Anti-Boycott Bill Discussion Post

by Henry Farrell and Corey Robin on February 4, 2014

This post has been put up to allow commenters to engage in discussion on the academic freedom issues raised here. We ask commenters to debate the issues here, not there: the comments section for the original post is reserved for signatures to the letter.

{ 298 comments }

1

AJtron the Invincible 02.04.14 at 6:36 am

While we are on the topic of academic freedom, I suppose we should discuss steps
to be taken to further academic freedom for all individuals – students, individuals, et
cetera. So I have declared my support for Israel. But that doesn’t mean that Dennis Yao should go all gang0busters on me on the topic of healthcare reform. As it turns out, I was right to hold my judgement on healthcare reform. In any case, having a difference of opinion on this issue should not be a reason to treat a doctoral seminar class like an MBA case study and subject a student to “cold calling” type tactics.

A doctoral seminar is a doctoral seminar. The aim should be to either elicit opinion or to teach. “Cold calling”-type hostile tactics should not be acceptable.
P.S. It was all very predictable – what happened with Obamacare. Something would go wrong. One simply just does not know what will go wrong.
P.P.S. It is virtually the same thing with supporting some of these fundamentalist governments. It is very predictable that something will go wrong. One simply doesn’t know ahead of time what will.
P.P.P.S. Re: Obamacare- I told you so!

2

MPAVictoria 02.04.14 at 1:40 pm

Ummm not to make this about Obamacare but it actually is working as planned. The computer glitch at the beginning was obviously unacceptable but it looks like the system itself will work. See Krugman and Ezra Klein on this.

3

SoU 02.04.14 at 3:08 pm

i think @1 is engaged in a performative argument: going so off-topic, and saying obviously ridiculous things, to try and elicit some over-reaction/condemnation that will then allow them to claim hypocrisy, given that this is a free speech thread and all. just pointing this out as a caution to anyone whose initial impulse is, like mine, to telling them to shut up and stop derailing the thread.

either that, or someone forgot to take their substance(s) this morning [be it coffee, meds, cig, or what have you]

4

MPAVictoria 02.04.14 at 3:12 pm

“i think @1 is engaged in a performative argument: going so off-topic, and saying obviously ridiculous things, to try and elicit some over-reaction/condemnation that will then allow them to claim hypocrisy, given that this is a free speech thread and all. just pointing this out as a caution to anyone whose initial impulse is, like mine, to telling them to shut up and stop derailing the thread. “

You are almost certainly right and I now regret even responding.

5

Plume 02.04.14 at 3:21 pm

This seems like something too obvious. No to that bill. A thousand times no. It’s not too different from all the laws, hidden and known, that actually make it illegal, or try to, when it comes to discussion of certain American industries. There are actually laws on the books in some states, for instance, preventing public criticism of, say, agricultural or cattle production practices. There are some that prevent or try to prevent even bringing gun control legislation to the table. And Congress has managed to pass laws that prevent the CDC and other government agencies from even studying the ill effects of gun violence.

Saying that academics can’t even attend conferences or organize on the issue of Israeli boycotts? Making it a law? The American right is very busy attempting to crush dissent in this country, while at the same time spouting off empty nonsense about their vision of “freedom” and “liberty.” Freedom and liberty for whom? Not for most of us, apparently.

It’s despicable.

6

Crickets Chirpping 02.04.14 at 4:38 pm

“Saying that academics can’t even attend conferences or organize on the issue of Israeli boycotts?”

C’mon – it doesn’t say that. I’d sign the petition if it did.

The Constitution leaves it up to voters to elect representatives who raise taxes and spend money. These 2 bills just say state money can’t be used to pay for “bad things”. We may disagree what the bad things are or aren’t, but I certainly don’t think it is unconstitutional (or even unwise) to have the state legislature provide input on how funds are spent. Professors are free to do whatever they want on their own dime. When it comes to the government’s money, there are checks and balances.

7

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 4:52 pm

Crickets Chirping: “These 2 bills just say state money can’t be used to pay for ‘bad things’. We may disagree what the bad things are or aren’t, but I certainly don’t think it is unconstitutional (or even unwise) to have the state legislature provide input on how funds are spent.”

Alas, the courts have ruled otherwise. Most recently in the Brooklyn Museum case against Rudy Guiliani. To wit: “Although the government is under no obligation to provide various kinds of benefits, it may not deny them if the reason for the denial would require a choice between exercising First Amendment rights and obtaining the benefit.” “Where the denial of a benefit, subsidy or contract is motivated by a desire to suppress speech in violation of the First Amendment, that denial [of funding] will be enjoined.”

8

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 4:54 pm

Well, but professors are also free to do “bad things” on their (public or private) employer’s dime, within the parameters of their contracted terms of employment. Using state funds to attend an ACA meeting as a researcher in a relevant discipline, or even using state funds to send a student to such a meeting in pursuit of a valid educational purpose, might be protected as a civil employment matter even if it fails as an exercise of free speech. Furthermore, this protection might apply unevenly, both horizontally across departments, schools and campuses, and vertically depending on academic rank.

9

Hal 02.04.14 at 5:02 pm

Just to be clear: I strongly support the formal establishment of a Palestinian state, hopefully a liberal state alongside Israel not a Hamas theocracy supplanting it, some variation of the 2-state formula that seems the only hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict. But, given this, my opposition to the ASA boycott is not merely a question of tactics, it is a moral opposition. As Norman Finkelstein pointed out in a revealing video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iggdO7C70P8 – the underlying goal of the BDS campaign (and its ASA offshoot, though some ASA members might be naive about this) is not simply to modify Israeli policies, but to erase Israel entirely. The official Arab boycott of Israel predates the foundation of the state and was aimed at Jewish inhabitants of the land. I see the ASA boycott as its natural heir. I oppose the legislative backlash but cannot help but find supporters of the ASA boycott to be grossly hypocritical now that their ox is being gored.

10

Plume 02.04.14 at 5:07 pm

Crickets Chirpping,

That seems to be a rather disingenuous attempt to explain away a direct attempt to prevent dissent against the policies of the Israeli government. This is all too transparent. It’s not even slightly subtle. One could easily think of this being done when campuses organized against racial apartheid in South Africa. It’s. The. Same. Thing.

And, again, it’s about Israeli government.

11

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 5:09 pm

Hal: “I oppose the legislative backlash but cannot help but find supporters of the ASA boycott to be grossly hypocritical now that their ox is being gored.”

There’s a world of difference between an entirely voluntary boycott by an association of citizens and a state mandate. As I argued here.

http://coreyrobin.com/2014/02/01/why-you-should-worry-more-about-nys-legislation-than-the-asa-boycott-of-israel/

12

Plume 02.04.14 at 5:17 pm

Corey,

If I understand the NY legislation, this would prevent academics from associating with anyone who advocates for boycotts, even if they don’t themselves, and the seminar, meeting, gathering, etc. etc. has nothing to do with boycotts.

Is this correct?

In other words, if a group that happens to be for boycotts is holding a seminar on Kafka and Milena Jesenska, say, and their life together, and never once, not once, even hints at talk of boycotts, you would be prevented from attending.

Guilt by mere association, if even the topic is completely different?

13

Mark 02.04.14 at 5:22 pm

One of the best dissections of the New York bill can be read here: http://academeblog.org/2014/01/31/new-yorks-anti-boycott-bill/

14

Plume 02.04.14 at 5:25 pm

A clarification. Not prevented from attending, etc, if you did that on your own time and dime. But your university could not pay for the trip or sponsor you. They could not organize gatherings, conferences, seminars with any group advocating for boycotts.

And that is the very common function of universities. To sponsor, pay for, support, organize such meetings, etc. etc. It seems to be one of the best functions of a university — that kind of intellectual and cultural exchange . . .

15

Ronan(rf) 02.04.14 at 5:27 pm

Does anyone have a link to a good, coherent, non ideological argument in opposition to BDS ?

16

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 5:32 pm

Plume: “If I understand the NY legislation, this would prevent academics from associating with anyone who advocates for boycotts, even if they don’t themselves, and the seminar, meeting, gathering, etc. etc. has nothing to do with boycotts. Is this correct?”

That’s not correct. Nothing in the legislation prohibits or penalizes a CUNY professor who is anti-boycott, say, from hanging out with, conversing, or even attending the event of an another professor who is in favor of the boycott.

The bill is focused on “academic entities” that have endorsed the boycott. And it is focused on using public funds.

You also write, “In other words, if a group that happens to be for boycotts is holding a seminar on Kafka and Milena Jesenska, say, and their life together, and never once, not once, even hints at talk of boycotts, you would be prevented from attending.”

That’s closer to the truth. So let’s say next year the ASA has no panels on the boycott — or even the US and Palestine/Israel — and all the panels are on literature, culture, and history. This bill would prohibit a college or university from using public monies to pay for your trip to that conference, or for your hotel stay while you’re at the conference.

Note, as John K. Wilson helpfully does in the post that Mark links to above, that none of that public money the college or university uses to pay for your trip — or for you lodging — would ever go into the ASA’s coffers. The point of the legislation is simply to stop you, as an individual, from attending.

17

Chris Williams 02.04.14 at 5:41 pm

What would these bills do when they came up against the enforcement of federally-mandated US academic boycotts such as those of Cuba and (in some spheres) China?

18

Mark 02.04.14 at 5:46 pm

In addition, the bill holds the whole campus liable for an entire year if even one professor used campus funds to pay for their hotel room for one night at the conference.

19

Hal 02.04.14 at 6:00 pm

Corey @11

My position in all of this is based on morality, not legality. The ASA campaign is ethically wrong and grossly hypocritical (“one has to start somewhere” !), and the legislative response is mostly political grandstanding. I oppose them both but the ASA voters should have known that their own political grandstanding might have material consequences.

20

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 6:20 pm

Ronan(rf) @15:
Does anyone have a link to a good, coherent, non ideological argument in opposition to BDS ?

What would such a thing look like, even in principle? BDS, like any other political action, is pursuing a pragmatic course in aid of an ideology. How can opposition to an ideology be itself non-ideological, this side of mere existentialism?

J Street makes a coherent, polite, moderate, reasoned, and frankly ideological argument in opposition to both BDS’s ideology and BDS’s actions. Whether it’s a good argument depends almost entirely on the ideology of the reader. At the very least, it is quieter than other arguments you’ll hear on other streets.

21

Crickets Chirpping 02.04.14 at 6:21 pm

Corey,

Just to be clear, while you are opposed to this legislation, you are doing so on the grounds that any grandstanding of a similar nature by the NYS Legislature is also inappropriate? i.e. Tibet, South Africa, heck carbon (perhaps ban professors from attending conferences that require more than 1,000 lbs of carbon emissions???)

22

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 6:24 pm

Hal: Whether your position is based on ethics or the law is neither here nor there. Your original claim was that it was hypocritical for ASA defenders to endorse the boycott and to criticize this New York/Maryland legislation. I take it you’ve now backed off that claim and are saying instead that mere support for the boycott is hypocritical. Yet you provide no defense of that claim.

As for political grandstanding, I take it you don’t teach at CUNY. I can assure you that from our perspective should this law pass it would be no grandstanding. It would have a direct material effect on our lives as faculty. Our salaries at CUNY are quite low, and most of us have zero research budgets. The one little bit of support we *can* get — we have to apply for this — is a once-a-year funding for our attending a professional conference. Were this law to be enacted, that would impose a significant cost upon us.

As for whether ASA voters should have known that their vote would have material consequences: When I get into a car and drive on the highway, I know I’m running a risk of being hit by a car. Were I to be in fact hit by a car, it would seem a little churlish to say to me, You should have known that your driving a car on the highway might have material consequences. More important, were everyone to respond to each and every protest action in this way, there would no point to engaging in protest actions.

23

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 6:27 pm

Crickets: I don’t know what you’re chirping about, but can I take your silence in response to the substance of my response to you to mean that you concede the point that this legislation is indeed unconstitutional?

24

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 6:33 pm

The NIF also stakes out a clear view of BDS. Note that their core mission as direct investors in both Israeli and Palestinian development puts them directly in the gunsights: they are the humanitarian face of what BDS seeks to annihilate. So, no non-ideological place for them to stand.

25

Plume 02.04.14 at 6:34 pm

Corey, thanks,

That’s closer to the truth. So let’s say next year the ASA has no panels on the boycott — or even the US and Palestine/Israel — and all the panels are on literature, culture, and history. This bill would prohibit a college or university from using public monies to pay for your trip to that conference, or for your hotel stay while you’re at the conference.

Note, as John K. Wilson helpfully does in the post that Mark links to above, that none of that public money the college or university uses to pay for your trip — or for you lodging — would ever go into the ASA’s coffers. The point of the legislation is simply to stop you, as an individual, from attending.

I tried to clarify the first part of what I wrote, cuz I kinda saw where I went wrong. But I get what you say above, and that helps.

This just seems transparently wrong and goes against one of the key missions of any university. To encourage cultural and intellectual exchange of ideas, knowledge, expertise, etc. etc. To foster growth in cultural and intellectual pursuits.

This law would help stifle that.

26

Plume 02.04.14 at 6:41 pm

In short, it’s bad enough to try to stifle dissent about the political issue at hand. But it seems even worse to me to make it a dragnet bill that would radically reduce cultural exchange on non-political matters. And, yes, I know, some say everything is political, but not everything is about boycotts or Israel.

This would have far reaching effects on all kinds of exchange — on music, art, literature, etc. etc.

At best, it’s legislative overkill and should be defeated if for no other reason than that. And there seem to be many more good reasons to kill the bill.

27

Hal 02.04.14 at 6:43 pm

More important, were everyone to respond to each and every protest action in this way, there would no point to engaging in protest actions.

I judge every protest action on its own merits. The hypocrisy I see in the ASA’s boycott is that they want to have a material effect on the target of their protest but want everyone else to pay for its cost. Not too far different from the legislators’ position, eh?

28

Ronan(rf) 02.04.14 at 6:46 pm

Joshua, thanks for the links

all I meant really by non ideological would be someone with no particular emotional or political investment in the Israel/Palestine situation, who formed an opinion on the boycott from a relatively disinterested position. There are different seasons to this stuff of course. Im thinking more along the lines of the rights and wrongs of boycotting X, rather than the rights and wrongs of boycotting Israel specifically, if you get me.

29

Ronan(rf) 02.04.14 at 6:52 pm

The NIF one looks good though Joshua, thanks

30

Plume 02.04.14 at 7:18 pm

Corey,

Could you provide a good link or two or three regarding the BDS movement, its goals, rationale, etc. etc. and how the ASA relates to this?

31

SoU 02.04.14 at 7:32 pm

Hal@27
do you really not understand the distinction between free association by a group in civil society and the force of legislation/law representing the (not here consulted) general public, or are you just being an ass? because if it is the former, we can help you understand what the difference is. if its the latter, well, at least let us know before people waste their breath.

32

Chaz 02.04.14 at 7:33 pm

@17 Officially the US embargo against Cuba does not apply to academic endeavors. However the State Department requires you to get a permit, which they will be happy to give to you one month after the conference is over. This is particularly petty given that you can easily get a flight to Cuba via Mexico.

Something to watch out for when New York revises its bill!

33

Greg 02.04.14 at 7:46 pm

Ronan, it’s not what you’re asking for but the Graceland anniversary documentary was very interesting to me. Paul Simon coming across as totally nonplussed by this whole South African boycott thing as though the politics were happening on another planet. The ANC were deeply opposed to him coming, and he just did. not. get. it. Not that he didn’t understand what they were saying, not that he didn’t care, he just believed that music was much more important than all of that noise.

And weirdly in the end it all worked out pretty great, Graceland put black South African music front and center in Western popular culture for a while, and who knows what positive influence it had on the changes that came after?

There’s a great inteview in the documentary where an older Simon has a friendly meeting with the main Artists Against Apartheid guy (quick google… Dali Tambo), in which Tambo says all of the right things about why Simon should have respected the boycott back then (“those people were not free”), but ends up sounding like the repressive authoritarian with his priorities all wrong, and ends up “forgiving” Simon, like he’s the damn pope or something.

Segue to BDS: I honestly don’t know whether or not I think it’s a good idea. My gut tells me that these oppositional tactics never work out. But I also don’t buy the NIF line either: they have to defend all of the funding that they do, and stand by their partners, which I totally get. But weaving co-ops for Bedouin women in the Negev just don’t cut it. And I say that with sorrow, after working for 3 years in the humanitarian sector in the West Bank.

34

roy belmont 02.04.14 at 7:56 pm

It is our collective misfortune in the US to have inherited the two-party system’s totem animals so indelibly and permanently.
Thus making it difficult to use the “elephant in the room” thing w/o evoking partisanal ambience.
As in “There are so many elephants in this room it’s a wonder there’s any room for anything else.”

35

Hal 02.04.14 at 8:02 pm

SoU @31

the force of legislation/law representing the (not here consulted) general public

It’s hard to know how to take this. Are you arguing that the law would be unconstitutional? That it should be subject to a referendum? Or that duly elected legislators have no right to be, um, legislating? Or none of the above and you are just being an ass.

