It is certainly unfortunate for the U of Texas professor and I don’t find it a happy thing, but the whole point of a boycott is of course to make people look less like “collateral damage” and to bring the problems in a real way back to other people at large. (I see that as a statement echoing Phil’s point above about rational choice.) In fact, it isn’t even necessary that the target of the boycott have some direct involvement in the behaviors or practices being protested – think of somebody who can’t get a seat on a bus or at the lunch counter during a boycott. Innocent people, surely, get caught up in such things; to say “this is the reason why we shouldn’t do such things” is preposterous. Certainly it means that such tactics should be used conservatively and in a careful manner, but it doesn’t preclude them at all.

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faustusnotes 12.28.13 at 4:41 am

I think this thread needs to be Godwinned. If the ASA had called in 1936 for a boycott of German institutions, would it have been an unconscionable violation of academic freedom? To restate Bloix’s hypothetical, would it be terrible that a young up-and-coming demographer felt they couldn’t visit Germany in 1938 to learn about all their whiz-bang civil registration techniques because a senior professor might frown on collaboration with the German state?

My guess is that everyone here would support that boycott. So why the objection to this one? Let’s grant Bloix’s point, that it violates academic freedom and that is its point. Let’s assume further that – like the sports teams that tried to visit SA in the 1980s – violators of the boycott are publicly vilified. Oh, the horror! What’s the problem? Unless you think that any violation of academic freedom must be wrong (see my Godwin paragraph) then the issue must be that you have weighed up Palestinian rights and the rights of US academics, and decided that the latter are greater, or that the former are only being abused to such an extent that its hard to judge between which are more important.

I’d be interested to see how many of the people opposed to the ASA statement are opposed on the grounds that academic freedom should never be curtailed, or are just opposed in this case …

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.28.13 at 10:38 am

The whole ‘academic freedom’ thing is a silly exercise in concern trolling.

I now think that “the academic boycott doesn’t violate academic freedom but helps to extend it” is a good answer. You want to preserve the status quo of academic freedom? Well, they are trying to extend it. Checkmate.

59

Corey Robin 12.28.13 at 5:52 pm

I’ve updated the post (see bottom of OP) to add this latest entry to the Annals of Chutzpah:

NYU President John Sexton has come out against the ASA boycott of Israel because it is “at heart a disavowal of the free exchange of ideas and the free association of scholars that undergird academic freedom; as such, it is antithetical to the values and tenets of institutions of advanced learning.”

NYU has a campus in Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

Guess who is banned from entering the United Arab Emirates? Israeli citizens.

So, according to Sexton, it is a violation of academic freedom for the ASA to refuse to partner with Israeli academic institutions; it is an affirmation of academic freedom for NYU to partner with Abu Dhabi, which not only refuses to partner with Israeli academic institutions but also forbids Israeli citizens from entering the country.

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Scott P. 12.28.13 at 5:56 pm

“To restate Bloix’s hypothetical, would it be terrible that a young up-and-coming demographer felt they couldn’t visit Germany in 1938 to learn about all their whiz-bang civil registration techniques because a senior professor might frown on collaboration with the German state?

My guess is that everyone here would support that boycott. “

That’s no hypothetical. There was a movement in America to boycott the 1936 Olympics. In the end, most black and Jewish American athletes opposed the boycott.

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LFC 12.28.13 at 8:37 pm

C.R. @59
Re the update: this is an interesting point and has been raised previously in this thread. I’m not sure, from this perspective, how American institutions justify their campuses in Abu Dhabi or, say, Qatar, where the Georgetown School of Foreign Service has a campus. Georgetown prof (and political theorist) Joshua Mitchell recently published a book, Tocqueville in Arabia, which deals w his experience teaching in Qatar and subsequently in Iraq, where he was acting chancellor of the American Univ. of Iraq. I haven’t read it (and don’t have plans to) but it wd be interesting to know if he addresses this issue w/r/t Qatar, or if American univs. have negotiated some special arrangement whereby restrictions on Israeli citizens entering the countries don’t apply if, by chance, an Israeli citizen wants to give a talk at the campus, or whatever.

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LFC 12.28.13 at 8:40 pm

p.s. for that matter, how were the Israelis represented at the Doha WTO round if they couldn’t enter the country? Some special exception made?

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LFC 12.28.13 at 8:44 pm

pps Well I’m just assuming Qatar has the same rules as the UAE. But I don’t know.

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Bloix 12.28.13 at 9:34 pm

#59 – in other news, Al Gore is fat. Seriously, you’re arguing that John Sexton is a hypocrite and therefore the ASA boycott doesn’t violate academic freedom? You started this off with what appeared to be a good-faith effort to provoke debate, and you did a pretty good job based on the thread that followed. But now you’re tired of it and you’ve decided to troll your own post – let’s not talk about the issue, let’s find someone we can all have two minute’s hate about.

Perhaps it’s true that in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Arab-speaking world there is no such thing as academic freedom. It’s a pretty big leap from that fact to the idea that therefore infringements on academic freedom in the US are a-okay.

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Bloix 12.28.13 at 9:38 pm

Why do I do this? I’m just feeding the fucking troll. Do me a favor, Prof. Robyn, and ban me so I don’t waste any more time with your bad-faith posts. You and the idiot Mao can take a great leap forward into the Yang=tze together, for all I care.

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UserGoogol 12.28.13 at 9:41 pm

Corey Robin: Depends on how you look at it. Two wrongs don’t make a right, so the fact that the UAE “boycotts” Israel doesn’t mean you should boycott the UAE in exchange. If building branches in the UAE is merely extending the reach of academia, then you’re only adding to people’s academic freedoms by allowing more people to associate with other academics. On the other hand, if you interpret building in the UAE as actively accepting UAE policy towards Israel, then it’s hypocritical. (And there are some people who are saying that they actively should counter-boycott the ASA boycott, so they’re in more hypocritical territory. Even then though it’s easy enough to split hairs between an association of academics doing something and a sovereign state doing something.)

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P O'Neill 12.28.13 at 10:11 pm

Just in case anyone was wondering about academic freedom in the UAE.

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eddie 12.29.13 at 12:24 am

The ASA boycott does not try to prevent individual professors at Israeli universities from presenting at ASA conferences, but it’s a violation of ‘academic freedom’ to contradict those opponents of the boycott who claim that it does.

69

eddie 12.29.13 at 12:31 am

Also, here’s some context on arguments about ‘academic freedom’:

http://ncse.com/evolution/anti-evolution-anti-climate-science-legislation-scorecard-2013

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Ed Herdman 12.29.13 at 12:42 am

UserGoogol @ #66:

To state the obvious, there is of course no reason to expect that academic co-programs with institutions in the UEA are intended to support a problematic status quo.

Actually I know that there are plenty of fishy things happening in the UAE (with respect to its migrant worker population, for example) but I could see how some would argue that the I/P problem gets first dibs, and (as I said in a much earlier thread on the subject) it seems reasonable to argue that a boycott would more effectively target democratic institutions and voters in Israel.

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Hal 12.29.13 at 1:53 am

Ed Herdman @70

Here we go again… let’s target Israeli academics not because Palestinians are more oppressed than the Kurds, Tibetans, Chechens (let alone gays or women –or academics!– in Israel’s neighbours) etc, but because Israelis are the most amenable/reasonable/democratic. In other words it’s what someone in the previous thread compared to the drunkard looking for his car keys under the lamp post not because he dropped them there but because the light was better. Or, in the ASA’s own words: “One has to start somewhere.”

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115961/american-studies-association-boycott-israel-travesty

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William Burns 12.29.13 at 2:05 am

Hal,

There are a broad range of sanctions, boycotts and other activities targeting Russia (try googling Sochi Olympics), China and Iran, hardly anything targeting Israel. As Larry Derfner has pointed out, Israel is singled out for favorable, not unfavorable treatment. http://972mag.com/the-worlds-blatant-double-standard-in-israels-favor/84499/ Read the whole ASA statement in context not some excerpt in the New Republic, of all places.

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Hal 12.29.13 at 3:17 am

William Burns,

I read the whole ASA statement. All their (associated) statements, in fact. If there was a mention of Russia or China or Iran I must have missed it… But the ASA have to start somewhere.

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anon 12.29.13 at 6:31 am

All you folks in favor of the boycott could personally do much more and also boycott all companies doing business with Israel. My guess is that not a single one of you keyboard warriors will do so.

Having lurked here numerous times I can determine that not a single one of you will endure PERSONAL inconvenience to support the Palestinians. You really are a bunch of pathetic losers.

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Ed Herdman 12.29.13 at 6:36 am

Indeed it’s the point of a boycott to inconvenience someone else.

I guess one of the things that makes this boycott call different from some others is that it’s being organized out of solidarity – but there are also plenty of examples of this being done. I can’t think of successful boycotts-in-solidarity (or just by outsiders) but that’s missing the point.

You have touched on a point I’ve raised earlier about the “academic freedom” claims coming from the outspoken anti-boycott crowd – that also looks like CYA operations so there’s definitely lots of easy targets for hypocrisy if you are so inclined to look. I’m not sure what that gets us practically, though.

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Ed Herdman 12.29.13 at 6:40 am

@ Hal: Does your post contain a criticism? All I’m seeing is you restating what everybody agrees with.

We’ve already talked about this in a previous incarnation of the thread, I’m sure – when things are less amenable to a boycott effort, you can just look to see what Mandela did – or the immigrants to Israel, I suppose. That people are calling for boycotts and not open warfare is at least a midly hopeful sign and I don’t see how it gets spun otherwise.

You certainly don’t think that boycotts alone are effective measures against entrenched and murderous regimes like North Korea, I am sure, but beyond that reading I’m not exactly sure what your post would be meant to say.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.29.13 at 7:50 am

“not because Palestinians are more oppressed than the Kurds, Tibetans, Chechens”

I think this misrepresents the issue.

Kurdish, Tibetan, and Chechen separatists are oppressed. Governments combat separatists. Certainly brutality of anti-separatism is a matter of concern, but anti-separatist violence in general is not forbidden in this modern world, and won’t be for as long as modern states exist in their current form.

But settler-colonialism combined with race-based ethnic cleansing/persecution, which is what the situation in Palestine has been, is considered anachronistic, barbaric, and completely unacceptable these days, especially in former colonies, but really everywhere on Earth. The level of oppression is not the defining characteristic here.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.29.13 at 8:20 am

…when Israel annexes WB and Gaza and makes their population citizens, allows the refugees to return and gives them citizenship, declares itself a nation (which it explicitly rejects now), and then, if there is a violent movement for a separate Arab, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hebrew state, and the government cracks down on this movement, then you can compare their situation with Chechnya, and you’ll have a point.

79

William Burns 12.29.13 at 10:23 am

Hal,

If you actually had read the ASA statement, you would have known that there are reasons given for focusing on Israel other than “we have to start somewhere,” notably the responsibility of America as Israel’s supporter–something that doesn’t apply to Tibet or Chechnya. Just out of curiosity, what do you do to support the freedom of Tibet or Chechnya other than complain when other people support Palestinians?

80

faustusnotes 12.29.13 at 10:24 am

Hal, where would you rather go for a holiday? Tibet or the Gaza strip? Where would you feel safer? Which has more open relations with its neighbours, and which has a more thriving tourist economy? Why is that? Do you think that the ease with which outsiders can visit, move around in, and leave Tibet in safety might be in some way reflective of the possibility that life is better there than in Gaza?

anon, actually I do boycott products from Israel. Do you?

Scott P., I’m sorry but you’re completely wrong. The American Athletic Union was pressed to run a boycott by Jewish athletes and many Catholics, but the boycott was quashed in a narrow vote that was manipulated by the then head of the AOC, Avery Brundage, who accused the boycott movement of being a “Jewish-communist conspiracy” to keep America out of the games. But anyway, I was talking about academics. You got anything better?

81

Ronan(rf) 12.29.13 at 2:36 pm

LFC

If you have access, Uzi Rabi’s ‘Qatar’s Relations with Israel: Challenging Arab and Gulf Norms’ is a good quick rundown.
IIRC, and not having read it in years as dont have access, in the mid 90s Qatar’s FP changed (as a result of change of leadership within the al Thanis?) primarily looking for more independence from Saudi, (which you see in their response to the Arab Spring as well) and part of this was a more complex relationship towards Israel. (So trade missions were allowed, I think, up until Gaza 2009 and again recently. Don’t know if Qatar ban Israelis and people who have a history of having travelled in Israel from entering the country. Google says they arent one of the Arab countries that do)

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LFC 12.29.13 at 4:21 pm

@ronan
thanks for the refs

83

Sebastian H 12.29.13 at 4:40 pm

“Hal, where would you rather go for a holiday? Tibet or the Gaza strip? Where would you feel safer? Which has more open relations with its neighbours, and which has a more thriving tourist economy? Why is that? Do you think that the ease with which outsiders can visit, move around in, and leave Tibet in safety might be in some way reflective of the possibility that life is better there than in Gaza?”