36

adam.smith 02.04.14 at 8:13 pm

Hal – so you think my local church is hypocritical? Because they’re declaring that Jesus Christ is the lord & savior. Yet if the legislature wanted to do that—the popularly elected legistlature with 80% of all popularly elected representative in favor!— that would be unconstitutional.

More seriously: legislative action undergoes different scrutiny than private action. Both legally and morally and for good reasons.

37

adam.smith 02.04.14 at 8:19 pm

Actually, let me improve the analogy: The local temple puts up a big Menorah, visible from the street, yet they’re all upset when the popularly elected representatives want to put up a cross in front of city hall. Hypocrites!

38

SoU 02.04.14 at 8:25 pm

@34 – Ok, thanks for clearing things up!

39

Plume 02.04.14 at 8:25 pm

When it comes to legislation, the question shouldn’t be whether or not BDS is a good strategy, or if ASA is doing the right thing strategically. It’s not about effectiveness, pragmatics or practicalities.

It’s about legalities and rights.

Should a legislature step in and create a law that prevents universities from associating with any group that promotes BDS? And, as written, it’s a dragnet law. It will also prevent formal association regarding things like seminars on musicology, literature, art, philosophy, etc. etc. In a word, it’s draconian legislation.

Should a state legislature be in the business of deciding for our universities who they can “play” with? Like nervous parents down at the sandbox?

40

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 8:30 pm

“adam.smith” @36:

Actually, let me improve the analogy: The local temple puts up a big Menorah, visible from the street, yet they’re all upset when the popularly elected representatives want to put up a cross in front of city hall. Hypocrites!

Seriously?

41

JW Mason 02.04.14 at 8:42 pm

oppositional tactics never work out.

Well then! Getting that settled frees up a lot of evenings.

42

Crickets Chirpping 02.04.14 at 8:52 pm

“can I take your silence in response to the substance of my response to you to mean that you concede the point that this legislation is indeed unconstitutional?”

No … my chirping on the legal status is as much background noise as yours. I will say professional development perks are different from employee benefits.

As for this law, like many attempts in the past (Ward Churchill and earlier), it won’t be enacted, and even if enacted, won’t have an impact (ie the ASA meeting in Vegas will just happen to coexist times and location with the disgruntled social scientists from TTT universities conference), so no, I don’t need to break a sweat about attacking this.

BDS on the hand …

43

adam.smith 02.04.14 at 9:06 pm

Joshua – I have no idea what you’re trying to say or what Matthew has to do with a legal argument about religion in the public space.

44

Greg 02.04.14 at 9:08 pm

JW Mason : Ha! Yes, I guess everyone’s been wasting a lot of their time.

I think I meant confrontational. But still, this needs qualification.

45

marcel 02.04.14 at 9:19 pm

Joshua– I have no idea what you’re trying to say or what Matthew has to do with a legal argument about religion in the public space.

Seriously?

I think that he was saying that your choice of an example to make your point indicates a serious beam in your eye.* A different example would have been — how shall I say it — more tactful. At the very least, if you insist on this particular example, it would have been, um, more sensitive not to append to it the word “hypocrites”.

*And your point was quite clearly that private organizations are different from government ones and that the actions permitted to each are different. Just as some actions are allowed to government organizations that are not permitted to private ones, some actions are allowed to private organizations and not to government ones.

46

Salem 02.04.14 at 9:27 pm

There’s a world of difference between an entirely voluntary boycott by an association of citizens and a state mandate.

Let’s just say that there’s a tension between this view and the one expressed in this post.

47

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 9:36 pm

Joshua – I have no idea what you’re trying to say or what Matthew has to do with a legal argument about religion in the public space.

Only that “Pharisees and hypocrites” is probably not the most helpful literary image to be conjuring in this thread — except, possibly, insofar as it roots BDS in a rich and nuanced canon. Let’s call yours an accidental allusion, too uncannily close to pass unremarked but with no deeper significance, and move on, don’t you think?

48

adam.smith 02.04.14 at 9:43 pm

well, yes. That would be a tactless if it weren’t for the fact that I quite clearly think the charges of hypocrisy are ridiculous—be it against the ASA (as wielded by Hal @9, which is why I use the term) or against any religious or other group that fights public displays of religion.

49

Chaz 02.04.14 at 9:44 pm

No, Salem, let’s not say that, because one of Corey’s key points in that post was that those private acts were coordinated by the state.

50

adam.smith 02.04.14 at 9:46 pm

@Joshua – the allusion was indeed accidental (when I did read the bible it wasn’t in English), but “hypocritical” wasn’t introduced in this thread by me.

51

Ronan(rf) 02.04.14 at 9:52 pm

Greg @33 – Yeah, I agree with what you’ve said (and on the NIF position, which wasnt convincing) My prejudices are the conflict can only be resolved at the international level, and won’t be for the forseeable future – but leaving that aside I guess the hypocricy angle gets me (ie it would be relatively painless *for me* to engage in a boycott against Israel on any front, but in any number of other conflicts (say Tibet) where it would be more difficult, I probably wouldnt do it if asked to. So I couldnt really justify it. I also agree with you that these tactics rarely work in these sorts of circumstances(afaict), so I also dont think its going to be successful in any meaningful way. If I thought it was going to be succesful my position might be different ) Not the most sophisticated argument I know, but Im not a moral philosopher so..

Basically I agree with you on everything ; ) (also thanks for the Graceland recommendation)

52

Chaz 02.04.14 at 9:52 pm

Chaz’s Law: For any grammatically coherent string of words, at least one person will declare that it was inspired by the Bible, and another that it was predicted by Nostradamus.

53

Plume 02.04.14 at 10:13 pm

Chaz,

You got all of that from Deuteronomy, right?

54

Bloix 02.04.14 at 10:19 pm

The original post says that the bills are intended to “punish the ASA for taking the stance it has, [and] threaten the ability of scholars and scholarly associations to say controversial things in public debate.” This is a false statement.

The ASA resolution is not about “saying” or “debating” something controversial. It is about coercing people. Suppose there is a conference about – oh, feminist film-makers, or religion in the theater. If the conference were in Milan, the ASA would participate. But because it’s in Tel Aviv, it won’t do so.

Why? Because it wants to pressure Israeli feminists and film scholars and theater critics to take a political stand in Israel. It doesn’t want to debate them. It wants to coerce them. Which it has the right to do. But please don’t pretend this is about freedom of speech.

Nobody is trying to prevent the ASA from saying whatever it wants to say. But the ASA thinks it can the privileged position its members gain from academic freedom to do more than speak. It’s twisting academic freedom to the point that it will break.

A boycott is not speech, it’s action. It does involve the First Amendment, but not the right of free speech – only the right of free association. And although every citizen has the right by virtue of the freedom of association to support a boycott, no academic has a right by virtue of academic freedom to be free from repercussions for doing so.

55

Salem 02.04.14 at 10:32 pm

“one of Corey’s key points in that post was that those private acts were coordinated by the state.”

But those private acts certainly weren’t enforced by the state. Yes, there was an element of state involvement – but indeed, the state is involved in the BDS, to the extent that the ASA is supported by state money, directly and indirectly. That is what the politicians here are trying to do – saying to the private parties involved that if you want to get involved in boycotts, do it in your own time and with your own money.

I guess my position is basically the direct opposite of Henry Farrell’s. I’m entirely on board with BDS, but this law seems like a good one to me (setting aside its constitutionality – I am neither an American nor a lawyer).

I also wonder about the perspective that can muster more sympathy for known communists and spies than innocent Israeli academics.

56

Bloix 02.04.14 at 11:05 pm

Prof. Robin says:

“Note, as John K. Wilson helpfully does in the post that Mark links to above, that none of that public money the college or university uses to pay for your trip — or for you lodging — would ever go into the ASA’s coffers. The point of the legislation is simply to stop you, as an individual, from attending.”

The legislation does not stop you, as an individual, from attending. It stops you, as an employee of a public institution, from attending. As an individual you can go on your own dime.

When it’s to your advantage to be a state employee (e.g. for 1st A purposes) you’re happy to be one. When it’s not, all of a sudden you’re an “individual” private citizen.

57

Joshua W. Burton 02.04.14 at 11:05 pm

I also wonder about the perspective that can muster more sympathy for known communists and spies than innocent Israeli academics.

Well, not to touch on comparative theology and human innocence, but the Israeli academics are openly speaking Hebrew, and having curly hair and so on. That teenage Palestinian girl we left at the checkpoint a few chapters back may be asking herself, “I have to suffer all of this, just so they can publish in foreign journals?”

58

mrearl 02.04.14 at 11:09 pm

The link to “bills” in the OP showed me only New York’s, so I’m assuming it’s representative of Maryland’s as well. Reviewing it, unconstitutionality does not seem patent. Supporters will cite Rust v. Sullivan, 500 US 173, an abortion-related case and therefore, almost by definition, not one of SCOTUS’ finest hours in terms of clarity of rationale.

There are decisions of the Court that can be cited “on the other hand,” of course, and the issue gets slippery fairly quickly.

59

Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 11:11 pm

Bloix: “The ASA resolution is not about ‘saying’ or ‘debating’ something controversial. It is about coercing people….A boycott is not speech, it’s action. It does involve the First Amendment, but not the right of free speech – only the right of free association. And although every citizen has the right by virtue of the freedom of association to support a boycott, no academic has a right by virtue of academic freedom to be free from repercussions for doing so.

As a matter of law, you’re wrong. First, there is no explicit provision in the First Amendment to freedom of association. There are explicit provisions for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government. Second, boycotts, as the Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, are considered to embody all three elements of the First Amendment (speech, assembly, and sometimes petition) — as well as a more general freedom of association. They are not thought to be strictly forms of action at all, but to contain significant elements of speech. Last, the Court has ruled that some speech is in fact coercive in precisely the way you lay out — but that that coerciveness does not make it action. It is still speech.

As for being free of repercussions, if by that you mean denial of government funding, again the courts are on our side, not yours. See the Brooklyn Museum v. Guiliani case I cited above.

You can debate these notions all you want; but as a matter of law, they’re fairly settled. Henry and I were hardly reaching on this one. It is you who are conjuring doctrine from thin air.

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Corey Robin 02.04.14 at 11:18 pm

“The link to “bills” in the OP showed me only New York’s.”

The third link is to Maryland’s bill. Hyperlinked at the words “Maryland’s state legislatures.”

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roy belmont 02.04.14 at 11:18 pm

Salem-
the perspective that can muster more sympathy for known communists and spies than innocent Israeli academics
Victims. Innocent victims.
-
Bloix-
It doesn’t want to debate them. It wants to coerce them.
It wants them to stop collaborating in the oppression of people who aren’t even mentioned in your narrative.
People who don’t even have a voice in a discussion about a boycott that’s about their mistreatment.
You impute motives to the ASA that aren’t clearly in evidence in the material at hand.
Do you have some special knowledge the rest of us could view that grounds your assertion that there is no desire for debate, only for coercion?
Where is “in solidarity with” in your comprehensive view of the ASA’s motives? Nowhere, apparently.

from the ASA site:

ASA Members Vote To Endorse Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians. The ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members.

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alex 02.04.14 at 11:26 pm

“There’s a world of difference between an entirely voluntary boycott by an association of citizens and a state mandate. As I argued here.”

Come on. The movement’s been trolled. The S in BDS does stand for sanctions doesn’t it? You might sign up to “BD, but only in a voluntary and half-assed fashion, and certainly no S” but the movement doesn’t hold that position.

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Chaz 02.05.14 at 12:03 am

“known communists”

Communists are good people. You’ve shown your true colors, please just leave now.

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SoU 02.05.14 at 12:05 am

@62
“The movement’s been trolled”
Ah – give up the struggle! silly professors, who thought that logic and principled debate could carry the day, but alas – the trolls have arrived, and beaten you down with their superior, uh…. churlishness!

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 12:19 am

Prof Robin, you’re correct, I meant freedom of association, not freedom of assembly. That should have been clear from context, so by starting with that, you’ve gone straight for the capillary. As to boycotts, yes, everyone has a first amendment free speech right to advocate a boycott. I thought that was implicit in what I said. ASA is not advocating a boycott, it is implementing a boycott. I’m well aware of Brooklyn v Giuliani. The city wanted to deprive the museum of funding and expel it from its building because it was exercising its free speech right to show certain works of art. If the city had had its way, museum could not have shown the art – it would have had no alternative but to comply or else be shut down.

Put most favorably to you, here’s your argument (and in this comment we’re talking about constitutional rights, so let’s put academic freedom to one side for the moment): Prof X, who teaches American Studies and doesn’t care about the boycott, has a paper accepted for an ASA conference. He can go, but he can’t use departmental funds to pay for the trip, although he could use such funds to go an AHA conference. He and the University sue, claiming their First A rights have been violated, in that he and the University have a First A right to associate and speak to people at the ASA meeting.

This is a very attenuated argument. Prof X is not being prevented from attending the conference, or from presenting his paper elsewhere. The university is not losing its right to speak. The ASA is not losing its right to speak and it is not being deprived of funding.

Furthermore, the ASA is being discriminated against, not because of its exercise of its freedom of speech, but because of its exercise of its freedom of association. I hope we would all agree that these are very different freedoms. A private group has the right to allow a person to make a racist speech at a function, and it also has the right to exclude black people from membership, but the reaction of government would legitimately be different in the two situations, wouldn’t it?

If the ASA doesn’t want to associate with representatives of Israel it doesn’t have to, but I don’t think it can expect the courts to extend the same degree of protection that it would be entitled to if it hosted a conference at which BDS representatives came to speak.

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 12:32 am

Roy Belmont – You support the boycott on the merits. People who are not fully in favor of it are wrong, perhaps evil. The views, interests, and rights of such people are of no moment to you. I’m not discussing the boycott on the merits, and therefore it’s not surprising that you and I are talking past each other.

I have read the ASA website, including its assertion that it is acting “to enlarge that [i.e. academic] freedom for all,” and I find this the most troubling aspect of the debate.
The ASA is acting out an utterly misguided understanding of academic freedom and is jeopardizing it for all academics in the US. In this country, academic freedom is not a law, or a right. It is only a norm. When academics abuse it – and this boycott is just such an abuse – they damage it. When a group of American Studies professors, with no greater claim to expertise about Israel/Palestine than the local realtors’ association, asserts that it has academic freedom to discriminate against Israelis, it has completely misunderstood the role of the academy in society and it is harming the cause of academic freedom.

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SoU 02.05.14 at 12:33 am

@65
“The university is not losing its right to speak. “
the university/department is losing its right to dispense funds, an action which has been recognized under the constitution as a form of political speech. you may have a problem with that ruling, but it is on the books.
and don’t get all reductio on us – giving money to professors to go to conferences is a pretty basic part of the financial support system that universities are supposed to provide. they are curtailing something which was previously fairly central to their mission.

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Colin Danby 02.05.14 at 12:35 am

If your main field is American Studies, the AHA may not be a good substitute for the ASA. Conferences often matter for people’s careers.

Again, as the Wilson post notes, the whole thing is pretty vague. I’m sure I’ve attended conferences of organizations that have at certain moments boycotted Chile, South Africa, etc.

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 12:52 am

#67 – what has been recognized is the right to expend funds in support of a position or candidate. In the academic context, a state university could do neither of these things. Nor would it, I don’t think, have a first amendment right to support the BDS movement. It has first amendment rights within a limited range of its core functions (see Sweezy v New Hampshire) but I would think that choosing to spend funds to send a faculty member to a conference of a group that discriminates would not be within those functions. Certainly Giuliani v Brooklyn Museum and Claiborne Hardware don’t provide the answer.

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SoU 02.05.14 at 12:56 am

@69
how is sending a professor working in the field of american studies to a conference in their specific field not a core function of an american studies department? what could be more central to their role?

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Sebastian H 02.05.14 at 12:59 am

Ackkkkk, this is a totally confused debate. The following things can all be true:

a) the bill could be unconstitutional as hell
b) BDS can be ideologically right or wrong
c) Robin can look silly in his neck snapping contortions to somehow be anti-blacklist, pro-BDS, and anti-this law.

I don’t know if hypocritical is really the right word. Hack maybe is more appropriate. Whether or not the law is unconstitutional, Robins’ moral arguments against it cut right back to the BDS movement. The BDS movement wants to do to Israeli scholars exactly what this law wants to do to the ASA: get them to publicly change their views based on damaging their academic careers based on something that has nothing to do with their academic disciplines. So you can attack the law from the libertarian angle (governments ought not do that kind of thing at all), but all these academic freedom whines look really silly in context. Plume’s is especially interesting: “This just seems transparently wrong and goes against one of the key missions of any university. To encourage cultural and intellectual exchange of ideas, knowledge, expertise, etc. etc. To foster growth in cultural and intellectual pursuits. ” Hello, kettle, that’s what the BDS is attacking right there.

For what it is worth, the libertarian critique is excellent here, the US founders got it right–the government has no business in this zone. But watching Robins careen between anti-libertarian screeds, pro-BDS anti-Israeli blacklist posts, anti-anti-communist blacklist posts, to libertarian defenses of government non-interference just makes my head spin.