The number of Chinese settlers in Tibet EXCEEDS the number of Tibetans. The Chinese have taken control of the Tibetan religion, worship or religious practices in public or at any place other than the five Chinese controlled temples is forbidden on pain of very long gulag like imprisonment. Any hint of resistance is met with collective punishment on your friends and neighbors and associates on a level that makes it look like Israel isn’t even trying. The idea that the “safety” of tourists in Tibet represents a better life for Tibetans rather than the fact that the Chinese have been much more ruthless than the Israelis suggests a lack of understanding of both situations. You can argue that the Israelis have been bad enough to deserve censure without inverting history and pretending that the Chinese were better to Tibet.

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faustusnotes 12.29.13 at 5:02 pm

Have you been to Tibet, Sebastian?

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bianca steele 12.29.13 at 5:18 pm

@78: …when Israel annexes WB and Gaza and makes their population citizens,

So what about if Israel gives their populations permanent “minority” status, in the sense of not having full legal rights of “adulthood,” and grants itself the right to determine when their votes will count and when they won’t?

then you can compare their situation with Chechnya, and you’ll have a point.

Good. Then all we have to do is hope we all deplore the way Russia is treating Chechnya, right? (Should we see your 77?)

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.29.13 at 5:51 pm

“The number of Chinese settlers in Tibet EXCEEDS the number of Tibetans.”

You only can claim Chinese settlers in Tibet if you consider Tibet a separate geopolitical entity. But it’s much more common to view it as a province of China, and it this context “Chinese settlers in Tibet” makes about as much sense as “American settlers in Hawaii”.

“we all deplore the way Russia is treating Chechnya”

It’s not about “Russia treating Chechnya” either. It’s about the way Russia is dealing with the Chechen separatist movement. Clearly, not anywhere near as well as, say, Spain is dealing with Basque and (so far) Catalan separatism.

Deploring is easy, but if you want a simple analysis, here it is: the USSR collapsed, the new Russian state was very-very weak in the 1990s. And that, I think, is the explanation of what’s been happening on the periphery there. So, what alternative do you suggest? Fifty little independent states on the territory of Russia fighting each other?

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Hal 12.29.13 at 5:55 pm

Unlike some of you (I’m guessing), I have been both to Tibet (actually only a couple of days in Tibet itself but longer in Nepal among Tibetan refugees) and to Israel/Palestine, though in the first case over 25 years ago and have lost contact with friends made at that time so have no personal information on which to base my opinions, just the usual sources available to everyone (thanks Sebastian H). I consider Tibet an independent state that was forcibly conquered by China in 1951.

The I/P situation is murkier. There never was an independent “Palestinian” state. Prior to the British mandate it was part of a larger Ottoman province and generally referred to as “southern Syria”. The UN partition language of 1947 refers to an “Arab” and a “Jewish” state and before that the term “Palestinians” almost always referred to the area’s Jewish inhabitants. Indeed, between 1948 and 1967, the West Bank was fully occupied by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt. A Palestinian state could easily have been established (Jordan itself comprises 75% of the original British Palestinian Mandate!), but the Arab League always considered the area to be “Arab” and its goal was simply to erase Israel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuheir_Mohsen It was only after 1967 that the “Palestinian” cause was adopted as a more effective political tool.

To be clear: regardless of its origins, Palestinian nationalism is now a legitimite cause and I strongly support the establishment of a (hopefully liberal) Palestinian state… but alongside Israel (some variation of the two states formula) not a Hamas theocracy replacing it.

As for the ASA proposal, I have friends and colleagues in Bir Zeit, the Technion, Tel Aviv University and other, smaller institutions, and I find the ASA proposal at once hypocritical and risible for many of the same reasons enumerated by Leon Wieseltier in the link I provided above. Paradoxically, the only way a Palestinian state will come about is with Israeli help. And, toward that end, the Palestinians’ best ally would be the goodwill of progressive Israelis. Quite apart from their odiousness, attempts to disenfranchise Israel and its Jewish inhabitants, especially academics, whether by Hamas or its useful apologists in the west, will only be counterproductive.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.29.13 at 6:26 pm

“I consider Tibet an independent state that was forcibly conquered by China in 1951. “

But still, it was annexed and its population was made citizens of a nation of its citizens. This hasn’t happened to the WB and Gaza, or we would’ve had a completely different discussion.

89

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 6:38 pm

It’s not about “Russia treating Chechnya” either. It’s about the way Russia is dealing with the Chechen separatist movement.

I don’t think that’s quite right. Russia’s interests are in eliminating a place for Chechen moderates to stand. Russia’s position is that even mild Chechen national feelings are to be treated as on the slippery slope to terrorism. To claim that Russia’s interests are simply in dealing with a violent separatist movement is to accept their terms and to accept Russia’s claim that no negotiation is possible. You might as well accept Russia’s claims that Chechen nationalism is a simple manifestation of “Islamicist terrorism.” I’d be surprised if you accept those claims.

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LFC 12.29.13 at 6:51 pm

@Mao Cheng Ji 78
when Israel annexes WB and Gaza and makes their population citizens, allows the refugees to return and gives them citizenship, declares itself a nation (which it explicitly rejects now)

What the Israel Sup Ct did was to refuse to recognize “Israeli” as an official nationality. According to the LA Times summary of the decision, “the court said it was not casting doubt on the existence of an Israeli nation.”

I don’t think the Israel Sup Ct decision was a good one, but Mao mischaracterizes it. Doubtless he will say the distinction betw Israeli “nation” and “nationality” is an empty one but it isn’t, not when you consider that the word “nation” is often used in popular and journalistic commentary as a synonym for “state” or “nation-state.”

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.29.13 at 7:17 pm

“Russia’s position is that even mild Chechen national feelings are to be treated as on the slippery slope to terrorism.”

I don’t know about that, post a link please. My sources tell me that they are actively rebuilding now, and trying to encourage those who left to come back. Since most of them must be Chechens, I imagine some sort of nationalism must be propagandized. But I could be wrong and it’s just about cheap RE. I’d be surprised though.

LFC, my understanding is that their position is that yes: there is a nation. Those with Israeli passports who are registered as Jews are in the nation, and the goys with Israeli passports are not. They are just some people who were given Israeli passports, because it was a useful thing to do.