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 1:01 am

#68 – of course, Prof X would suffer an injury. That’s why he’s bringing suit. I created a hypothetical in which the injured party is not the ASA, because it’s pretty obvious that it (unlike the Brooklyn Museum) wouldn’t suffer an injury that could reach the level of a constitutional violation. The question is, does the Constitution grant Prof X a remedy for his injury or not? I seriously doubt it, although I don’t doubt that the argument can be made.

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SoU 02.05.14 at 1:05 am

@69
also – i looked up Sweezy vs NH and it just made me more confused.
first of all -there was apparently not enough consensus in that ruling to set a precedent, so i don’t see how that ruling is germane here
second – the ruling seems to me to have been that it is not acceptable for an institution of higher learning to unduly obstruct an individual academic’s capacity to work/research/publish on the basis of the political content of their work. i’m not a lawyer, so maybe im missing something, but i don’t see how that ruling runs against the main thrust of the OP here.

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Jonny Butter 02.05.14 at 1:06 am

I like Henry’s posts, but this doesn’t pass the giggle test: “The other [of us two academics, i.e. Henry] is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.”

It makes me giggle because, strictly speaking, if something is not meaningful or effective it also can’t really be tactically foolish and questionable strategically, can it? It sounds like protesting too much somehow: It’s both tactically and strategically wrong, empty symbolism, meaningless, and immoral! wow.

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Colin Danby 02.05.14 at 1:09 am

I’m interested in academic freedom. Relatedly, your description of the ASA resolution (http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel) as discriminating against Israelis as individuals, is false.

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 1:10 am

#72 – and we can add:
the bills could be constitutional but an infringement on academic freedom;
the bills could be constitutional and not an infringement on academic freedom, but bad policy (this is where I am, I think);
whether BDS is right or wrong in general, academic freedom does not permit scholarly associations to adopt it (and this is definitely where I am).

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SoU 02.05.14 at 1:10 am

@74
i never borrowed your kettle, and it was broken when i got it anyway, so why are you complaining there’s not a scratch on it!

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 1:19 am

*sigh* I have to leave off now because real life is calling.

#75- this what the ASA resolution says: “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.”

This is “The Call of Palestinian Civil Society:”

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

This is the Call in the academic context:

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

I am aware that the ASA council says that it does not seek to discriminate against individual Israelis. I do not believe that this statement can be squared with the actual resolution adopted by the ASA.

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Jonny Butter 02.05.14 at 1:20 am

SoU: exactly. (Besides, it *is* proving kind of effective.)

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Bloix 02.05.14 at 1:25 am

@74: (I can’t stop, can I): you think “if something is not meaningful or effective it also can’t really be tactically foolish and questionable strategically, can it?”

Yes, it can. The likely effect of the ASA endorsement of the boycott is that it will damage the cause of academic freedom. It is a foolish act by people who want to believe that they are important actors on the world stage and have no clue of the harm they doing to their own beleaguered profession.

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js. 02.05.14 at 1:25 am

But watching Robins [sic] careen between anti-libertarian screeds, pro-BDS anti-Israeli blacklist posts, anti-anti-communist blacklist posts, to libertarian defenses of government non-interference just makes my head spin.

Well, you could stop your head spinning by noting how the BDS demands (or, relevantly, the ‘B’ part of those demands) are quite unlike blacklisting. What with it, you know, not being targeted against individuals.

82

js. 02.05.14 at 1:31 am

Bloix,

Do you the boycott against apartheid South Africa is well characterized as a blacklisting of South Africans (or of white South Africans)?

83

Collin Street 02.05.14 at 1:32 am

The likely effect of the ASA endorsement of the boycott is that it will damage the cause of academic freedom.

But the ASA boycott is the substance of academic freedom, and so prohibiting it would seem to be destroying the village to save it, sort of thing.

84

LFC 02.05.14 at 1:33 am

Sebastian H @71:
I disagree with your equating of the ASA boycott and the McCarthy-era blacklist (though I tend to Henry Farrell’s view of the merits of the ASA boycott). Corey Robin also addressed the false McCarthy/ASA equation in a previous thread, here.

The McCarthy-era blacklist was aimed at individuals, and organs of the state abetted it. The ASA boycott (as already has been mentioned above) is aimed at institutions, not individuals, and it’s the action of an academic association whose ties with the state are very tenuous at best.

85

SoU 02.05.14 at 1:45 am

Bloix i would appreciate if rather than insisting yet again that BDS will harm academic freedom, that you instead answer some of the questions that i raised about your previous comments. especially regarding your interpretation of the core functions of a university department and the relevance of Sweezy vs NH to this debate, both of which you have not explained.
i would also like to hear a fuller explanation for your view that the ASA is violating academic freedom to a greater extent that these proposed laws would, when the former is voluntary and has great scope for individual discretion, and the latter has the force of law and a blanket application to all ASA activities regardless of their content, BDS or not.

there are a few things to note here:
1) the ASA “plans to bring Israeli and Palestinian academics to the 2014 national convention in Los Angeles.” hmm, not as radical as some people want to make it seem, now is it?
2) the ASA boycott extends to “formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions” and “scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions”, not individual to individual collaborations nor all Israeli scholars generally
3) the ASA resolution is a call of solidarity, and open to different interpretations based on the individual upholding it, and this is borne out by the public statements made by the leading ASA members about their resolution

all arguments in defense of the law that come down to: ‘well you could just attend conference for group X rather than the ASA’ can be applied in equal measure in support of the ASA resolution – ‘you claim our boycott hurts your career, here is a similar event by a different group’

but are you even listening? sigh….

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Colin Danby 02.05.14 at 2:13 am

FWIW 9 years ago a buncha us signed this thing: http://www.petitiononline.com/j141789/petition.html
discussed here: http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/09/oppose-the-blacklist-of-israeli-academics/

So there’s a lot of agreement that boycotts shouldn’t target individuals.

87

Sebastian H 02.05.14 at 2:18 am

Maybe I’m totally confused, but how do you have an effective boycott of Israeli university ‘institutions’ without hitting their professors, students, and their academic research? Are you just boycotting the administrators????

88

roy belmont 02.05.14 at 2:28 am

Bloix-
Roy Belmont – You support the boycott on the merits. People who are not fully in favor of it are wrong, perhaps evil.
Neither of those is a truth-bearing sentence. I’m neither a lawyer nor an academic, and my formal education is such I don’t feel any qualification whatsoever to judge the specific merits of the boycott proposal from those positions. Wherein in this discussion it rests primarily.
I support the boycott proposal, as I understand it, on the merit of its context in the larger world, where I am a member in full standing. And a romantic about the cause of freedom generally.
I also support in their various iterations many – not all! – of the self-immolations as political statement that have occurred in public places for intended public consequence, starting with that Buddhist monk in Saigon in the 60’s.
At the same time I do not support people setting themselves on fire. Full stop.

People who are not fully in favor of it are wrong, perhaps evil.
People are perhaps evil who disagree with me, yes. Also people who agree with me are perhaps evil.
And I myself, my sainted mother God ha’e mercy on her, Mrs Rankin from 3rd grade… perhaps we are all evil Bloix.
In a response to my saying you were imputing motive to others without reasonable basis for doing so, you proceeded to impute on me.
While I don’t think the real dispute is as granular as the lawyers and academics are being forced to treat it, and as the defenders of the real target of the boycott would like to keep it, neither do I think most of the defensive response to this boycott proposal or to the other manifestations of what is, simply put, an increasing rejection of Israeli state behavior and its blindly chauvinist support elsewhere, is evil. Contrary to your assertion.
I reserve the term “evil” for darker things.
I do think some of the “[p]eople who are not fully in favor of it” are panicked, to the point of irrational hysteria.
That because of that desperate fear they require understanding and compassionate regard, but that because of that blinding fear they should not be determining the course of human destiny generally, or Palestinian destiny specifically.
Not from a position of hysterical fear and consequent irrationality, or panic.

89

Joshua W. Burton 02.05.14 at 3:54 am

We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world . . . .

See, this is actually the important part, not all the fan mail from abroad. The Arab League boycott of Israel, in continuous force from 1948 until Oslo, was fractured and thawed by Palestinian commitments, in 1993 and 1995, not to do that any more. Articles VI and VII of the Interim Agreement still demand that “the two sides shall promote” scientific, technological, cultural and educational cooperation, with “special attention” inter alia to contacts, joint meetings and institutional cooperation.

Whether or not it is prudent for foreign professional societies to boycott as concerned spectators, such actions are at least diplomatically benign as between the parties. But a boycott that “honors” the deliberate abrogation of Oslo II by PNIF (which represents everybody) is a call to end negotiations under that framework, using a tool that was not very useful in the half century that preceded them.

In other words, it’s not always about you.

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Colin Danby 02.05.14 at 4:40 am

For an academic society, Sebastian, the most obvious things an institutional boycott would foreclose would be holding your annual conference at a particular academic institution, or housing your journal at one. Others here will know more. You’re right that in a sense it’s a boycott of administrators: of the kind of cooperation that requires the official imprimatur or resources that only administrators can provide. I see there’s some discussion here: http://www.theasa.net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf (You can see that it gets a bit tiresomely legalistic, and the kind of hair-splitting that’s inevitable with an institutional boycott is a legitimate argument against one.)

The key problem with the AUT boycott of ’05 (links @86) was that it tried to foreclose “any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration, or joint projects” with individual scholars at particular universities, which seemed very wrong to a lot of us.

91

Sebastian H 02.05.14 at 4:52 am

“For an academic society, Sebastian, the most obvious things an institutional boycott would foreclose would be holding your annual conference at a particular academic institution, or housing your journal at one.”

Was the ASA [American Studies Association] planning on having a conference in Israel? Was it housing journals at Israeli universities? There has to be more to it than that, or else the ‘boycott’ would be literally a nothing.

Are we arguing over a literal nothing?

92

adam.smith 02.05.14 at 5:22 am

Are we arguing over a literal nothing?

in terms of the direct impact of the ASA sanctions, my understanding is that the answer is “yes”. The ASA resolution is almost entirely symbolic (I recall reading that people on either side of the resolution at ASA could not name a single program that would be affected and I’ve not read of any such programs in the coverage). And this shouldn’t be that surprising. How many professors of American Studies are there in Israel. 10? At most?

That said, that it is merely symbolic in its direct effect doesn’t mean it’s ineffectual. It’s certainly conceivable that other scholarly societies, with more direct links to Israel would follow suit.
(FTR, as I’ve said before, I oppose both the ASA boycott and BDS in general on both moral and tactical grounds, but view both as very much protected by academic freedom).

93

Corey Robin 02.05.14 at 5:28 am

Bloix: You’re all over the map — making it up as you go, without the slightest attention the law — and I don’t have the time or energy to follow you hither and yon. But I did want to respond to this: “As to boycotts, yes, everyone has a first amendment free speech right to advocate a boycott. I thought that was implicit in what I said. ASA is not advocating a boycott, it is implementing a boycott.” The courts, including the Supreme Court, have held that boycotts are protected First Amendment activities. You have a First Amendment right not only to advocate a boycott, but to engage in a boycott.

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Colin Danby 02.05.14 at 5:29 am

My sense is it’s an issue not because of its likely practical impact but because of its symbolic or cultural salience. Same could be said of a lot of boycotts.

95

SoU 02.05.14 at 6:11 am

@87
its to get people talking – and they are. here, and many places elsewhere. for a significant period of time, just entertaining these ideas in public (in america) was enough to get you marginalized. some people want to return to that condition of non-dialogue. i respect the ASA for doing something difficult, and taking some flak for it. i think that the outrage expressed in this very thread should prove to you that this is certainly not a non-issue.

96

Ronan(rf) 02.05.14 at 1:25 pm

“It makes me giggle because, strictly speaking, if something is not meaningful or effective it also can’t really be tactically foolish and questionable strategically, can it? It sounds like protesting too much somehow: It’s both tactically and strategically wrong, empty symbolism, meaningless, and immoral! wow.”

?

Isn’t thinking something is going to ineffective, perhaps counterproductive, pretty much the definition of ‘tactically wrong’ ?

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Corey Robin 02.05.14 at 1:47 pm

Bloix: “Furthermore, the ASA is being discriminated against, not because of its exercise of its freedom of speech, but because of its exercise of its freedom of association. I hope we would all agree that these are very different freedoms. A private group has the right to allow a person to make a racist speech at a function, and it also has the right to exclude black people from membership, but the reaction of government would legitimately be different in the two situations, wouldn’t it?”

Oy. This is such a clusterfuck of errors and mistaken assumptions. Will take one more stab at this.

For the last time, boycotts are considered to be protected speech. Insofar as the ASA is “being discriminated against,” it is because of its speech and speech-related activities. Not because people in the ASA are *advocating* boycotts, but because they are boycotting. Boycotts are like pickets in this regard: picketers are “speaking,” but they are also trying both to persuade and to compel, even on some readings, to coerce. I understand that you want to think of boycotts differently, that they’re exercises of a right to association or some such. That’s fine; you can live in your private language world. But as a matter of law, they are considered to be speech.

You bring up the issue of excluding black members. You are right that a state need not subsidize activities involving participation in a group or institution that practices racial discrimination. That’s why in the Bob Jones case the Supreme Court held that the government need not grant tax credits to a university that practices racial discrimination.

There is a reason however that the courts have upheld boycotts as forms of speech activities and not as modes of racial discrimination and that is because…they are forms of speech activities and not modes of racial discrimination. In this case, the ASA has not voted to adopt a policy of excluding Israeli scholars or scholars of Israeli origin. (Quite the opposite: as someone upthread pointed out, I think, the ASA is in fact inviting Israeli scholars to attend its meeting next year.) It has instead adopted a policy of not participating with Israeli institutions — or official representatives of Israeli institutions (presidents, provosts, deans and the like) — in joint projects (conferences, research programs and the like). But there is no exclusion of Israeli scholars at all: if an Israeli scholar applies to present a paper at an ASA conference, she will be treated no differently than an American scholar or a Bolivian scholar or a South African scholar.

Surely people can understand the difference between an institution that will not allow as a matter of policy black students to enroll — or, as may still even be the case with Bob Jones, black students to date and marry white students — and an academic association saying that they will not cooperate with or work with Israeli institutions.

Incidentally, this is why this New York bill is so much more pernicious. Whereas the boycott targets institutions and works at the institutional level, the anti-boycott bill targets individuals (understood in the sense of discrete persons) and individual actions and only works on institutions secondarily.

Most of the way the New York would work is not to keep money out of the hands of the ASA (again, a difference from the Bob Jones case). There are very few institutional members of the ASA and we have very few, if any, funds at CUNY that we can use as professors to pay for our individual memberships in the ASA. The one way the bill would have real teeth is in its denial of state money to travel to an ASA conference or lodging at an ASA conference. But as John K. Wilson points out in one of the links referenced above, no money the state provides for those purposes would go to the ASA; they would go to Delta Airlines, say, or the Hilton Hotel.

So the point and consequence of the bill is not to deny state money to the ASA or to defund the ASA. Instead it is to stop *individuals* from participating in the ASA. While it is true that individuals can pay for that on their own dime, we at CUNY have very low salaries compared to other wealthier institutions; we have no research funds the way other professors at other institutions have. Particularly for junior faculty, the little bit of money we get for ONE trip to a conference per year is critical. It could indeed make the difference as to whether individuals participate in their professional association.

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Jean Camp 02.05.14 at 3:13 pm

Hmmm. A bunch of people decide to censor and condemn a group of people, in a debate which frequently advocates the censored people’s mass deportation and death. Then this group of censoring people is told they cannot do that with other people’s money. The second act is outrageous censorship. The first is total righteous debate. So the second was totally not expected by the Big Deep Thinkers advocating silencing others in the first place.

OOOOOOK. I will just back away slowly then.

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Jonny Butter 02.05.14 at 4:04 pm

Isn’t thinking something is going to ineffective, perhaps counterproductive, pretty much the definition of ‘tactically wrong’ ?

#96
You left out ‘meaningful’. Why quote my entire comment and then ignore it in your own? Assuming Henry wrote or approved that part, he said the boycott was neither meaningful nor effective, nor a ton of other things, some of which cancel each other out.

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Ed Herdman 02.05.14 at 4:10 pm

@ 93: Thanks for clearing that up; I thought I was going insane. First Pete Seeger invokes the right of free association, now Bloix is denying that implementing a boycott is free association.

Anyway, this has been quite a good discussion for highlighting the reasons for opposing the legislation, even if some of the issues have been brought out in stark contrast to what some people seem to believe the issues are. Also interesting how this is a Reagan’s Aliens moment in that people who disagree about the boycott are coming closer together – perhaps not just on supporting academic freedom, but in realizing what the ASA stance really means, and that it is indeed seeking a valid target.

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Ronan(rf) 02.05.14 at 4:31 pm

@98

I genuinely dont have a clue how they’re contradictory or cancel eachother out, or perhaps youre not saying they’re contradictory more that they’re redundant – why say something is tactically *and* strategically useless, the first implies the second etc etc. Why say something is ineffective or meaningless *and* tactically useless, as again the first implies the second etc etc

I’m probably just missing what you’re saying here, but I dont suppose it matters much.

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Andrew F. 02.05.14 at 6:41 pm

Very interesting.

The NY bill essentially states that it is the policy of the State to allow students the opportunity to obtain a “global education” and that it is important that students have access to “international higher education institutions.”

To further that policy, the State therefore will prohibit any college from directly funding any academic entity, from providing funds to be used as membership dues for any academic entity, and from providing funds to facilitate travel/lodging in connection with any academic entity’s events, if such entity officially endorses or implements a boycott of a country which hosts higher education institutions chartered by NY.

I think the BDS movement is rather stupid, and I have no idea why support or opposition of it would fall into matters that the ASA as an organization should concern itself about, but this bill, as law, would be likely to be viewed with suspicion by the courts.

The argument that this is a measure clearly intended to withhold a benefit for the purpose of punishing the exercise of free speech is quite strong, given the context in which the bill arose.

However, there is some tension in the law at least, and perhaps the fact that this occurs in an educational context, and is limited to the boycott of countries that host NY State chartered higher education institutions, could provide some weight to such a law’s defenders in court. I wouldn’t give good odds though.

I do wonder whether a bill written differently, that approaches the issue from the vantage of directing funds towards the furtherance of a “global education,” rather than from the vantage of denying funds to organizations the views/actions of which may be contrary to a “global education”, might stand a better chance.

With that in mind, it may be that the bill as crafted was never really intended to stand up to judicial scrutiny, but rather was created in the spirit of political advertising. In that case, having served its purpose, it will likely die a quiet death.

103

Chris Warren 02.05.14 at 10:42 pm

Talk about wingeing “akademics”.

All freedoms are subject to, firstly – the level of civilisation and humanity, secondly to the reality of balance of power and finally to the mode democracy expresses itself in society.

If society is going to boycott Pete Seeger, attendance at 1980 Olympics, association with Cuba, and rugby teams from apartheid, then it is consistent that the same political forces arise in other campaigns. If people-power was different, then maybe, boycotts may be redundant.

Israel is based on maintaining different rights for different people, and was created by Stern Gang terrorism. Academic ‘freedom’ based on oppression is not academic freedom.

So the general cry of “academic freedom” is not appropriate. Academics have only the same rights as sports-people, Cubans, artists and others.

104

SamChevre 02.05.14 at 10:54 pm

The courts, including the Supreme Court, have held that boycotts are protected First Amendment activities. You have a First Amendment right not only to advocate a boycott, but to engage in a boycott.

I’m pretty certain this is not true as to boycotts of persons and classes of persons. Blacklisting (in the labor union context), “no blacks allowed” policies, and so on are explicitly illegal. (I think they should be legal, as they were before the giant monkey wrench of Heart of Atlanta was thrown into freedom of speech and association–but they definitely are not currently considered to be covered by the First Amendment.

It doesn’t seem reasonable that institutions would get greater 1st Amendment protection than persons.

105

LFC 02.06.14 at 12:04 am

@103
State of Israel has no right to exist, plain and simple
@104
Israel…was created by Stern Gang terrorism.

I guess this is what happens when this sort of thread hits a hundred comments or so.

106

ambzone 02.06.14 at 12:24 am

No LFC, this is instead what happens when Israel is discussed in un-moderated arenas of political discourse, full stop. Try going out more.

107

Corey Robin 02.06.14 at 1:03 am

SamChevre: “I’m pretty certain this is not true as to boycotts of persons and classes of persons. Blacklisting (in the labor union context), ‘no blacks allowed’ policies, and so on are explicitly illegal.”

I agree and said so up-thread. Which is why the ASA boycott though is constitutional: it’s not a boycott of individuals. That’s why groups like the NYCLU and the CCR, which are pretty vigilant about these issues, don’t believe you can have a law like the New York State legislation, which seeks to ban the ASA boycott.

“It doesn’t seem reasonable that institutions would get greater 1st Amendment protection than persons.”

I have no idea what this means. If you’re saying that labor unions — because blacklisting of union members is illegal — are getting First Amendment protection, that’s not the case. The right of union membership — and concomitant rule against blacklisting for union membership — is not grounded in the First Amendment but is instead grounded in the Commerce Clause (as, by the way, is the Civil Rights Act). Anyway, I don’t really understand the claim here.

108

SamChevre 02.06.14 at 1:44 am

I was less clear than I had hoped.

It is agreed that the government can ban boycotts of persons.

If institutions get less protection–they have less rights–than persons (generally the case), then it would follow that government can ban boycotts of institutions.

So–what am I missing?

Or–to put it with examples.

It is legal for the government to forbid hotels to boycott black customers. (Heart of Atlanta)
It is thus clearly legal (less restrictive) for the government to forbid using government funds to pay for stays at hotels that boycott black customers.
It would seem to thus be even more clearly legal for the government to forbid using government funds to attend the “Conference of pro-segregation Hotel-Owners”. (Institutions are less protected than persons.)

What step am I missing?

109

JW Mason 02.06.14 at 2:01 am

It is agreed that the government can ban boycotts of persons.

If institutions get less protection–they have less rights–than persons (generally the case), then it would follow that government can ban boycotts of institutions.

It is agreed that government can ban restaurants from refusing to serve women. It is agreed that ham sandwiches get less protection — they have less rights — than women. It therefore follows that government can ban restaurants from refusing to serve ham sandwiches.

110

Collin Street 02.06.14 at 2:03 am

It is agreed that the government can ban boycotts of persons.

What you mean to say is, “there exist boycotts of persons that the government can ban”. Confusing the universal and existential quantifiers will lead to some nasty logic errors.

111

js. 02.06.14 at 2:23 am

It would seem to thus be even more clearly legal for the government to forbid using government funds to attend the “Conference of pro-segregation Hotel-Owners”. (Institutions are less protected than persons.)

I really can’t beat the beauty of JWM’s comment here, but really the whole, the ASA boycott is not directed against individuals, really just flew right by you didn’t it? In other words, what’s relevant is not that institutions are the _object of the bills in question_; it’s that they’re the _objects of the ASA boycott_.

112

LFC 02.06.14 at 2:25 am

@SamChevre

I’m not really up on the precedents here, but ISTM there are different balances being struck. The government can forbid a hotel to boycott black customers because the interest of the hotel’s owners (i.e., their right to express their dislike of African-Americans by refusing them service or their right to “associate” only with whites) is overridden by the right of black travelers/customers to be free from racial discrimination, which is also a constitutionally-rooted right. In the ASA case, by contrast, the ASA’s expressive or speech rights are not overridden by a comparably strong individual right because the ASA is not targeting individuals. Thus the gov’t can’t prohibit the ASA boycott. That, I suppose, would be a plausible argument, at any rate.

113

js. 02.06.14 at 2:27 am

Ugh. Second para is me.

114

Chris Warren 02.06.14 at 2:41 am

LFC

Truth will out – even if it takes democracy some time to assert its will over chauvinistic puppet states.

115

Corey Robin 02.06.14 at 3:03 am

SamChevre: “It is agreed that the government can ban boycotts of persons. If institutions get less protection–they have less rights–than persons (generally the case), then it would follow that government can ban boycotts of institutions. So–what am I missing?”

Set aside the issue that what you’re describing as a boycott is in fact a refusal of service. (White customers can legally refuse to patronize a black-owned restaurants. That’s a boycott. A white-owned restaurant cannot legally refuse to serve black customers. That’s discrimination. Get it?)

But let’s take your equation as a given. What you’re missing is that in your progress from your first to your second sentence, you’ve flipped the protected rights-bearing class from individuals to institutions under the guise of claiming that institutions have fewer rights than individuals. In your first sentence, the government is protecting the individual from being boycotted by the boycotter. The individual has the right, in other words, not to be boycotted; she is being protected in her rights. In your second sentence, you take the premise that institutions have fewer rights than individuals to mean that individuals therefore have fewer rights to boycott institutions. You’ve oddly enhanced the rights of institutions — the right not to be boycotted — by claiming that that they have fewer rights. It makes no sense. The logic inference from institutions having fewer rights than individuals is that while the government can forbid an institution from “boycotting” an individual (she has the right not to be boycotted, as it were), it cannot forbid an individual (or a group of individuals) from boycotting an institution. Because the institution, having fewer (or in this case nonexistent) rights, is less entitled to have its right not to be boycotted protected.

116

Yo Begoya 02.06.14 at 3:35 am

See, e.g. Rumsfeld v FAIR

117

jonnybutter 02.06.14 at 12:23 pm

#101

I wrote that comment yesterday on the run, so perhaps not so clear.

Henry seems to be worrying about a meaningless, ineffective – i.e. having no effect – action which is nonetheless to be avoided because it’s immoral and counter productive. Does that make sense to you? Not me.

118

David 02.06.14 at 1:44 pm

It has no practical positive effect. But its signalling is counter-productive to the overall cause, not least because it is immoral. (That’s what I take to be Henry’s argument.) Makes sense to me, as an argument.

119

Henry 02.06.14 at 5:05 pm

Jonnybutter – there’s a quite important difference between saying something is questionably of any moral value, and saying that it’s immoral. My annoyance at the ASA statement is that it seems to me to be an empty gesture that implicitly congratulates itself (and its drafters) for taking a real stance, but is in fact entirely rhetorical – a kind of hier stehe ich, but without the stehe-ing. Obviously the proposed legislation in NYS, Maryland and Pennsylvania is far from rhetorical.

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Plume 02.06.14 at 6:56 pm

We live in a winner-take-all economic system, and this seems to bleed over into a sense of all-or-nothing activism.

An action isn’t worth it, apparently, if it doesn’t absolutely solve the problem in total. We shouldn’t try to pass any gun safety regulations, because it won’t stop all gun murders, etc. etc. We shouldn’t try to increase taxes on the rich because it won’t solve the debt problem altogether. Blah blah blah.

Apparently, a boycott over unjust governmental policy in Israel is absurd because it won’t end apartheid and the occupation once and for all, or bring total peace to the Levant.

If everyone thought that way — all or nothing — human progress would be at a standstill. And it’s damned difficult as it is even with the belief in “doing one’s part.” Why make it that much more difficult by trying to mock or dismiss or even ban change via legislation?

The boycotts are but one piece in a larger attempt to achieve justice in the middle east, which is but one piece in an even larger attempt to achieve it worldwide.

121

SoU 02.07.14 at 12:03 am

so….. apparently they are trying to pass a similar thing in the house now.

122

Andrew F. 02.07.14 at 1:07 am

Plume @121: Apparently, a boycott over unjust governmental policy in Israel is absurd because it won’t end apartheid and the occupation once and for all, or bring total peace to the Levant.

The BDS movement is absurd in that it seeks to achieve a condition that would result in the practical dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state, when there are enormous difficulties simply in achieving a much more limited compromise between Israeli and Palestinian factions. The pretense that it can be neutral on the question of whether Israel should exist, while urging boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, is absurd. And the support of the ASA for this movement, without a word of recognition for the enormous complexities of the situation, without any apparent consciousness that the mechanical application of UN General Assembly resolutions from 60 years ago to contemporary circumstances could be disastrous, is a fact that might startle someone unaccustomed to the exaggerated idiocies that often accompany the forays of academic associations into politics.

Anything that distracts from the focus on a two-state solution, that lends even an iota of credence to unattainable goals, the striving after of which is guaranteed to bring only additional conflict and a postponing of a desired peace, is very questionably moral indeed.

And that an academic association formed to facilitate the interdisciplinary study of American culture should issue any official opinion at all on such a divisive issue far outside the boundaries of its own competence or focus is completely inappropriate, and does a disservice to its actual purpose.

While I can’t support the bill as it is currently written, it seems to me that there are other ways to restructure state funding of memberships and conference expenses that would achieve a similar goal but in a broader and constitutional fashion.

123

T 02.07.14 at 1:28 am

The “AAUP Statement on ASA Vote to Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel” stated that “the vote represents a setback for the cause of academic freedom” further noting that “universities deny[ing] travel support to faculty attending ASA meetings, would only compound the violation of academic freedom.” http://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/AAUPStatementASAVote_0.pdf

Similarly, in a letter signed by ASA members including seven former presidents, ASA prize winners, and other distinguished members, they stated regarding the boycott that “if upheld, it would set a dangerous precedent by sponsoring an inequitable and discriminatory policy that would punish one nation’s universities and scholars and restrict the free conduct of ASA members to engage with colleagues in Israel.” http://www.telospress.com/opposing-the-israel-boycott-by-the-american-studies-association/

Plainly, both groups consider the boycott a violation of academic freedom (unless they as have since explicitly changed their positions.) I assume that both statements were made in good faith.
Given these statements, it is no surprise that legislative remedies have been proposed. In fact, given that the AAUP statement and former-president’s letter were released prior to the boycott vote, the purposeful absence of an academic boycott in the South African anti-apartheid movement, and the existence of alternative non-academic boycott targets, an outside observer might think this a fight ASA purposely picked. Well, you got what you wanted. The terms of the debate will not be academic or legal, but political. I’m interested to see what an institution like the Kansas legislature or North Carolina legislature would make of this if they decide to weigh in. Their hand might be considerably heavier than those in NY and Maryland.

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Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 1:32 am

SoU is right. There’s now a bill making its through the House that would cut off funding to any academic institution that boycotts Israel. I wrote about it briefly in an update to the other post.

125

SoU 02.07.14 at 2:35 am

to those saying that this is ineffective – look what is happening: dialogue is taking place, here and elsewhere in the media; people are arguing about BDS, the occupation, Israeli policies – people are taking sides; people are discussing tactics, strategy, etc of dealing with the situation in Canaan; and what more – now we have the heavy hands of the law coming down, and no one should be surprised!

this is how civil society functions. one person or group pushes – too far they say! – and then there is a push back. soon we are in a dialogue and new knowledge comes to light. no one would be having this conversation had the ASA not taken the courageous stand and done something they knew to be controversial. sure, the ASA just drafting a resolution does not do much of anything – but neither does writing on a blog, or in a newspaper, or any of these forms of symbolic action or verbal communication. the ASA stance does not occur in a vacuum, and you pretending that the effects of their resolution can be reduced to the immediate consequences of who they invite to a conference or not reveals that you have little understanding of how social movements work.

actually – i would even guess that some on at ASA did predict, before all this happened, that their stance would result in some legislators or other public figures overreacting in the way that they did. I mean, there is nothing surprising to me about these responses – there are always US legislators ready and willing to score cheap political points by shouting down anyone not faithful enough to the Israel-US alliance, and that they would do so with no regard for democratic norms is similarly predictable.

finally, i want to add my opinion that the AAUP is morally bankrupt. bunch of overpaid university administrators more concerned about their endowment figures and leaving some sort of ‘legacy’ than they are about questions of justice or academic integrity or any of that. I know that the president of my own alma mater – whose name is on the front page of the AAUP resolution – has accepted $$ for campus development from a businessman who was at that time under investigation by the SEC for various types of fraud – fraud charges directly related to the very dollars he was willing to accept. But the AAUP doesn’t give a damn about those sorts of issues – hits too close to the bottom line! – they would prefer to do the same political grandstanding as US legislators than to investigate possible corruption in their own backyards.

126

SoU 02.07.14 at 2:47 am

Corey – just want to say that your work on these issues has been admirable, especially in the face of all of the absurd push back that you are getting. seriously, people are criticizing in really nasty, ad-hom ways, sniping you behind your back as a ‘fanatic’ and such, and you just follow the logic of your arguments and moral convictions. BDS may not be popular among the stodgy commentariat or the professariat, pampered by the distance provided by their own tenurships, but i can tell you that it is a political movement that excites and involves the youth of today. having a few vocal supporters out there with some degree of platform is indispensable for keeping the energy and resolve in the movement. keep on goin’ ; much respect man.

127

T 02.07.14 at 3:19 am

SoU

There are two issues: one involving Israel and one involving academic freedom. It would have been very easy not to raise the second issue but the ASA purposely chose that path.

Academics have spent centuries establishing academic freedom as a central tenet of the profession. It provides the moral authority to fight off politicians and others that wish to suppress the views of those in the academy. For example, the public was against Cuccinelli in VA when he went after a University Of Virginia climate scientist.

The ASA boycott violates academic freedom according to AAUP and seven former ASA presidents. And now some politicians want to suppress ASA academic freedom and the ASA has lost any moral authority on the issue.

The adults in the room saw this coming all along. The boycott was meant to walk up to the line of suppressing academic freedom. Read Cory’s exquisite parsing of the boycott language and the lawyering up. But it’s out of his hands now. His opponents can just cite to the the AAUP statement and former-president’s letter that the boycott is, in fact, a suppression of academic freedom. (And they have a good case.) The ASA (academy) has lost any moral authority on the central issue of its protection. Maybe the bill’s are unconstitutional. Maybe not. But you can bet there is a constitutional way to achieve the same or similar results.