I don’t know the fine details of it, and if you can find a piece with a different and convincing enough explanation, please post it.

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Barry 12.29.13 at 7:41 pm

Hal: “Paradoxically, the only way a Palestinian state will come about is with Israeli help. And, toward that end, the Palestinians’ best ally would be the goodwill of progressive Israelis. “

They’ve had that; progressive Israelis are swamped by right-wing Israelis, and have been for probably twenty years. Time to put the pressure on Israel.

“Quite apart from their odiousness, attempts to disenfranchise Israel and its Jewish inhabitants, especially academics, whether by Hamas or its useful apologists in the west, will only be counterproductive.”

‘Useful apologists’. You know, I have not seen any right wing propaganda which is!’s pure freudian projection for many years, now.

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Kaveh 12.29.13 at 7:42 pm

It seems like a safe bet that Gaza has been treated at least as badly as Tibet–however ruthless the Chinese have been, Tibetans aren’t wading in sewage. But still, I think the comparison is stupid and I don’t know why Mao keeps bringing it up. How many UN resolutions did the US veto to defend China’s Tibet policy, Russia’s Chechnya policy, &c.? Plenty of reasons why the US-Tibet and US-Palestine relationships are totally, utterly incomparable. Although I’m sure lots of Tibetans are so glad that some Americans bravely defend their cause by complaining every time somebody talks about Israel.

Hal @87: You say you have friends at Bir Zeit &c., but you say nothing about their opinions about BDS, so I don’t really see what the fact that you have friends there has to do with the validity of your views on the ASA boycott.

re Israeli help to form a state: let’s grant your point that Palestinians will need Israeli ‘help’ (& let’s ignore the paternalistic tone of the word) to form a coequal Palestinian state. Given that Israel is not simply colonizing Palestinian land out of desperation, but there is definitely an element of greed and/or ultranationalist ambition involved too, and a very real ‘Greater Israel’ agenda that goes beyond ‘fighting terror’ (Hal, would you disagree with that?), then while warmer relations between Israel and Arab countries seems like a reasonable goal, why should that preclude the usefulness of outside pressure from countries with already very close ties to Israel, such as the USA, including BDS? What is your view of non-academic forms of BDS, such as not buying Israeli agricultural products, or not buying anything produced in settlements?

My own position, incidentally, is that the boycott against Israel should only come from the US and Europe and countries that Israel claims to be allied/friendly with, and one can support this boycott while also advocating greater connection & friendliness between Israel & Arab countries. In other words, if I am a person with ethno-religious, cultural, or other ties to the Middle East–especially if I’m someone who many Israelis would see as a likely enemy–I can, without contradiction, both support & encourage the ASA boycott, while not participating in it myself and encouraging other people in the Middle East to interact more with Israelis. On the other hand, at least at the moment, I think non-cooperation (like with the festschrift incident mentioned above) & other forms of boycott by Arabs are useful, b/c they help raise awareness among people who could effect a more helpful boycott. There will, ideally, come a time when BDS is widespread enough that Arabs & other Middle Easterners can make a different statement by encouraging at least certain kinds of relations with Israel, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to demand that Palestinian proponents of BDS commit to that in advance–besides which, there are already surveys showing big majorities of Palestinians would be willing to live alongside Jews in the future…

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Ronan(rf) 12.29.13 at 8:14 pm

Hal, a lot of that is just soundbiting though and Im not sure what any of it it has to do with the price of fish.
Of course a Palestinian national identity had to be created. That’s not generally disputed, and doesnt actually say anything about the fact that whatever the people living on that land called themselves, they were, in fact, living on that land. Anyway, afaik (unless its been challenged), Rashid Khalidi has shown that a Palestinian national identity emerged under Ottoman rule, even if it was (obviously) shaped by the eventual resistance to Zionism. Neither here nor there though, afaict.
re Jordan. Well if we’d been living for the past nearly 50 years with a Palestinian resistance to Jordanian rule then the concerns would be different, I agree. Again Im not sure what that has to do with anything?
re the Hamas theocracy. Again speaking about a Hamas theocracy is just hyperbole. If your fear is of a ‘Hamas theocracy’ (accepting the most extreme definition off ‘theocracy’ and imagining away internal divisions within Hamas, and Palestinian society, over any future political settlement) the best thing (I imagine) you could do to counteract the coming theocracy would be to negotiate with Hamas, sideline its most extreme elements, and bring it into the legitimate institutions of a future Palestinian state. Make it actually responsive to the day to day concerns of its potential constituents. That might mean the future Palestinian state has certain religious characteristics, but thats their business.

“but the Arab League always considered the area to be “Arab” and its goal was simply to erase Israel.”

No, this is wrong, or it at least needs the ‘always’ changed and a lot of complication.

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Ed Herdman 12.29.13 at 8:16 pm

@ LFC #90:

Interesting point – but isn’t it still fundamentally right that the Israelis have conspicuously avoided the traditional definition of nationality so that the state remains Jewish? That seems to have been Mao’s point right along.

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bianca steele 12.29.13 at 8:28 pm

that Palestinians will need Israeli ‘help’

One problem with this (paternalism aside, as Kaveh says) is that years ago the Israeli government said they would work with Palestinian institutions and support Palestinian self-rule. But whatever the Palestinians proposed turned out not to be good enough. They didn’t want to work with Arafat. (This has historically worked pretty badly, e.g., in Ireland. Maybe Arafat was too weak to lead a nation-state? So should the West have used the same logic regarding Yeltsin, and refused to work with Russia unless he stepped down?) They encouraged a situation where the centrist parties weak enough that extremist parties like Hamas would be strengthened. Then they took the rise of Hamas and claimed it as proof that “everyone” had been extremist all along. Now they take the fact that Israel is “responsible” for the current situation in Gaza and use it as an excuse to treat Gaza as a prison, which Israel oh-so unfortunately is forced to maintain. And the settlements were a huge mistake, and the government risks civil war to remove them, and the right-wing hard-liners are willing to fight while the progressives probably aren’t.

And the call for “pressure” because of “US” support ignores the fact that Israeli civil society and Israeli progressives and liberals have been pressured for decades by US “support” that’s coming from CATO-style right-wing think tanks. Avenues for “pressure” from a broader cross-section of Western civil society have gradually been choked off, not least by the disingenuous claim that “pro-Israel” groups were non-partisan.

97

La 12.29.13 at 8:31 pm

Regarding the general problem that the ASA boycott is trying to respond to, I assume we’re not going to be able to solve or reach consensus on the I/P issue, but there are relevant issues that might be more tractable:
– The Israeli state is clearly restricting Palestinians’ academic freedom (some evidence: Israeli prosecutor bans academic travel of West Bank professor, Israeli Restrictions on Foreign Academics to Palestinian Higher Education Institutions, various testimonies.)
– In every country, the state plays a considerable role in funding and organising academia, and expects some return on its investment – yet many academics are politically neutral or opposed to the state.

How should academics elsewhere respond to state violations of academic freedom? I’m not convinced the ASA boycott is the right response, but I am convinced that academics collectively need to respond. The response I’d prefer to see would be in the form of a general rule, not a case-specific statement: something of the form “We pledge not to [do X] at/with institutions [related in such-and-such a way to] a state that, within the past [n years], has violated academic freedom by [doing Y]“, plus arrangements for fact-finding in specific cases. Any reasonably phrased rule of that sort would penalise Israeli institutions, and if it affects other states – as Corey suggests – so much the better. After all, if academics don’t respond to state violations of academic freedom, who will?

98

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 9:04 pm

We’ve been over “nationality” at CT with Mao before. Mao insists that “nationality” has the meaning it has in the USSR: there’s the state, and everyone in the state has a nationality. In theory, of course, each nationality is equal, though in practice one nationality (in the S.U., “Russian”) is privileged.

I don’t recall, historically, the conflating of religion with nationality with respect to Israel. Israel is a state that privileges the Jewish religion the way most European governments privilege the Christian religion. Israel is also a state that privileges the state over religion in the liberal way. Israel is also a state that was founded before most Western governments found the currently accepted modern way of reconciling those two things. And Israel is a state where Jews aren’t the majority in the way Christians are in most of Europe. That makes for a huge mess, but it doesn’t mean Israelis have any kind of common understanding of “nationality” in the way Mao wants to claim they have.

99

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 9:20 pm

US practice, I should have added, is different. Nationality = nation-state of origin or emigration. At one time, for example, diversity courses asked participants to state their “nationality”: there were Russians, Lithuanians, and Spaniards, but no Jews and no Basques.

100

Hektor Bim 12.29.13 at 9:25 pm

Kaveh,

Would you support a US-led boycott against Saudi Arabia? After all, the US has a longstanding relationship with SA, supplies it with arms and supports it when its human rights are questioned. A boycott might be effective, since the Saudisare trying hard to modernize and want substantial US help ffor their economy and educational sectors.

101

LFC 12.29.13 at 10:03 pm

@Ed Herdman 95
Interesting point – but isn’t it still fundamentally right that the Israelis have conspicuously avoided the traditional definition of nationality so that the state remains Jewish?
Probably.
Except I’m not sure there’s one single “traditional definition of nationality.” I don’t know. I think we need Henry Farrell to ride to the rescue here on the good steed Ernest Gellner. (Of course H. Farrell has better things to do, I wd imagine.)

102

LFC 12.29.13 at 10:04 pm

******-up metaphor in the last comment. sorry. just wearying of the thread.

103

LFC 12.29.13 at 10:16 pm

B Steele @98
Israel is also a state that privileges the state over religion in the liberal way.

Doubtful (we’ve also been over this before).
I think we can all agree that Jewish citizens of Israel have certain privileges, either official or unoffical or both, that non-Jewish citizens of the state don’t have. And the Israeli Sup Ct declined to recognize “Israeli” as a nationality on grounds that that cd undermine Israel’s character as a Jewish state:
http://news.yahoo.com/israeli-court-rejects-israeli-nationality-status-062621938.html

This is all more-or-less beside the pt of the boycott issue, anyway.

104

LFC 12.29.13 at 10:26 pm

Bianca Steele @96
Note that Abbas’s recent prime ministers, Fayyad and his successor (whose name is escaping me), have gone quite a ways (in some cases w Israeli assistance) toward creating ‘objective’ conditions for statehood on the WB.

105

William Burns 12.29.13 at 10:38 pm

Bianca Steele,

Israel does not privilege the state over religion in the liberal way; states which do have civil marriage, which Israel does not.

106

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 10:49 pm

LFC: Doubtful (we’ve also been over this before).
Absolutely, though I’ll add “or social-democratic” after “liberal” if you like. I don’t remember having been over this before. The courts and civil society in Israel, the economy, everything, is based on Western European models, not on religious law. Only family law IIRC is based on religious law. And regarding the trivial religious differences like what day businesses should close, they simply switch the day.

Israel is supposed to be America on the Mediterranean, Fukuyama’s liberal “end of history” with a historically determined ethnic twist. Otherwise there would have been little support for the Israeli state among young Americans in say the 1970s. And I see no reason to doubt it except in-print ruminations by a handful of Central American humanists from the Scholem/Arendt generation, who may have had other theories of the state, but who seem to have had no influence on real life whatsoever.

William Burns:
Arguably, states that have civil marriage primarily have Christian marriage customs declared “non-sectarian” for administrative purposes, and Israel attempts (however successfully or unsuccessfully) to evade the problem of inventing non-existent non-sectarian rituals.

107

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 11:02 pm

As a feminist, obviously, only family law is religious is not much of a comfort to me.

And also the Zionist propaganda films I was shown as a teenager in the 1970s certainly claimed Arabs had full civil rights in Israel. Maybe Young Judaea shouldn’t have let their meetings be attended by real Israeli exchange students who told us the truth.

108

Kaveh 12.29.13 at 11:03 pm

@100 Yes, depending on the details of the boycott. What are we boycotting, how does it hope to change the existing relationship w/ S.A., and how does changing that relationship accomplish goals w/in S.A. (say, the ban on women driving…)? I’d need to hear a good case for why boycotting S.A. is a good way to achieve particular objectives? Do you have a specific idea for a boycott?