128

Plume 02.07.14 at 3:19 am

Andrew F. #123,

The BDS movement doesn’t seek to dissolve the state of Israel. It seeks the end of Israeli government oppression of Palestinians, an end to the settlements, an end to the Occupation, and a return to prewar 1967 borders.

129

LFC 02.07.14 at 3:26 am

Although no one except me has any reason to care about my position, I want to make clear that while I have some serious reservations about BDS and the ASA boycott, I do not believe that support for BDS necessarily implies the view that Israel should not exist. The focus of BDS as I understand it (and I may misunderstand it) is mainly on ending the occupation of the W. Bank, and one can support BDS and also support a two-state solution. To this extent I differ from Andrew F. @123 who suggests that support for BDS implies the belief that Israel should not exist “as a Jewish state.” I’m sure some of the rhetoric surrounding BDS says that, but I take the main aims of the boycott to be more limited. Again, perhaps I have misunderstood; I haven’t taken the time to read all the detailed BDS statements.

One reason I objected to the flat statement of ‘Marshall Tito’ @103 (who, for all I know, may be the latest incarnation of Mao Cheng Ji) that Israel “has no right to exist plain and simple” is that it is — as a flat, unqualified statement — extreme, and it does not contribute anything to the discussion.

Incidentally, if you think that Israel’s displacement of indigenous inhabitants in ’48 and its post-67 actions mean it has no “right to exist,” then similar reasoning would suggest, ISTM, that the U.S. in its present form, being partly the result of systematic displacement (and mass elimination/murder) of Native Americans, also has no right to exist. (I realize there may well be a difference, w/r/t Israel, between “no right to exist as a Jewish state” and “no right to exist, period,” but I don’t want to get too deeply into this.)

130

Plume 02.07.14 at 3:56 am

LFC,

Strictly speaking, I don’t think the USA does have a right to exist. It expanded its empire through genocide, slavery and violent theft of land. If that doesn’t make a nation illegitimate, nothing does.

Also, there is a major difference between believing a nation really has no right to exist, on moral, ethical and philosophical grounds, and the desire to see it actually cease existing.

I feel that way about the USA. I don’t think we have a right to exist, given what we did to become a nation. At the same time, “dissolving” the USA after so much time would most likely create extraordinary misery and hardship for 315 million people, and do so to people who are innocent of the original sin.

Israel is in a similar position now, after 66 years. IMO, in moral, ethical and philosophical terms, that state doesn’t have a right to exist where it exists. Though I felt quite differently about that growing up. I grew up believing that the Jewish state was above questioning, primarily because of what the Jewish people had suffered with the Holocaust and for the roughly two thousand years of persecution prior to that. No other people has been so persecuted through time.

As a young person, I couldn’t understand any opposition to the state of Israel. I thought it was really crazy to question it. But the years changed me. Living with, working with, going to school with . . . Palestinians, other Arabs, Iranians, and dissident Jews helped force reevaluations for me. Readings and research as well. I saw many sides to the debate. Not just one.

And another key: the realization of the massive difference between a government and a people, between a “state” and an ethnic group of people, between a formally arranged nation, and individual human beings.

131

roy belmont 02.07.14 at 4:03 am

LFC at 3:26 am 130-
Reason or no, I care about your position. I care about everyone’s position.
There’s a lot of dishonesty on the table around the political geography of the southeastern Mediterranean. So any honesty seems deserving of welcome.
What I keep seeing, almost constantly, is a turning of any criticism, however sincerely and honestly delivered, into an excuse for assault.
Even criticism of obvious dishonesty gets turned into an attack, and is dealt with as an attack, by an assault in return.
In another thread, where I was assaulted in exactly those circumstances, I managed eventually to get to a simple truth about the dynamic, if not the situation itself.
We say: “We want you to stop being such assholes.”
You(not LFC) hear, evidently: “We want you to stop being.”
Forcing us to have to analyze the cause of your mishearing.
And wade through shrieking direct but incomplete quotes, that are technically accurate as far as they go, but deceptive misrepresentations of what’s actually being said.
Is it intentional, in which case you’re just increasing the asshole nature of your presentation? Or is it a result of overpowering fear, or panic, making you blind?
In the case of a large group of people such as this involves, it could be and probably is a continuum.
The energy burn is they call for really different responses.
One is villainous deceit, the other just pathetic hysteria.
You’d think there would be a third way through that, and there is.
Honest and accurate consideration of what’s being said, no matter how upsetting or non-consensus it is.
But that requires a dedication to truth.
.

132

SoU 02.07.14 at 5:29 am

T @128
i can’t think of a single reason why the opinion of the AAUP means anything but shit in a debate over academic freedom, academic ethics, or anything else. the AAUP has been complicit in the slow but nonetheless still pernicious transformation of the university in american society away from a space for free dialogue and personal/political expression and into just another feeder for our neoliberal culture. i have already shared one story from my own university, taking funds from a man whose company was engaged in many forms of fraud. my same university in the wake of the politicization of the student body in the 60’s and 70’s – from Civil Rights and Vietnam – purposefully designed student dorms in such a way as to make extremely difficult public gatherings of students. literally building their dreams for social control into the very bricks of the buildings themselves.
this is the university environment created by the administrative culture – this is the environment that holds associations like the AAUP in high regard. the administrative faction that these university presidents lead and represent have been like parasites inside the university itself, draining it not only of financial resources but have also structured the professorial life such that those who should be freest to think to are instead overburdened with procedural crap and made circumspect with regard to the larger implications of their work and duties.
i don’t know upon what basis you are contending that we should listen to the AAUP in this regard, but i assure you that that group is concerned primarily with their university’s endowment – everything else is a distant second (yes, US news and world report ranking is up there, but seeing as that is basically just a function of the endowment minus any bad press the university has recently experienced, im lumping it in with the former). the endowment, and maybe those lucrative children campuses in various foreign countries – many of which themselves don’t give a damn about free speech or political expression or any of that but does the AAUP care about academic freedom then – NOPE because all they see is the $$ sweet $$.

basically – this is selective outrage by the AAUP at its finest and i scoff at the very suggestion that their voice is worth listening to. you can invoke their opinion all day but people who have recently been to university and experienced the massive disconnect between their administrators – especially presidents – and the heart and soul of the university proper will rightly tell you to take a hike.

133

SoU 02.07.14 at 5:33 am

not to mention T every person who has charged what you have charged vs the ASA upthread has proven later to barely have a clue what the ASA resolution actually entailed, and i suspect that you are in the same circumstance, just a bit late to the realization that your are leveling critiques without a solid base in fact. please, prove me wrong, but my past experience tells me that you are either an ideologue or just misinformed with a side of dunning kruger.

134

Andrew F. 02.07.14 at 7:22 am

Plume @129: The BDS movement doesn’t seek to dissolve the state of Israel. It seeks the end of Israeli government oppression of Palestinians, an end to the settlements, an end to the Occupation, and a return to prewar 1967 borders.

You left out an important one: BDS seeks a right of return for all refugees, and their descendents, displaced in 1948 and 1967.

That return would of course spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. The BDS movement is supposedly “neutral” on the question of whether Israel should exist at all – a position which, frankly, is already worthy of condemnation. That BDS then insists on conditions that would achieve the result they claim to be neutral about warrants skepticism about the true nature of their neutrality.

By insisting on concessions that Israel cannot possibly agree to, the BDS movement helps forestall a realistic compromise to bring lasting peace, stability, and progress to the region.

Here, for instance, is Hamas recently reiterating its opposition to peace talks:

The Palestinians will not accept any agreement that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signs with Israel, Hamas official Salah Bardaweel said. Bardaweel claimed that the current peace talks were aimed at “liquidating” the Palestinian cause.

He criticized Abbas for telling The New York Times earlier this week that he would agree to the establishment of a demilitarized state.

“Such statements are a preface for liquidating the Palestinian cause and preventing the right of return for Palestinian refugees,” Bardaweel said. “The biggest disaster would be to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This would pave the way for the expulsion of more Palestinians from their historic land.”

The BDS movement is a knowing accomplice of that type of behavior, which when present on either side is often fatal to a settled resolution of the conflict.

And this is the cause to which the ASA, with its long history of expertise and involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute as an academic association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture, has given its endorsement. It is like watching an elderly, well-meaning neighbor be sweet-talked into signing a petition that purports to be about the integrity of elections, when the practical effect and practical purpose is actually something quite different.

135

justathought 02.07.14 at 8:49 am

SoU said: Corey – just want to say that your work on these issues has been admirable, especially in the face of all of the absurd push back that you are getting. seriously, people are criticizing in really nasty, ad-hom way

I too would like to thank Professor Robin for his heroic efforts both here and on his blog.

Apologies if this is a derail – but the sort of indefatigable trolling evidenced here, blithely jumping from argument to argument as each one is shot down, seems to be the exclusive purview of those on the right. A cynical but effective way to shut down discussion. They view this as a war, not a discussion. As well they should: with these tactics, the right has won, and will continue to win, on many fronts.

136

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 11:15 am

Andrew F- there have long been opportunities to negotiate with Hamas, but it takes time and effort and trust.(on both sides) I wouldn’t read too much into hyperbolic, politically motivated rhetoric.

137

Collin Street 02.07.14 at 11:52 am

That return would of course spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Well, only if the jewish state was established through ethnic cleansing. Otherwise there wouldn’t be enough refugees and refugee-descendants to matter.

Remember, refugees aren’t the only people to have descendants: pre-state jews also have descendants, and israel has also had some fairly significant immigration over the period. If the descendants of refugees are enough in number to swamp the descendants of pre-state jews and post-state migrants then there must have been an awful, awful lot of non-jews being made refugees [being made by whom?], not just in number but in terms of fractions of the mandate-palestine population.

138

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.07.14 at 12:55 pm

That return would of course spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. The BDS movement is supposedly “neutral” on the question of whether Israel should exist at all – a position which, frankly, is already worthy of condemnation.

Jeez, Andrew, it’s only in your Orwellian bizzaro world a militant ethnocentric regime that now DNA-tests some of its potential immigrants (born out-of-wedlock!) for racial purity is sacred, while demands for the ethnically cleansed native population’s right of return are contemptible. And it’s only in your Orwellian bizzaro world your attitude brings “lasting peace, stability, and progress”. Take a minute and listen to yourself.

139

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 12:57 pm

What role has BDS played in the new (?) EU policies against dealing with companies working in the occupied territories, does anyone know ?

140

Kaveh 02.07.14 at 1:17 pm

AndrewF @135

There are some problems with saying states have rights to exist as a X state (what about minorities?) But even if we accept the premise of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, your comment reflects dire ignorance of the facts.

That return would of course spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Actual return would spell an end to a Jewish majority in Israel, but a theoretical right of return would do no such thing, unless most Palestinians chose to return, which is highly unlikely. Unless you believe a kind of Palestinian equivalent of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, where Palestinians aren’t motivated by normal goals of wanting to live in peace and safety, but are all diabolically fixated on a plot to take land from Israeli Jews, in the way that extremist settler types in the US and Israel are–people like that are a pretty small fraction of Jews, it is safe to assume they are also a small fraction of Palestinians.

Think about it this way. There are people who were thrown off their land, or else their parents or grandparents were, and they’ve been living in exile, making new lives for themselves somewhere. Do they really think actually returning to an old house is going to improve their lives? Probably not. But they want some acknowledgement that they have a right to go back to their old places, that they were wrongfully expelled (and yes, of course this also applies to Jews who left Arab countries). Most of these people would probably take some kind of monetary compensation oven actual return, given the hardships return would cause even to them.

Besides which, even if the Palestinian BDS call lists unconditional right of return as a demand, that does not mean that the ASA and others would continue applying boycott pressure to achieve that once central demands like an end to the occupation were met, or that Palestinian leadership–yes, even HAMAS–wouldn’t be willing to make de facto compromises on this point (even if right of return for all refugees has symbolic importance, and they won’t deny that, in theory, all refugees have this right). Or, that boycott pressure would still be applied by most of its current supporters if it seemed clear that Palestinians were holding out for complete acquiescence to all demands when a meaningful compromise was possible–which is clearly not the case now, and probably never was.

“Bardaweel claimed that the current peace talks were aimed at “liquidating” the Palestinian cause.”

This is actually true. Israel’s strategy vis-a-vis the peace talks has been to drag them out and keep them from ever concluding, while continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and take control over access to water and other strategic areas–this has being going on since the 80s. The US and even FATAH are completely aware of this, but keep letting it go on. Of course, an eventual solution would not involve peace talks and compromise, but the statement you quoted, which I guess you expected to sound shocking, is literally true, as anyone who follows the news on this knows.

It is like watching an elderly, well-meaning neighbor be sweet-talked into signing a petition…

You don’t say!

141

Donald Johnson 02.07.14 at 1:33 pm

Plume @ 131–Very well said.

Andrew F–“Anything that distracts from the focus on a two-state solution, that lends even an iota of credence to unattainable goals, the striving after of which is guaranteed to bring only additional conflict and a postponing of a desired peace, is very questionably moral indeed.”

The problem with this touching display of moral absolutism is that lip service for a 2SS is widespread amongst American politicians and pundits (the only exceptions being those who don’t even bother with the lip service) and yet in practice they do nothing that would pressure Israel. Israel receives aid and support and praise for its democracy in US circles no matter what it does and so there’s no incentive for it to change its behavior. It’s commonly assumed on the pro-Israel side that any 2SS will allow Israel to keep many or most of the settlements, an assumption which just provides further incentive to expand , so a future “compromise” will allow them to keep more. Arguably the biggest obstacle to a 2ss are the bulk of the self-proclaimed 2ss supporters. It’s a game–support the “peace process” and then support Israel as the settlements expand. It’s gotten to the point where, as Phil Weiss pointed out at Mondoweiss the other day, Beinart and Friedman (and perhaps even Kerry?) are using the spectre of BDS to try and pressure the alleged 2SS supporters to wake up and see where things are headed. It’s obvious to everyone that Israel would be perfectly happy continuing to steal more land, so long as the Palestinians can be kept under control.

I have my own tactical doubts about BDS which I expressed in an earlier thread, but I might be wrong. My doubts are about how the tactic just allows the pseudo-2SS supporters to bloviate about the terrible threat to academic freedom and the silliness of academics bothering their pretty little heads about serious issues best left to politicians and their donors, or to talk about anything and everything except the oppression of Palestinians by Israel, which occurs with America’s support. But BDS seems to be having some positive effects.

142

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 1:33 pm

I do think Andrew F’s comment is a lot of whataboutery. The right of return is largely a symbolic issue within the negotiations and *is in no way ever going to happen in any meaningful way* from the Israelis. (It could be settled with limited return, compensation and an international effort to resolve the refugee issue) If groups within Palestine want to stress it, then thats fine afaics, theyre probably dealing with all sorts of domestic and organisational pressures to do so. – but people can support those groups if they like, or not.
This kind of hyperbolic nonsense that it ‘theoretically’ spells the end of the Israeli state is ludicrous, why concern oneself with things that arent going to happen?

143

T 02.07.14 at 2:00 pm

SoU
“not to mention T every person who has charged what you have charged vs the ASA upthread has proven later to barely have a clue what the ASA resolution actually entailed, and i suspect that you are in the same circumstance, just a bit late to the realization that your are leveling critiques without a solid base in fact. please, prove me wrong, but my past experience tells me that you are either an ideologue or just misinformed with a side of dunning kruger.”

WTF?

Here’s the resolution:

“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. It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

Seven past ASA presidents and other distinguished ASA members as well as the AAUP (that’s University Professors not University Presidents) found the resolution to violate the principles of academic freedom. Are you saying that these seven former ASA presidents are making that statement in bad faith? If so, then get on the record SoU.

Cory is now twisting himself in knots trying to say that a resolution entitled “Council Resolution on Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions” really is a sham boycott with no effect on academic freedom. Well it’s not up to Cory to decide what the resolution means — it speaks for itself.

When academics put politics above academic freedom in their role as professors qua professors they open the door to infringement of their own academic freedoms. That is exactly what is happening. The AAUP passed a general resolution against all academic boycotts in 2005 (probably for this reason.) Legislative action against the boycott sponsors is the last thing AAUP wants given the slippery slope of political interference to academic freedom.

Whatever you think of the AAUP, it is a 100 year old organization with about 50,000 members. They said that the resolution infringed academic freedom. (Same with the ASA president’s letter.) That gives any legislator all the cover they need to go after the ASA.

This thread was intended to be about academic freedom issues, not the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Maybe the moderator wants to get it back on track.

144

DaveL 02.07.14 at 2:15 pm

Ronan @ 143: “The right of return is largely a symbolic issue within the negotiations and *is in no way ever going to happen in any meaningful way* from the Israelis.”

So, if it is as unrealistic a demand as that by Israeli hardliners that all of “Greater Israel” should be part of Israel, doesn’t that put ASA on the side of (nearly) the most extreme position that Hamas and Fatah take? It doesn’t seem very “neutral” from that viewpoint.

Kaveh @ 141: It seems like wishful thinking to believe that few Palestinians would exercise a right of return if it was part of a peace settlement. Is there any backup to this assertion from surveys or polls or anything other than anecdotal evidence?

Israel is in a demographic trap as a Jewish state. Except for the religious conservatives they have a “western” birthrate. Palestinians have a much higher birthrate. Between natural increase and the “right of return” Jews could quickly cease to be a majority in Israel. Various commenters on this thread would probably reply “Good!”, I suppose.

145

SoU 02.07.14 at 2:19 pm

@140
are you talking about the Scandinavian pension funds and such?

T @144
read upthread. like Sebastian H and Bloix turning tail after it is revealed that they did not understand the ASA resolution, and were attacking a straw man. that is what i am talking about.
and you are just repeating yourself here. for the 3rd time maybe? i realize now that you may have trouble reading the whole thread, but i have followed along since the beginning, and don’t need yet again to hear the opinion of the AAUP. as i said above, their opinion is worthless to me. give me a reason to believe otherwise. engage.

146

Donald Johnson 02.07.14 at 2:20 pm

“This thread was intended to be about academic freedom issues, not the Israel/Palestinian conflict. “

Wow. Never saw that coming. It’s true though–the thread is supposed to be about academic freedom. Here’s a link on that subject–

aaup piece on universities on the WB and in Gaza

147

LFC 02.07.14 at 2:24 pm

Kaveh:
Of course, an eventual solution would not involve peace talks and compromise

I think the “not” is a mistake there?

148

Donald Johnson 02.07.14 at 2:24 pm

In fairness, the above link does say that when Palestinian students can make it to Israeli universities, they are treated decently. But anyway, if this thread is supposed to be restricted to the academic freedom issues raised by the ASA boycott, then I’ll bow out.

149

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 2:26 pm

Dave L – Well look, if thats a rhetorical stance you want to adopt then thats fine. Im ambivalent, specifically, on the ASA position. I didnt even know what the ASA was until a couple of weeks ago. People can adopt positions on this as they see fit, supporting the ASA *despite* of BDS support* for the right of return, supporting it because of it, supporting it without paying attention..its all good. I was just responsing to Andrew’s hyperbole.

* I dont know how this support works itself out within BDS specifically, it doesnt concern *me* greatly. Other people can, of course, be concerned as they see fit.

150

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 2:32 pm

SoU @ 146

My impression is there was something written into EU policy about dealing with companies with links to the occupied territories in August. Also afaik some European governments (Dutch, German, Scandanavian and Romanian afaik) have begun to stop dealing with Israeli companies with links to the occupied territories (not sure how official it is) Also I think Israel were offered an expanded trade deal with the EU to resolve the situation. This is all vague on my part, as Im not too sure what the story is.

151

T 02.07.14 at 2:41 pm

SoU
SoU

Do you think the seven former ASA presidents are acting in bad faith when they say the resolution infringes academic freedom? Or do you think the ASA resolution is essentially a shame boycott with no effects on academic freedom? Simple questions.

I’m not arguing the merits of this bill. I’m asking about the ASA resolution.

152

Collin Street 02.07.14 at 2:46 pm

Does the israeli government run any arabic-language universities? If not, are there any private arabic-language ones in israel-proper?

153

Kaveh 02.07.14 at 3:21 pm

LFC @148 yeah, the “not” wasn’t supposed to be there.

DaveL @145 re “wishful thinking that few Palestinians would exercise right of return”

What I actually said was that most would not–or rather, that you can’t assume most would. But anyway, you say “wishful thinking” without showing any awareness of, or seeming to care about, the actual circumstances in which Palestinians would make the choice of returning. It’s not wishful thinking to assume that right of return could be offered in a way that would be both satisfactory to the vast majority of Palestinians and allow for a continued Jewish majority in Israel, assuming of course Israel is willing to give up a lot of the land outside the 67 borders that they’ve taken control of in various ways, Palestinian refugees would have the option of becoming citizens in countries where they reside (this would be much less of a problem if said citizenship does not amount to accepting their expulsion by Israel and condoning more of that), and have an option to receive compensation for property they lost in Israel instead of moving back.

154

SoU 02.07.14 at 3:38 pm

“no effects on academic freedom”
as a norm and principle, no – the ASA resolution goes very far out of its way to preserve the principle of academic freedom while still taking a stand.

if effect/consequence? i think that academic freedom is very nebulous and thus difficult for us to ever define concretely, if i were to start making the proof you desire. But then again – i don’t have to: because you are leveling the charge, the burden of proof is yours to demonstrate how and where academic freedom is being infringed by the ASA. it is nearly impossible to prove a negative, that some thing is not out there. that is why in legitimate discussions it is the responsibility of the accuser to demonstrate a positive case that X has occurred. So when you show me the infringement of academic freedom – ideally with names and dates and such – then we can continue this discussion in a more productive manner.

and if we are going to talk about consequences, then we have to work in the entire scope of the issue. reality is fuzzy like that – nothing exists in a vacuum. so how about academic freedom for Palestinians. or the academic freedom to criticize a state that is engaging in its own massive boycott of basically an entire population, and systematic deprivations of liberty across the board.

an old professor of mine just spent a few weeks in Palestine, teaching a few lectures for a course at Bethlehem university. he complained that he had a lot of trouble, because the students could not be expected to arrive in a prompt manner. you see – they were frequently stuck at checkpoints along the road, detained on their way to class, because of who they were and their lack of the proper paperwork attesting to their privileged birth.

THAT is an infringement of academic freedom. the boycott of Gaza resulting in a shortage of notebooks and school supplies is an infringement of academic freedom. wealthy professors from the 1st world can deal with something like the ASA resolution – they have means, they have voice. poor Palestinian youth are literally held back from going to school on a daily basis, and when they get their they have to share writing materials because of Israeli state policy.

but that isn’t what you want to focus on here. you want to talk about ‘academic freedom’. what you mean by the words i have no idea. because when you want to talk about academic freedom, you seem to be eliding these issues.

155

T 02.07.14 at 3:45 pm

Donald Johnson 147 –

Point well taken. I should have been clearer. It was my impression the thread was about the ASA resolution, academic freedom, and the NY and MD bills. It seems nearly impossible to have a conversation on the merits of any issue independent of but related to Israel that doesn’t descend into a general debate on the occupation. My questions go solely to the effect of an academic boycott, not other types of boycotts.

156

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 3:56 pm

Let’s try to stay on topic, folks. We’re not re-litigating the entire history of Israel and Palestine here.

On the academic freedom question as it pertains to the ASA boycott, which is not in truth the content of this post either, we have in fact deliberated about this at length on this site. See this link:

http://crookedtimber.org/2013/12/26/does-the-asa-boycott-violate-academic-freedom-how/

I don’t see anything in this comments thread here that’s all that new, so folks might simply want to consult that post and the comments thread for the various arguments and counter-arguments.

I would emphasize that the AAUP’s position on this issue is fairly incoherent. As I pointed out the AAUP is against boycotts on academic freedom grounds yet they favor censures. Their own effort to distinguish the two are fairly desultory, and in any event, the ASA boycott looks more like what the AAUP calls a censure, which the AAUP thinks is okay. Like most people, the AAUP hasn’t studied the ASA resolution all the carefully. That a bunch of worthies think the ASA boycott violates academic freedom — but can’t exactly tell you why — is really neither here nor there to me.

Also everyone should read this incredible expose by Phan Nguyen on the, um, how shall I put this, complexities, of the AAUP position (and more important the position of its past president) on academic freedom. Turns out the AAUP and its leadership are okay with some boycotts, just not this one.

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/privilege-bestowing-academic.html

I’ve found in this and similar discussions that academic freedom is a word that gets tossed around but no one really can explain how it is that it is being violated by the ASA boycott.

157

T 02.07.14 at 4:20 pm

SOU -
Thanks for answering the question of whether you think the ASA resolution infringes academic freedom — no it does not. I’d still like your opinion on whether the seven former ASA presidents are acting in bad faith when they say the resolution infringes academic freedom.

It seems that you want to discuss the lack academic freedoms in occupied territories. Fair enough. But it seems that’s not what this tread is about.

I’ll pass on descending into a discussion on the meaning of academic freedom. The many threads on the ASA have managed to raise the subject only in specific contexts, typically surrounding the bills. I will note, however, that Cory’s parsing of the resolution was explicitly intended to argue that the resolution did not violate academic freedom. He sure knew what it meant. And he tried to back fill furiously. We can all judge on whether he succeeded.

I think the burden to show that an academic boycott does not infringe academic freedom is on the ASA. In fact, it’s stretched Cory’s rhetorical skills to argue that the ASA boycott is, well, not really a boycott. His reaction suggests he thought he had the burden.

So maybe we want to talk about different things. I’ll note that my comments relate to the OP. But CT threads are often hijacked.

158

SoU 02.07.14 at 4:29 pm

” I’d still like your opinion on … former ASA presidents “
can you link to the statement?

159

T 02.07.14 at 4:49 pm

Cory -
My point is kinda meta. People of good and ill will have argued that the ASA resolution violates academic freedom. The argument is no longer academic or legal, but political. And while you might not care what the worthies think, or what the AAUP thinks (they’re wrong, you’re right) the pols just might be convinced or use it as an excuse. And who knows, pols in NC or Kansas might believe the worthies and decide that the U doesn’t need an American Studies Department. Good luck trying to shut the door now that you opened it. But that was the plan all along.

160

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 4:53 pm

T: The only burden here is on you: to spell my name correctly. It’s Corey, not Cory. While we’re on the topic of close reading, I never argued that the ASA boycott was not a boycott. I argued that according to the AAUP’s own screwy definition of things, it is a censure. That’s a very different claim. And I will note here that for all your desire to talk about the ASA resolution as a violation of academic freedom you have yet to establish exactly how it is. It seems like you like the pretty words but the “back fill” is a little trickier for you.

161

Plume 02.07.14 at 4:53 pm

Corey,

I know you don’t want the thread sidetracked any more than it is already . . . but I have to respond to Andrew F above.

I might not have used the same language in response as #139, but Gorgonzola gets the gist of it correct. It seems quite absurd to think of a Palestinian’s desire to return to land stolen from him or her (not so long ago) as “contemptible,” whereas it’s supposedly justifiable to create a Jewish state with that same basic desire in mind, with the rather massive difference being an absence in time of nearly two thousand years.

And, as many have offered the pragmatic and practical reasons against an ASA boycott: What of the pragmatic and practical reasons against establishing a Jewish state in the middle of tens of millions of Arabs, by displacing a large group of them, who will now be your enemies when they weren’t prior to that land theft? Is it any wonder that there is no peace in the Middle East regarding this question?

And if it was done to create a “safe haven” for Jews — the safe haven being an obviously understandable goal — by doing it the way it was done and where, that was rendered impossible from Day One.

Israel will eventually have to face it. A two-state solution won’t work. They must end their attempt at ethnocentric control and artificial maintenance of the majority. I can’t think of any other example of this (forced domination based on ethnicity) working or receiving International support in the present day, in 2014. I can’t think of any other case of this garnering anything but condemnation, in 2014.

162

Plume 02.07.14 at 4:58 pm

To shorten all of that up:

It was never in the best interests of the Jewish people to try to establish a homeland where it was established, or with the violence required for displacement of the then current inhabitants. It was never going to work out well over time and was only going to add to their existential dangers and threat.

163

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 5:08 pm

T: ” And while you might not care what the worthies think, or what the AAUP thinks (they’re wrong, you’re right) the pols just might be convinced or use it as an excuse. And who knows, pols in NC or Kansas might believe the worthies and decide that the U doesn’t need an American Studies Department.”

Shorter T: There is a backlash to the ASA resolution.

Me: Thank you; I did not know that.

164

T 02.07.14 at 5:11 pm

SoU –

Here’s the link for the “worthies” letter.
http://www.telospress.com/opposing-the-israel-boycott-by-the-american-studies-association/
You might also be interested in the Judea Pearl letter to NYU and the ASA.
http://www.jewishjournal.com/judea_pearl/article/dear_john_sexton_condemn_and_block_the_asa1

I’m not going to get into a discussion about the merits. My point is that people of good will can conclude the ASA boycott infringes academic freedom. And the use of an academic boycott rather than another action on the same issue wasn’t necessary.

165

Plume 02.07.14 at 5:17 pm

Corey,

A common theme here for opponents is that you should try something else. That the BDS movement and the ASA boycott in particular won’t work. A different method of protest is required. Just curious, have you? Have you attempted some other track?

Of course, it seems all too obvious that one can protest in many different ways, even at the same time. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

166

T 02.07.14 at 5:18 pm

Cory –
Rather, you chose the academic boycott instead of another action because you thought it would bring the biggest backlash by combing the issue of Israel with the issue of academic freedom. And having been called on your bs, you’ve backtracked furiously on the academic freedom issue by parsing and reparsing the resolution. It’s plain you’re having a blast. Truth to power.

167

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 5:32 pm

Plume: “A common theme here for opponents is that you should try something else. That the BDS movement and the ASA boycott in particular won’t work. A different method of protest is required. Just curious, have you? Have you attempted some other track?”

A few points. First, the call for BDS came from Palestinian groups, not from American academics. Second, if we recognize that fact — which virtually everyone in this debate seems not to know or wishes to ignore — we have to acknowledge Palestinians have tried a great many other tacks; they tried terrorism; they tried violent uprisings; they tried non-violent uprisings; they tried decades of negotiations. All have proven absolutely fruitless. Now they are trying BDS, and have asked us to honor their call. The fact that they’re asking doesn’t require us to say yes, but it’s important to get the chronology right. Third, I think the question is wrong-headed: the burden is not on me to come up with a different strategy; I’ve got a strategy, and judging by the response of John Kerry, the Israeli media, and the Israeli establishment, it is beginning, slowly, to have its intended effect. The burden is on you to offer an alternative. In terms of Americans and American academics, I put out a call about a month ago, asking folks who were against BDS, what would you recommend instead. The response was…non-existent. One person did come up with three recommendations: I can’t remember #2 and #3 precisely, but both of them were things that many of us who have been involved in this struggle were already doing. So they were neither here nor there. But #1 was: put pressure on Congress to cut off aid to Israel. Which I found hilarious. I mean we here in the US have been having an argument about Obamacare and single-payer plans for the last however many years, and the consensus among virtually every defender of Obamacare is that you’d never get a single-payer plan past Congress. That, I think, may be true. But somehow we’re going to get Congress — Congress! — to cut off aid to Israel. Don’t get me wrong: long term, that is absolutely the goal. But that requires a very slow patient effort to change public opinion. Slow boring of hard boards, and all that. And to my mind that is precisely what BDS is doing. For people, like some commenters on this thread, who have just awakened to BDS this month, it might seem like BDS is losing b/c all they know is the backlash. But for those of us who have been following, watching the media and the response, it’s exactly the reverse. For the first time ever, the mainstream press is giving BDS a fair hearing; you have student groups, like the Hillel at Swarthmore, challenging the hegemony of AIPAC and its allies; J Street, which previously was treated as a left-wing fringe, is now considered the moderate center between BDS and AIPAC (moving the Overton Window and all that); and public officials in the US and Israel are invoking the threat of BDS as an argument for why Israel needs to reach a settlement.

So a question: Why in the world should I be required to come up with an alternate strategy when this one seems to be doing remarkably well? Isn’t the burden on critics of BDS to come up with an alternative?

168

Plume 02.07.14 at 5:37 pm

Corey, I was playing devil’s advocate for a moment, as should be clear from my other comments. I support your actions. And I definitely believe in moving the Overton Window. It’s a frequent part of my posts regarding the above and things like Single Payer — here and elsewhere.

169

Plume 02.07.14 at 5:39 pm

Also, the qualifying second paragraph on #165. I thought that was enough.

170

SoU 02.07.14 at 5:42 pm

T @166
“Cory –”
so you do it again? after post #160, this is just childish. i was going to respond to you & the links you provided above, but now i just don’t think its worth my time.

171

SoU 02.07.14 at 5:46 pm

@167
“Isn’t the burden on critics of BDS to come up with an alternative?”
as it is also their burden to provide instances of academic freedom being limited by the ASA resolution. they have done neither. but that is the basic advantage of those defending the status quo, now isn’t it? you can pretend to be objecting to the methods, but not worry about suggesting alternatives, because deep down you probably don’t want them to succeed anyhow.

172

Plume 02.07.14 at 5:51 pm

SoU #171,

Exactly. And that was the running MO in discussions regarding alternatives to capitalism.

From my readings, it was also the running defense of slavery for decades as well. Defense through mockery or dismissal of alternatives. Kind of a passive-aggressive defense of the status quo ante.

“Nothing you propose will have the slightest impact on anything!”

The subtext being, (“So, just deal with it, accept it, grow to love it, as we the sensible ones have.”)

173

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 6:18 pm

Plume: I knew it wasn’t your position; sorry if that wasn’t clear.

For other folks, this piece out in new edition of that left-wing rag The Economist gives a nice summary of how BDS has actually been effective: “ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream.” And it goes from there to itemize all the ways in which BDS is turning mainstream and beginning to have an effect.