I’ll make the case again for boycotting Israel even though yes this thread is getting tiring, just b/c I think it’s important to spell it out as much as possible: The Israel lobby in the US depends extremely heavily on soft power, such as suppressing views critical of Israel in the media. They rely a lot on the perception that Israel shares similar values w/ the US, that it is an educated, cultured, tolerant, advanced country, and so implicitly, its enemies are motivated by opposition to all those things (and not motivated by its violent policies against Palestinians & neighbors). The core of the Israeli message is ‘we are like you, the Arabs are not like you, and don’t judge us b/c you might do the same things if you were in our situation’. ‘They have terrorists, we have orchestras.’ I suspect this sense of identification with ‘the West’ is also very psychologically important to Israelis (I once heard an Israeli say ‘you should think of Israel as really more like a European country than a Middle Eastern country’–I don’t know what his views were on Palestine; I’ve heard & seen lots of other things that confirm this impression). An academic boycott (in particular) challenges that cultural legitimacy. It challenges the fiction that opposition to Israel’s policies is merely a fringe view in the US embraced by antisemites & people who are in some way unusually sympathetic to Arabs & Muslims. Such a resolution by the ASA in particular challenges the fiction that the situation of Palestinians & Israel’s treatment of them is merely a provincial Middle Eastern issue. It shows that a lot of people who are highly educated and aware of the history of colonialism and racism have thought seriously about the situation and find Israel’s behavior objectionable enough to censure them at the risk of serious professional retaliation and smears of antisemitism. It is, in short, a major symbolic statement that makes it harder for people to dismiss criticism of Israel. AFAIK the US has repeatedly criticized Chinese & Russian abuses of civil rights, it has not gone out of its way to defend them at the UN, and resolutions for e.g. severe sanctions on Iran, which are very, very much about Israel, get votes from Democrats in Congress in spite of the president’s efforts to build bridges w/ Iran. Israel is the 3rd rail of US politics. &c. A boycott challenges all of those fictions & behaviors.

So, I think people are talking about BDS against Israel and not China or S.A. (they are talking about it with Russia though) b/c there aren’t US policies directly supporting those countries’ oppressive policies that could be targeted in the same way. There isn’t a similar need to open up debate about Tibet or women driving in S.A. The US is not defending the Saudi ban on women driving in the UN. Saudi Arabia’s relationship w/ the US does not depend on a perception among Americans that Saudis are ‘just like us’. But, again, if you have an idea for a boycott targeting S.A. that would help with their issues, I’m all ears. I guess I’ve made my point clearly enough?

109

William Burns 12.29.13 at 11:06 pm

The issue goes far beyond the use or non-use of rituals; marriage in Israel is limited to members of one’s specific religious community (and everyone is part of one, personal belief being irrelevant), in a fashion associated with traditional Middle Eastern societies rather than liberal ones; (admittedly, there are workarounds for this, most notoriously Cyprus) and there is a growing problem with people who cannot get married in Israel at all, as the state views them as Jewish but the Orthodox religious establishment which controls Jewish marriage does not.

110

bianca steele 12.29.13 at 11:08 pm

@109
Yes, the state of Israel has always faced the problem that Judaism has almost no tradition of adapting its laws to secular society, especially from a position of power.

111

Kaveh 12.29.13 at 11:21 pm

http://972mag.com/the-worlds-blatant-double-standard-in-israels-favor/84499/

“As of Friday at noon, a Google search of “human rights sanctions” turns up over 40 million results. There are human rights sanctions and other punishments against China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Yemen, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and lots of other countries. And these sanctions weren’t put in place by some minor academic group like the American Studies Association, but by the United States of America, the European Union and/or the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, these sanctions hurt those countries quite a bit more than the ASA’s boycott of Israeli colleges is likely to hurt Israel.

Or if not like Syria, would Israel’s advocates want this country to be treated like China – with the U.S. vetoing its international loan applications and the U.S. and EU imposing an arms embargo on it? By the way, lots of countries are faced with arms embargoes by the U.S., EU and/or the UN, including Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Israel, by contrast, gets $3 billion worth of arms from America every year.

Even big, powerful Russia has it worse than Israel – 18 Russian officials said to be involved in the prison killing of dissident lawyer Sergei Magnitzky in 2009 have had their assets frozen and their entry barred to the U.S., and there are constant calls for the EU to follow suit. How many Palestinians have been killed wrongfully by Israeli soldiers, police, Shin Bet agents and settlers during the occupation; are the U.S. and EU punishing any of them or their superiors for that?”

112

Collin Street 12.29.13 at 11:48 pm

And also the Zionist propaganda films I was shown as a teenager in the 1970s certainly claimed Arabs had full civil rights in Israel.

They probably did, more-or-less, in the seventies. The impression I’ve gotten is that things have been getting worse.

113

Collin Street 12.29.13 at 11:48 pm

That is, by seventies standards of “full civil rights”.

114

Mao Cheng Ji 12.30.13 at 9:02 am

Bianca, 98,99.
Colloquial use aside, there is this, officially: an Eskimo with Canadian passport is a Canadian, but an Arab with Israeli passport is not an Israeli. I believe it’s well understood inside Israel, and the word is used accordingly. I remember reading reports in JP, long ago, saying, plainly, that Arabs (in Israel) are against the Gaza war, but Israelis are overwhelmingly for it. It is what it is, and I don’t think you’ll find a reasonably close analogy anywhere in the contemporary world. Well, maybe Vatican and Saudi Arabia, but that’s based on religion not ancestry, and there is no exclusion of the native population specifically.

115

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 3:45 pm

Just lost my whole comment. Sigh.

Anyway, in brief, SA has serious human rights problems: (women treated as children, no democracy, Shiites oppressed, non-muslims treated as subhuman, invading other countries to repress their majority populations, etc.). The US supports them politically and militarily and shields them from criticism.

An academic boycott of Saudi institutions would hurt. They want Western help to build up their universities and research institutes.

116

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 3:47 pm

Just for the record, the analogy is perfect with Russia, where race riots against Caucasians with Russian passports are punctuated with “Russia for the Russians!”

117

Mao Cheng Ji 12.30.13 at 5:21 pm

@116, “Russia for the Russians!”
yes, but that’s not the official government policy and ideology, but Russian ethno-nationalist movement, and those exist almost everywhere. When they capture the state, implement it as a policy, and rule for 65 years, then we’ll talk how perfect the analogy is. Still won’t be perfect. It’s one thing when the local population goes crazy over their ethnicity or religion (like, say, Algeria after the independence), and a different thing when a group of immigrants does it against the local population. The former is very bad too, of course, but it’s still not a perfect analogy.

118

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 7:08 pm

Mao,

I believe it is well understood inside Russia that Caucasians are not Russians. Their concerns are not taken seriously and their republics are run as private dictatorships, tolerated as long as Putin and his chosen lackeys can get 95+% of the vote reliably. You’ll see this attitude develop more forcefully as the Russian authorities respond to the most recent bombings. Expect more officially recognized Cossack units to patrol and harass Caucasians whereever they don’t want them to be.

119

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 7:10 pm

As another point, Russians are the immigrants in many places in Southern Russia, including places like Sochi.

120

bianca steele 12.30.13 at 7:21 pm

@114

No, that’s not right. Arab citizens of Israel are Arab citizens of Israel. Obviously that excludes the OT. The Hebrew word “Israeli” is not grammatically a nationality-word. A judge refusing to create a new nationality (or whatever Israel calls it, whatever Israel thinks it is), and to call it “Israeli,” and going on to say his ruling has no further implications, does not have the further implication that Arabs cannot be Israeli citizens and cannot be called Israelis. What some group of Israelis or proud Palestinians or ignorant foreigners or theory-bound intellectuals, I don’t know who you’re referring to, thinks, doesn’t matter, as far as the law is concerned. If the law’s changed, that’s another thing. If nobody’s willing to think of Arabs who’ve always lived in Israel as “Israelis,” that’s sad, still another thing.

As far as your point, if it is one, about indigenous peoples, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Arab residents of Jerusalem in 1948 weren’t indigenous by any stretch of the imagination. You’re talking about peasants, maybe? But Zionism was supposed to make Jews into peasants on their own land. You’re contrasting Jews and peasants? If so, I think you’re risking some anti-semitic stereotypes there. For the sake of some theory? Some metanarrative where there are always peasants who have a right to the land and an elitist outsider group who don’t?

You don’t like the way the state of Israel defines Jewishness, you think it’s racist. So you tell me if you think it would be racist if the reasoning behind it was defined entirely Talmudically. Tell me how many manifestations of the definition of Jewishness you think are merely racist.

121

Mao Cheng Ji 12.30.13 at 7:38 pm

“I believe it is well understood inside Russia that Caucasians are not Russians. “

I see. Yes, you got me there. The word “Russian” does denote the ethnicity, not the country. But this seems more like a linguistic problem: “Siberian”, for example will describe everyone native to Siberia.

122

Ed Herdman 12.30.13 at 7:39 pm

The point is also that there is nothing about the state of Israel which an Arab can feel totally at home with. Arabs in Jerusalem often boycott their own elections (see here: v ), a result of feeling they are not truly a part of the state, and a feeling that they are part of another group. So Mao’s correct to say that there is certainly some difference between what it means to be a citizen of Israel, and what it means to be a citizen of some other state, even if it is not legally based. Perhaps the difference gets split differently than he puts it, but it is there.

I don’t think that the assertion that “Arab residents of Jerusalem in 1948 weren’t indigenous” can possibly be true. What’s your source for this? Throughout the territory of the modern state of Israel more broadly there definitely were many Arabs (and non-Jewish persons) traditional residents, and there definitely were many areas whose residents were displaced (and, rarely, massacred) because they were not Jewish.

123

Mao Cheng Ji 12.30.13 at 7:50 pm

Bianca, this seems way too complicated. I read some pieces in the news and in Mondoweiss, and this is how I understood it. Perhaps too superficially, and perhaps there is some deeper layer of it, as you seem to believe. I doubt it, but I’m not interested enough, to have this conversation.

124

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 8:09 pm

Ed,

That’s an interesting statement. Do you believe this to be uniquely Israeli? Assuming there is some resolution to the I/P issue, it is likely that there will be more than one state, and some Arabs will live in a polity dominated by Jewish Israelis. There are many discussions about how to integrate citizens who feel little affection and speak different languages (Arab Muslims, Christians and Druze, Circassians, Haredi) but I don’t think this is specific to Israel. Take Northern Ireland or The Basque country for example.

125

Map Maker 12.30.13 at 9:51 pm

“It challenges the fiction that opposition to Israel’s policies is merely a fringe view in the US embraced by antisemites & people who are in some way unusually sympathetic to Arabs & Muslims. Such a resolution by the ASA in particular challenges the fiction that the situation of Palestinians & Israel’s treatment of them is merely a provincial Middle Eastern issue. It shows that a lot of people who are highly educated and aware of the history of colonialism and racism have thought seriously about the situation and find Israel’s behavior objectionable enough to censure “

I guess I still view the ASA as a fringe group within the academy focused on Israel for some strange reason.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_exodus_from_Arab_and_Muslim_countries

There just isn’t much debate about Arab treatment of their jewish citizens because they were more effective at solving the problem in 1948-49 than Israel was. That isn’t something to be proud of…

All of that is not to say Israel is right, settlements are bad policy, etc., etc. But if bad policies were reason to start boycotting entire peoples based on their citizenship, the ASA should start with a mirror …

126

William Burns 12.30.13 at 10:51 pm

God, not this again. What do you suggest the goal of a boycott of Arab countries over their expulsion of Jewish citizens in 1948-49 be, Map Maker? Procuring readmission? Some countries have already provided a way for the Jews to return, but it turns out they don’t want to! Which is fine, but it would make a boycott pointless. OTOH, the Palestinians are actual refugees, but every other problem in the world must be dealt with first, I guess.

Davies was right, you can always get a game.

127

LFC 12.30.13 at 11:36 pm

Bianca Steele @106
The courts and civil society in Israel, the economy, everything, is based on Western European models, not on religious law. Only family law IIRC is based on religious law.

Ok, I see what you’re getting at, and I’ll certainly agree it’s not comparable to a country where religious law pervades everything — in terms of culturally permissible lifestyles, etc. (Your statement about ‘privileging the state over religion’ took me aback for a bit, given Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, but I think on this particular point we are prob. differing over language more than substance.)

As for your dialogue/debate w Mao, one problem, I think, is that there is some talking-past going on (not entirely, but partly). I wd agree w you that “Arab citizens of Israel are Arab citizens of Israel.” And Jewish citizens of Israel are Jewish citizens of Israel. And colloquially there are a group of people we call “Israelis” and who call themselves Israelis. But, legally speaking as far as the Sup Ct of Israel is concerned, there is apparently no such category as “Israeli,” there are only “citizens of Israel” — that is what I take and basically all I take, on the basis of a news summary, the court to have said.

128

LFC 12.30.13 at 11:44 pm

P.s. And it makes a certain kind of sense (for loose values of “sense”) if one keeps in mind that citizenship and nationality are different, albeit related, concepts with complicated histories. That sounds and is v. trite and obvious, but can sometimes get lost as these discussions proceed. R. Brubaker’s Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (1992) is illuminating, I think, on the conceptual points, even if some of his specific arguments have no doubt been challenged.

129

Hektor Bim 12.30.13 at 11:51 pm

William Burns,

One could boycott the Arab states over their refusal to grant citizenship to Palestinians whose parents and in some cases grandparents were born there.