Now tell me again why I need to come up with a new strategy?

174

Plume 02.07.14 at 6:23 pm

Corey,

Thanks. You’ve done yeoman’s work on this, and in defending that work.

175

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 6:24 pm

“The Economist gives a nice summary of how BDS has actually been effective:”

Being effective towards what, though ? Thats the ( i think legitimate) question people are asking. Perhaps I havent read up enough on the aims of the movement, but is it to pressure the Israeli government back into meaningful negotiations ? Or is it, long term, to support a one state solution ? So im really not sure how we’re judging ‘effectiveness’..
I don’t think they need a clear goal, necessarily – pressure is pressure – but I’d be interested to know if there is one (as much as possible) within the organisation ?

176

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 6:26 pm

Oops, sorry I didn’t post that Economist piece. Here it is:

http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21595948-israels-politicians-sound-rattled-campaign-isolate-their-country

But please, please: I’m jonesing for one more lecture from self-important blowhards on how to play the game of real politics, how we’re screwing everything up, how we’re just naifs in the political playground.

177

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 6:34 pm

I think that article is, again, conflating the changes in EU policy (and from governments in Europe) towards the occupied territories with BDS. Or maybe not, perhaps they’re explictely related, but is this the case?

178

Plume 02.07.14 at 6:37 pm

Ronan #175,

I would imagine there is a diversity of opinion on that even within the BDS movement. But, to me, having journeyed a long, long way from near unquestioning support for the Jewish state (with the two-state solution as goal) . . . to the belief that one state is the only just solution . . . . I am fine with those who propose an open society in Israel and an end to an ethnocentric order there. IMO, a two-state solution only postpones the inevitable, and probably makes future conflicts bigger and far more violent.

As in, picture a fairly prosperous Israel alongside an impoverished Palestinian state, albeit it one, finally, with “national autonomy.” The two-state solution also does nothing for those Palestinians who seek a “right of return.” It’s not really a long-term answer. It seems more like a temporary truce, and one in which the “compromise” greatly favors the state of Israel.

179

Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 6:41 pm

“I would imagine there is a diversity of opinion on that even within the BDS movement.”

Of course, but afaik there’s still an organisational structure and something approaching a leadership and so the posibility for specific goals. If they dont exist, then its reasonable some people might make the choice not to support BDS, for that reason. Its probably a strenght and a weakness to be vague. (If their goals are ‘vague’ although could be I havent read enough.)

180

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 6:58 pm

Ronan: BDS has three demands: end of the Occupation (to pre-1967 borders); full and equal rights for Palestinian citizens within Israel; right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The movement, as Plume says, is divided on the question of one-state or two states (and for some, I’m sure, no state at all). And from conversations I’ve had, it’s more than that it is merely divided: it has come to the conclusion that the debate over one v. two states is a bit of an academic dodge, the kind of thing that people like us love to debate — and rightfully so, don’t get me wrong — but that while we debate it the Israelis proceed to build more and more settlements, making anything like a two-state resolution impossible. So they are deliberately staying away from this.

This can create confusion and sow suspicions; I get that. But it has the advantage of doing what it is doing now: putting pressure on the Israelis — or the allies of the Israelis to put pressure on the Israelis — to make concessions. This is very early in the game, so nothing concrete yet. But the fact that Israelis are feeling real pressure — and acknowledging that they feel pressure — for the first time in a very long time is a good sign.

Hope that helps.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the Times is now saying that the effort many of us were a part of to defeat that NYS bill is, well, here’s what the Times is saying: “The turnabout has been described by some as a political earthquake in Albany since Mr. Silver’s bills are almost always adopted and this one had already passed the state senate on a vote of 56 to 4.”

http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/07/boycotting-israel-and-the-first-amendment/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1

I know folks love to bash academics as political naifs; I myself do it too. But a lot of us were involved in this effort, and while it’s by no means over, I think the burden is on our critics to demonstrate that they understand the game of politics better than we do. Because unless you’re a down-the-line support of Netanyahu-style politics — and are thus very happy to see more and more settlements built — I’d say it is your side that needs to show that you have a real plan, not mine.

As Peter Beinart, a firm critic of BDS, acknowledged the other day in Haaretz: “But the tactical brilliance of BDS becomes clearer with every passing month….Were the mainstream Jewish organizations that reject BDS in the name of a negotiated two-state solution actually promoting a negotiated two-state solution, their strategy might have merit. But they’re not….Remember Abba Eban’s famous quip that ‘the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’ These days, that’s what Palestinian activists say about us.”

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.572593

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Ronan(rf) 02.07.14 at 7:02 pm

It does Corey, especially this

“So they are deliberately staying away from this.”

thanks

182

T 02.07.14 at 7:15 pm

Corey – 160

Sorry about the misspelling. My bad. I just noticed 160 from SoU’s post 170.

You seem to want to argue exactly how the ASA resolution does or does not infringe academic freedom. I suggest you can continue the argument with the worthies, the AAUP (SoU: while you don’t give a damn about the AAUP, Corey seems to care a lot), and Judea Pearl. I just note a lot of very prominent members of your own association and your profession disagree with you. You think they’re wrong. They don’t seem to get your message.

Many people of good faith think the resolution is an infringement, you knew that in advance, and you chose this path despite (or rather because of) that disagreement. You could have endorsed non-academic measures and avoided a lot of this. But you didn’t. My fear is that the reaction will damage US academics well beyond the ASA membership. But hey, there are bigger fish to fry and you’re a busy man. (“petty words” — good one.)

SoU – 167

I didn’t see Corey’s post before my additional misspelling. It was unintentional.

You might want to take a look at the letters. You’ll likely be unconvinced. However, there is little doubt in my mind that the authors sincerely believe that the ASA resolution will cause the infringement of academic freedom. And this could have been avoided. There’s no reason this should have been an issue at all.

SoU 171 — I thought the anti-apartheid movement didn’t use academic boycotts.

183

Plume 02.07.14 at 7:22 pm

T,

See the Wiki article on the subject:

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

184

Corey Robin 02.07.14 at 7:44 pm

People who think the ASA has destroyed itself with this resolution might be interested in these numbers just announced by the ASA’s outgoing president: “625 people have joined the ASA as 2014 individual members since December 1. These are not renewals (since people are dropped from the roles after lapsing for six months), but individuals joining for the first time or after a lapse of three years or longer, almost exclusively university based. We collected the most dues revenue for any two month period (December-January) in 25 years.”

Okay, any other arguments that need countering?

185

T 02.07.14 at 7:47 pm

Plume –

Thanks. Do you know if any US academic associations instituted a boycott or was it through the UN as a national policy? Seems that Wiki page is being updated daily.

186

js. 02.07.14 at 8:04 pm

there is little doubt in my mind that the authors sincerely believe that the ASA resolution will cause the infringement of academic freedom

Sure, ok, they’re sincere–but this doesn’t say anything about whether they’re right about it infringing academic freedom. So CR’s demand still stands. And while I don’t know enough to say anything about the former ASA-ers, I would expect that the AAUP position is taken in good, if confused, faith. This shows that the ASA boycott infringes on academic freedom…, how exactly?

Also, 167 is a great comment. Thanks, CR.

(SoU: I agree with a lot of what you have to say, but AAUP are pretty much the good guys on a lot of issues, like e.g., faculty governance, treatment of contingent faculty, etc. That they have no enforcement power is a different kind of problem. Sorry a bit OT.)

187

Marshal Tito 02.07.14 at 8:14 pm

Sock puppet post deleted

188

Chris W 02.07.14 at 9:24 pm

189

SamChevre 02.07.14 at 9:25 pm

For a legal analysis of the proposed House bill, here’s Eugene Volokh. (Since First Amendment/free speech is his primary area of scholarship, he is likely to knwo the law fairly well.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/07/bill-to-block-federal-funding-to-universities-that-boycott-israel/

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T 02.07.14 at 9:51 pm

js – 186 plume – 185

js — Take a look at the signatures on the former president’s letter. Maybe they all got it wrong. Or maybe there is no clear right. But the ASA purposely stuck their thumb in the eye of the US professoriate to increase the level of visibility for their preferred cause. They chose an action — an academic boycott — opposed by AAUP, when other actions were available. http://www.telospress.com/opposing-the-israel-boycott-by-the-american-studies-association/

plume — take a look at the AAUP doc. on boycotts. I did not give it a close reading but it states that “In protesting against apartheid in South Africa, the AAUP carefully distinguished between economic and academic boycotts largely on matters of principle.” I don’t think that’s in the Wiki. http://aaup.org/report/academic-boycotts

Finally, it is no surprise that AAUP opposes the boycott and also opposes the NY and MD bill. They should. Their job is to keep the legislature out of the professoriate’s business. Their job was made a hell of a lot harder by the ASA.

191

Andrew F. 02.07.14 at 10:07 pm

Kaveh @140: Actual return would spell an end to a Jewish majority in Israel, but a theoretical right of return would do no such thing, unless most Palestinians chose to return, which is highly unlikely.

“Dear Israel,

Please issue citizenship papers to x-million refugees and their descendants. While it is true that, should most of these individuals choose to exercise their rights, you would soon disappear as a Jewish state, we are pretty sure that most will not. It’s not as though any organizations would encourage these individuals to exercise their rights simply to drive you out of existence. Sure, perhaps there are a few isolated, fringe organizations that may do so, but it’s not like they hold any power or influence in Palestinian societies. Besides, surely the inclusion of a Hamas-affiliate in the parliament would have a moderating influence on that group? It is well known that in the Middle East, democratization has a moderating and liberalizing influence on all participants (almost immediately, we’re pretty sure). With some significant exceptions. But we’re pretty sure that this isn’t one of them.”

Kaveh, somehow I sense that Israel would be just ever-so-slightly skeptical. Wouldn’t you say?

Seriously, having fought several wars to preserve their existence and identity, Israel is not going to roll the dice on this. It’s a non-starter. Palestinian negotiators actually interested in a deal know this. Israel knows this. The EU knows this. The US knows this. Britain knows this. As far as I can tell, just about everyone seriously engaged knows this, with the exception of groups who aren’t interested in peace and groups who favor the mindless application of UN resolutions to complex international disputes.

Donald Johnson @141: It’s gotten to the point where, as Phil Weiss pointed out at Mondoweiss the other day, Beinart and Friedman (and perhaps even Kerry?) are using the spectre of BDS to try and pressure the alleged 2SS supporters to wake up and see where things are headed.

BDS is being used by everyone, including those in Israel who benefit from the image of a nation under siege. Aside from gaining media attention, I don’t see any indication that it has had much effect in the nearly 10 years of its existence.

An actual resolution to the issue will require realism as to what Israel can accept with respect to the right of return, and with respect to 300,000+ Israelis living in the West Bank. BDS, by drawing its demands in absolute language, is neither a useful vehicle of compromise nor an encouragement to anyone to agree on a compromise. Its demands are unreasonable, and will continue to be politically unpersuasive to Western governments. Israel knows this.

However, BDS can still make a deal harder to achieve. For we cannot gloss over that BDS, by propagating the notion that only a deal meeting its demands can be a just deal, makes it harder, not easier, for Palestinian negotiators to be able to conclude a deal acceptable both to Israel and to Palestinians. In other words, to the extent BDS is persuasive among Palestinians, it can have a radicalizing effect by insisting upon conditions that Israel cannot reasonably be expected to meet.

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Plume 02.07.14 at 10:22 pm

Andrew F.

Why on earth would you think Israel is justified in artificially maintaining its ethnic (Jewish) hegemony on that particular strip of land?

Wouldn’t you find it appalling, for instance, if ethnic Swedes, say, took over a Polynesian island, kicked out the Polynesians there, established a Swedish state, and then claimed it had a “right to exist” . . . . thus preventing a return by the previous inhabitants?

You could envision umpteen scenarios wherein the entire world would be against an ethnically derived, ethnically organized state, cleansed of other ethnicities, attempting to maintain its “purity” and control.

If there are more Palestinians with a claim to that strip of earth, so be it. It was a horrific mistake to steal it from them in the first place.

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EWI 02.07.14 at 10:26 pm

Henry Farrell, while coming from a splinter of the original Sinn Féin that is only nominally Republican, really ought to know better as to the the effectiveness of the boycott.

As with the first target, the Anglo-Irish landlord Captain Boycott, the effectiveness of the tactic is revealed by the vehement reaction by the powerful to its’ employment. Concern trolls can be safely ignored.

194

Plume 02.07.14 at 10:26 pm

And, again, there is no evidence that it has been a “safe haven” for Jews. Quite the opposite. If the purpose was to provide a place of safety and security in the wake of the Holocaust, it was a massive error and failure of epic proportions.

Again, the desire for the safe haven was more than just understandable and self-evidently legitimate. It was profoundly that. But the choice of where and how contradicted all of that and is still in major conflict with that desire.

195

EWI 02.07.14 at 10:28 pm

and groups who favor the mindless application of UN resolutions to complex international disputes.

Oh, the “complexity” argument. Haven’t seen that one deployed in a while.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.07.14 at 10:34 pm

“In other words, to the extent BDS is persuasive among Palestinians, it can have a radicalizing effect by insisting upon conditions that Israel cannot reasonably be expected to meet.”

So, your idea is to demoralize the victims to such an extent that they would accept the conditions that the usurper deems reasonable. But aside from this being … well, how do I put it? … wrong, it doesn’t really work. The usurper feels: hey, why not demoralize them even more?

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js. 02.07.14 at 10:46 pm

Take a look at the signatures on the former president’s letter.

Again, I don’t think that an argument from authority is going to be effective here. Multiple people have asked for specific ways in which the ASA boycott infringes on academic freedom. As far as I can tell, you have failed to supply any.

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Collin Street 02.07.14 at 10:59 pm

with respect to 300,000+ Israelis living in the West Bank.

Israel does not make and has never made any de-jure claim to the west bank outside “east jerusalem”. Israelis living on the west bank cannot be doing so under legal rights granted by israel, because israel does not claim to have any legal rights to grant.

Jewish settlers do not matter, and jewish settlers do not complicate anything, because jewish settlers have essentially no rights whatsoever. The jewish settlers have no rights because the government of the state of israel has repeatedly refused to take the steps that would enable the government to grant rights to settlers. The reasons for this are complex, but the facts are not.

This is how badly the government of the state of israel has fucked things.

199

SoU 02.07.14 at 11:23 pm

js. @186 – noted. guess im just extrapolating out my problem(s) with my own uni.’s prez then; will reconsider.

200

SamChevre 02.07.14 at 11:30 pm

As far as I can tell, just about everyone seriously engaged knows this, with the exception of groups who aren’t interested in peace and groups who favor the mindless application of UN resolutions to complex international disputes.

I think this is too kind by a large margin. “Everyone seriously engaged” includes an awful lot of people who oppose the Jews having a state; they are completely fine with the Poles and the Turks and the Czechs and the Chinese having states some portion of which used to be occupied by other ethnic groups, but definitely not the Jews.

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MPAVictoria 02.08.14 at 12:05 am

“I think this is too kind by a large margin. “Everyone seriously engaged” includes an awful lot of people who oppose the Jews having a state; they are completely fine with the Poles and the Turks and the Czechs and the Chinese having states some portion of which used to be occupied by other ethnic groups, but definitely not the Jews.”

Exactly. It is also worth pointing out that no one on the left see,s to be concerned about what will happen to the thriving LGBTQ community in Israel? This is an issue of particular importance to me.

202

Ronan(rf) 02.08.14 at 12:16 am

What will happen in what circumstances ?

203

Luc 02.08.14 at 12:21 am

As for SA, ten years ago I dumped the following intemperate comment on this blog:


I have no sympathy with academic boycotts based on political objections to government policies.

Which reminds me of the university where I studied and worked. During the boycott of SA they kept cooperating with a university in SA of the same religious variety with the defence that “they had special programs for blacks”. Yuck.

These days I can google a more objective writeup of these days:

In that same period, the VU strengthened its contacts with the Christian Institute and built up as­sis­tan­ce pro­gram­me’s for academic institutions for black people in sout­hern Afri­ca­. And the de­bate on the Ex­chan­ge Pro­gram­me be­tween the VU and the Pot­chef­stroom Uni­ver­sity was in­ten­si­fied. Anti-apart­heid ele­ments at the VU wanted a boycott. The Board and the Univer­sity Council wanted to dis­cuss with Potchefstroom the role of Chris­tia­nity in mo­dern so­ciety and the con­tribu­tion of Chris­tian hig­her edu­ca­tion: to streng­then the human rights, demo­cracy, emanci­pation. There was too much poli­tics and mis­un­der­stan­ding in their discussi­ons, with par­ticipants clinging to un­brid­gea­ble pa­ra­digms, in spite of stam­ver­want­schap and geest­ver­want­schap. By the end of 1976, the VU formally ended the Pot­chef­stroom coop­era­tion. The old sen­ti­ments had faded away, a new good faith was re­quired.

Anyway, the academic boycott of SA was real and you can find many examples if you look for them. I don’t know why so many people resort to denials (including the AAUP) but this also has become standard fare in the IP discussions.