130

Substance McGravitas 12.30.13 at 11:54 pm

One could boycott the Arab states over their refusal to grant citizenship to Palestinians whose parents and in some cases grandparents were born there.

Indeed. You can’t use Palestinians as a political tool if you accept them. And for that matter you can’t use Israel as a political tool if you destroy it.

131

js. 12.31.13 at 12:00 am

All you folks in favor of the boycott could personally do much more and also boycott all companies doing business with Israel. My guess is that not a single one of you keyboard warriors will do so.

“All companies doing business with Israel” seems like an insane bar (like, every company that sells products in Israel, e.g.?), but if the standard is Israeli companies, I’m pretty well certain your guess is wrong.

132

William Burns 12.31.13 at 12:02 am

Hector Bim,

Feel free to do so. But unless you are willing to organize a campaign for such a boycott stretching over years and involving considerable sacrifice of time and wealth, as the pro-Palestinian campaigners were willing to do, don’t pretend its a real alternative as opposed to a rhetorical ploy.

133

LFC 12.31.13 at 12:09 am

p.s. to 128: Apropos the reform of citizenship law in Wilhelmine Germany, Brubaker says it “was informed not by a consistent ethnonational ideology, but by a national self-understanding in which ethnonational and state-national motifs were uneasily combined” (p.166), and this description may (emphasis on “may”) apply to the Israeli legal framework and “national self-understanding” today.

134

Mao Cheng Ji 12.31.13 at 7:31 am

LFC “— that is what I take and basically all I take, on the basis of a news summary, the court to have said.”

But the court said more, according to the news reports:
“In its 26-page ruling, the court explained that doing so would have “weighty implications” on the state of Israel and could pose a danger to Israel’s founding principle: to be a Jewish state for the Jewish people.”
http://news.yahoo.com/israeli-court-rejects-israeli-nationality-status-062621938.html

Is it not in contradiction with your opinion that ‘nationality’ is hard to define, Arab citizens of Israel are Arab citizens of Israel and Jewish citizens of Israel are Jewish citizens of Israel, end of story, move on, nothing to see here?

Incidentally, about state and religion, according to the same Yahoo news item, to be registered as a Jew (of and for whom the state is) one has to declare his/her religion as Judaism. No luck if you call yourself atheist. At least it was like that before 2011; not clear if since then it’s changed officially or one exception was made in 2011.

135

Mao Cheng Ji 12.31.13 at 9:23 am

Is there a good explanation why some want to defend this thing, and (seemingly) identify with it (Hektor Bim, bianca steele), while for others (Robin, Weiss) it’s nothing but a fucking shame and colossal embarrassment. I mean, all of them are probably from very similar socio-economic, educational, and cultural environments. Why are the attitudes so dramatically opposite? Very counterintuitive, to me.

136

Hektor Bim 12.31.13 at 12:41 pm

William Burns,

Who said it was an alternative? A parallel effort might be possible, for example.
Mao,

You don’t know my positions, and probably don’t care, since you learn nothing and forget nothing.

For others it might be useful to consider that Israel is not some useful snowflake never having been seen before. Its religious civil law comes from the Ottoman millet system for example. Many of its laws stem from English law and it does not have a Constitution for many of the same reasons. Like the UK, it has a large, restive minority in its internationally recognized borders that does not identify with the state.

For the benefit of others, it might be useful to consider that Israel is not some special snowflake

137

Hektor Bim 12.31.13 at 12:43 pm

I don’t support the citizenship laws in Israel, after all, I’m not Jewish. But I recognize that they aren’t of world I historical importance. I don’t expect Israel to be a light upon the nations.

138

Mao Cheng Ji 12.31.13 at 12:54 pm

Right, I meant Bloix, not Hektor; he/she sounds emotional sometimes. Not that anything is wrong with that; I mean no disrespect, and I’m sure everyone here is a good person. Love y’all, as long as y’all are far away… Happy new year.

139

LFC 12.31.13 at 2:28 pm

@Mao
Is it not in contradiction with your opinion that ‘nationality’ is hard to define, Arab citizens of Israel are Arab citizens of Israel and Jewish citizens of Israel are Jewish citizens of Israel, end of story, move on, nothing to see here?

We’ve read the same link about the decision, so I saw the court’s quoted statement about the potential danger posed to “Israel’s founding principle.” I didn’t say there was “nothing to see here.” (And I had already noted that Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel are treated differently.)

140

LFC 12.31.13 at 2:47 pm

Mao @135
It’s (maybe) counterintuitive if you think, to paraphrase a famous line, that material conditions determine consciousness. Otherwise it’s not esp. counterintuitive.

141

bianca steele 12.31.13 at 5:35 pm

Mao,
My position is similar to what Ben Alpers has said more clearly earlier: it wasn’t obviously a bad idea at the time, it isn’t obvious what alternatives there were, and it’s not worth pretending we can do anything other than start from where we are right now. I think if people are serious about changing levels of US support for Israeli policies, though, knowing why the US supports Israel in the first place might help.

And the “racism” thing bugs me, because I have no idea where that is coming from: some people’s annoyance at being claimed for Judaism because of their ancestry, some people’s annoyance at other people’s claiming to be Jewish when their families don’t practice the religion in the “right” way, some people’s annoyance at the idea of a secular or ethnic Jew, some people’s feeling religion should be voluntary and never hereditary, what. I have a relative whose grandfather converted to Baptism and who knows almost no people who practice Judaism, who as a teenager decided to “identify as Jewish” while continuing to attend church as usual with his family. But I don’t think that’s what you mean.

LFC: I see your point, though I don’t get as much from that news article as you do. My point was w/r/t laws: religion is important, but religious groups are interest groups, they don’t run the state, they have to negotiate with secular interests, and until fairly recently they had little direct influence.

142

Kaveh 01.01.14 at 1:31 pm

thread may be winding down, but this may be of interest:

http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/indiana-scholars-presidents.html

It answers how Israeli universities are complicit in discrimination against Palestinians in Israel. Turns out they are not at all innocent. For example, 1% of campus staff at Israeli universities (out of 20% of the total Israeli population) are Palestinian Israelis.

143

kharris 01.02.14 at 5:29 pm

IU is my alma mommy, so I have a parochial interest in your comment “at the end of this post”. As far as I can tell, it ain’t there. Where might I look?

144

LFC 01.03.14 at 3:57 am

kharris @143
Go down in the orig. post until you get to the part beginning “Second, the president of Indiana Univ. has announced…” It’s toward the end, not at the very end.

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