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Ronan(rf) 02.08.14 at 12:27 am

Andrew @191 – come on man, you’re really laying it in thick here. It can’t be completely ineffective and a harbinger of doom.

205

adam.smith 02.08.14 at 1:13 am

It is also worth pointing out that no one on the left see,s to be concerned about what will happen to the thriving LGBTQ community in Israel? This is an issue of particular importance to me.

that’s manifestly false. There is a whole discourse about pinkwashing by Israel.

206

Plume 02.08.14 at 2:13 am

@#200,

What a strange suggestion. That anyone is supposedly fine with any kind of ethnic cleansing or oppression of other groups. How you came up with that conclusion is baffling.

Also, hundreds upon hundreds of ethnic groups “never gotta country.” There were all kinds of Red Buttons throughout history that never got one.

And then you bring up the Turks, the Chinese, the Poles and the Czechs? The Turks are the natural majority in Turkey, making up roughly 80% of that very large nation. The Chinese are another natural majority, having controlled roughly the same geographical space, give or take, for thousands of years. The Czechs are the natural majority on their spot of turf (a breakaway nation), as are the Poles, while both peoples were under constant attack for centuries, usually by Germans and Russians.

The Jewish state, OTOH, is a completely artificial construction from the outside, imposed on that strip of land by a few very powerful actors. The Jewish state was created by throwing Palestinians (primarily) off their lands, whose ancestors had been there for thousands of years prior to 1948. The Jews who settled in the Jewish state after 1948? Their ancestors had been absent from that land for nearly two thousand years, and they came primarily from Europe and Russia.

There is no equivalent to the Jewish State, anywhere. It’s unique in its hows and whys. It’s unique in history.

207

Ronan(rf) 02.08.14 at 2:17 am

“For we cannot gloss over that BDS, by propagating the notion that only a deal meeting its demands can be a just deal, makes it harder, not easier, for Palestinian negotiators to be able to conclude a deal acceptable both to Israel and to Palestinians. In other words..”

Just to add, Andrew, I do think this is all a little patronishing – the idea that individuals and organisations *actually living* with the situation and who know the history and politics of it better than you possibly can, are unaware 0f the complexity of it, or are making a hamfisted, tone deaf move.
You seem to disagree with a specific goal of BDS (the right of return) and a clause not included (the right of Israel to exist) but you also admit the goal isnt going to be realised and I dont see the relevance of the clause. You’re largely caught up arguing over aesthetics and missing the bigger picture.
My half educated guess would be OF COURSE you have to include the right of return in there somewhere. I have no idea how deep this goes within the movement, but I cant see how they could not include it(its included in the offiical negotiating position for God sake)
The idea that they should have to preface their mission statement with an acknowledgment that Israel ‘has a right to exist’ (an empty symbolic gesture at this stage) seems completely absurd and counterproductive when trying to build an actual movement *in these circumstances.* You seem to expect the BDS movement to exist on some higher plane, utterly removed from politics (if that is part of the explanation) who have to remain completely pure if you’re going to take them seriously.
You are also missing the point,that there *is no peace process* at the minute, and a huge amount of dissatisfaction with the Palestinian political elites, so why should they not resort to this tactic ? Critics have been calling for a ‘non violent’ Palestinian opposition (which there always was) for years, so here it is. Why not get on board with it ?
And it can be effective without resolving the conflict in one go. There are levels of effectiveness. It can exist with negotiations and any number of other tactics, so I think your rhetoric is absoluely over the top. (Bear in mind as well, unfortunately there is evidence that the violence of the 00s *has worked* to some degree, as it has usually been followed by more concessions from Israel. Although it hasnt worked in a number of other ways)
So you’re looking for excuses, I think. As was I a bit, but I’m not sure why I wouldnt support it at this stage.

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Marshal Tito 02.08.14 at 3:01 am

Sock puppet post deleted

209

Marshal Tito 02.08.14 at 3:04 am

Sock puppet post deleted

210

T 02.08.14 at 4:05 am

js – 197
I completely agree with your statement that “I don’t think an argument from authority is going to be effective here.” Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to least acknowledge certain voices.

Henry Farrell: “The other [Henry] is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.” http://crookedtimber.org/2014/02/04/an-open-letter-on-the-anti-boycott-bills/ (This appeared in a joint statement by Henry Farrell and Corey Robin opposing the NY and MD legislation.) pretty words, indeed.

More opposition from a group of ASA distinguished scholars based in part on the infringement of academic freedom inherent in the boycott. The ASA was kind enough to provide a link on its website.
http://www.theasa.net/opportunities/item/asa_turpie_award_winners_in_opposition_to_israeli_boycott_resolution/

I’d expect such statements to have more impact in a legislative setting than a blog. And that’s where the action is at this point.

211

geo 02.08.14 at 4:10 am

Sam Chevre @200: an awful lot of people who oppose the Jews having a state … are completely fine with the Poles and the Turks and the Czechs and the Chinese having states some portion of which used to be occupied by other ethnic groups

All citizens of Poland are Poles. All citizens of Turkey are Turks. All citizens of Czechoslovakia are Czechs. All citizens of China are Chinese. So Poland is a Polish state, Turkey is a Turkish state, etc.

A majority of Poles are Catholic, of Turks are Muslims, of Chinese are Han. But if Poland declared itself a Catholic state, Turkey a Muslim state, or China a Han state — or the US a white state or a Christian state — you (I hope) and I would strongly object.

All citizens of Israel are Israeli. But not all citizens of Israel are Jews. Why then is it self-evident that Israel should be a Jewish state?

212

MPAVictoria 02.08.14 at 5:31 am

I am actually surprised by the push back here on the concern for LGBTQ rights by Adam and whoever Tito is. I feel like it is a legitimate question. I think you both need to ask yourselves why you don’t care about the well being of the Israeli LGBTQ community.

213

MPAVictoria 02.08.14 at 5:37 am

Adam:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Israel have advanced in recent years and have generally been seen as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East and Asia. See more here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Israel

Additionally I actually know some gy Israelis do you?

214

godoggo 02.08.14 at 6:02 am

I don’t think ultra-orthodox Jews are as monolithically anti-gay as fundamentalists in other religions. It all comes down to a particular rebbe’s way of deciphering the Talmud.

215

js. 02.08.14 at 8:26 am

I’d expect such statements to have more impact in a legislative setting than a blog. And that’s where the action is at this point.

I guess I don’t quite see why you’re wasting your time here then.

216

EWI 02.08.14 at 8:49 am

Ronan @ 207:

Critics have been calling for a ‘non violent’ Palestinian opposition (which there always was) for years, so here it is. Why not get on board with it ?

Because the bulldozer-and-bombing-runs enthusiasts were lying about the “non violent” bit, i.e. it’s just another stalling tactic while they continue their creeping ethnic-cleansing of Palestinians.

217

Collin Street 02.08.14 at 9:47 am

Additionally I actually know some gy Israelis do you?

Jews, yes? Half the gay population of israel and the territories — or more, there’s no proper census — twenty percent of the gay population of israel-proper, is arab. Turns out people aren’t entirely defined by their sexuality. More gay people die through israeli rockets than hate attacks, &c.

[but essentially someone's pulled some cheap rhetorical tricks on you to get you into a game of "let's him and you fight". You should probably check your mental barriers against being manipulated.]

218

Collin Street 02.08.14 at 10:00 am

And similarly, and to drag it back on topic:
the biggest academic freedom issue facing people in israel-and-the-territories is that half of them aren’t from the state-endorsed cultural background and therefore find it hard to travel or to get their research funded.

[again: does the government of the state of israel run any arab-language universities for the twenty percent of the population of israel-proper that speaks arabic as their first language? Finland's about the same size as israel-proper and manages it for a 5% minority language...]

219

Ronan(rf) 02.08.14 at 11:16 am

@212

Again though, what exactely is your concern ? All you said was why arent we concerned about ‘what will happen to the LGBT community’, without giving any clue as to what you think is going to happen. What’s the context you’re imagining? If Hamas take over the institutions of the Israelie state ?
Yes I do know gay Israeli’s, and Ive found almost uniformily as much as there are concerns about gay rights etc in Israel, its due to the *Israeli religious right* not whatever it is you’re strawmanning here.

220

Ronan(rf) 02.08.14 at 11:21 am

Or as godoggo said more succintly.

Are you actually talking about within Israel, from the Israeli right ? That would make more sense I guess, so sorry of I misunderstood.

221

Andrew F. 02.08.14 at 12:39 pm

Ronan: You seem to disagree with a specific goal of BDS (the right of return) and a clause not included (the right of Israel to exist) but you also admit the goal isnt going to be realised and I dont see the relevance of the clause. You’re largely caught up arguing over aesthetics and missing the bigger picture.

A movement advocates that a certain country be shunned economically, financially, academically, and punished as well, until three conditions are met. Until all three are met, this movement’s leaders have repeatedly said, the shunning and punishment must continue.

To evaluate the merits of the movement, one obviously must evaluate the merits of their demands, which are also their justifications for the harm to be inflicted on the country in question.

If one of those demands is clearly unreasonable, if the advocacy of it is actually harmful to the larger issue of conflict resolution, and if the movement nonetheless insists it to be essential, then we should dismiss the movement itself as, at a minimum, unwise, and very likely unethical as well.

You are willing to dismiss one of their demands as a negotiating ploy, but in fact they’ve said that it is not simply a ploy, but essential. I take them at their word, which their actions have given me no reason to doubt, and I judge them accordingly.

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T 02.08.14 at 2:13 pm

js — 114

To say something has more impact in one forum doesn’t mean it has no impact in the other. I think the word is less.

Also, the thread has been very useful in linking outside materials. Corey has been particularly good at linking to articles and analysis about the resolution and its aftermath and that has been a great service. I’ve tended to link to statements by dissenters to the resolution within in the ASA and other academic organizations. Obviously, if you don’t care what people that disagree with you think, the links aren’t very helpful.

Finally, while the debate in the thread can be lively and informative, I don’t see too many opinions changing or too many agnostic posters. (Corey response to the seven former ASA president’s and other distinguished ASA members – “That a bunch of worthies think the ASA boycott violates academic freedom — but can’t exactly tell you why — is really neither here nor there to me.” ouch.) In contrast, the legislative outcome is uncertain and legislators have been changing their opinions day to day. So, I’d expect statements by distinguished ASA members to have more impact in a legislative setting than a blog. Which is what I said in the first place.

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MPAVictoria 02.08.14 at 2:57 pm

“Are you actually talking about within Israel, from the Israeli right ? That would make more sense I guess, so sorry of I misunderstood.”

I am concerned about what will happen if fundamentalists on either side get control of the government. Right now the Israeli government does pretty well on the issue. Not perfect but the best in the region by a country mile. What happens in a single state solution? Probably nothing good and for a variety of reasons this issue is of particular importance to me. But you are right my concerns are off topic.

224

LFC 02.08.14 at 3:01 pm

Ronan @207
“there is no peace process at the minute”

Well, there are the beginnings of negotiations, for the first time in quite a while. Whether they will go anywhere remains to be seen.

Of BDS’s three demands, as set out by Corey @180, the third (rt of return) does seem different in that any final-status agreement one can envision as possible will not include it but rather at best, I would think, some form of acknowledgment plus compensation (as you have mentioned yourself here before, I think). I’m not sure its inclusion in ‘the demands’ is all that actively harmful, but if it were replaced by compensation I think BDS might gain more followers. (Of course the ‘call by Palestinian civil society’ wd presumably not agree to that.)

It’s also fairly clear btw that a return to the *exact* pre-67 boundaries is not in the cards, but rather a return, again at best, to something close to the pre-67 boundaries, with some land swaps on both sides. Again, though, I’m not sure the precise phrasing of the demands matters that much, since the BDS proponents must know that the demands as they stand (per Corey @180) are not realizable.

I have a suspicion that if any U.S. politician of some ‘mainstream’ standing were ever to have the courage to break publicly and forcefully w AIPAC et al, the response might be surprising. I’m waiting for a respected Dem. Senator to stand up and say that the US shd no longer guarantee Israel’s so-called QME (qualitative military edge) unless the Israeli govt makes real concessions toward a settlement. That might get some attention.

The reason is that Israel, despite having nuclear weapons, would presumably rather not be placed in a position where it might have to think about actually using them to ensure its survival, and one way to place it in that uncomfortable position would be for the U.S., France, and other major arms-supplier countries to make clear to Israel that its conventional QME is no longer a foregone conclusion (unless it makes certain changes in policy).

225

DaveL 02.08.14 at 4:59 pm

geo @ 211: “A majority of Poles are Catholic, of Turks are Muslims, of Chinese are Han. But if Poland declared itself a Catholic state, Turkey a Muslim state, or China a Han state — or the US a white state or a Christian state — you (I hope) and I would strongly object.”

Turkey became a Turkish state by conquest and ethnic cleansing, China became a Han state by conquest and forced assimilation. Both of these campaigns continue today (against Kurds in the case of Turkey and ethnic minorities in China). No one seems to be boycotting China over the Uighurs or Tibetans, or Turkey over the Kurds.

lfc @ 224: Attempting to reduce Israel to having only a nuclear deterrent as Iran is moving forcefully toward a nuclear capability seems to me to be a good way to promote a nuclear exchange in the Middle East.

226

LFC 02.08.14 at 5:49 pm

Dave L @225: (a) Not quite what I said. (b) I won’t get into Iran here.

227

geo 02.08.14 at 6:11 pm

Right, Dave. Your point takes us back to earlier in this and other CT threads, where Corey and others very persuasively (to me) addressed the objection: “Why single out Israel?” I won’t try to recapitulate, but you should look up their comments.

As for Turkey’s war on the Kurds: I’m not sure how much, if any, protest there’s been on most of the left, but Chomsky has certainly written a great deal about it.

The question remains: if we generally believe that religiously- or ethnically-based states are ipso facto undemocratic, then why doesn’t the notion of a Jewish state seem as immediately and obviously unacceptable as the idea of a Christian state or a Hindu state or a Han state or a Saxon state?

228

Plume 02.08.14 at 6:11 pm

DaveL,

It’s generally not a good idea to say “no one does this or that,” though I, too, fall prey to that from time to time. There are large movements geared toward protest and boycotts over Chinese treatment of Tibet and other minorities, and the same with Turkish treatment of their minorities.

Aside from the completely different way in which these states formed as opposed to the Jewish State, especially when it comes to natural majorities in a space dominated for centuries, if not thousands of years, we also have the matter of direct, financial and existential interest in Israel, which is not the case for the other nations mentioned:

We in America give Israel more than three billion dollars in aid each year. They are currently Number Two behind Afghanistan in total aid, and will likely go back to Number One once we leave. Turkey is not even in the top 25, the lowest in that group being Indonesia, which receives roughly 250 million dollars in a year. And our continued support for Israel costs us in many other ways as well. It turns us into targets and endangers Americans all over the world. In short, our direct aid to the state of Israel, our direct support for its government, puts Americans in harm’s way and costs taxpayers a very large sum each year.

That makes focusing on Israeli policies far more relevant, germane and logical than a focus on Chinese policies or Turkish policies, though they, too, deserve our attention. And we can not boycott everything or everyone. If the criteria for boycotting a country is their treatment of minorities, then very few countries would escape boycotts — including America. We would, in fact, given our history, be among the very worst offenders worldwide.

To me, it’s just not an effective argument to try to say the Jewish state is just like all these other states, so why aren’t we focusing on all these other states. In a sense, you’re saying, why focus on Israel at all, by way of the speeding ticket defense:

“Everyone speeds, your honor. Why pick on me?”

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Plume 02.08.14 at 6:18 pm

Geo,

The question remains: if we generally believe that religiously- or ethnically-based states are ipso facto undemocratic, then why doesn’t the notion of a Jewish state seem as immediately and obviously unacceptable as the idea of a Christian state or a Hindu state or a Han state or a Saxon state?

These are very good questions. As mentioned, when younger, I didn’t even think to ask them. It really never occurred to me to do so. Now, in 2014, in my 50s, they seem all too obvious and self-evident. At the very least, as questions.

230

Donald Johnson 02.08.14 at 6:21 pm

“That anyone is supposedly fine with any kind of ethnic cleansing or oppression of other groups. How you came up with that conclusion is baffling.”

It’s a standard argument on this subject. Israel defenders claim Israel is a Western democracy, and then turn around and attack its critics on the grounds that some other countries are as bad or worse. I happen to agree with them on that part–I don’t think Israeli oppression of Palestinians is anything extraordinary in the annals of human oppression. But then the Israel defenders shouldn’t play the game of saying that Israel is this wonderful democracy , and then on the other hand complain that Israel is being boycotted the way we might boycott another Western democracy that oppressed a minority group. If Israel is just another country with a crappy human rights record,then fine. Keep that in mind and let’s stop shipping them weapons. But no, we’re supposed to ship them weapons, listen to US politicians praise them to the skies, and then get upset when some professors join the BDS movement because Israel is no worse than China.

Gorgonzola replying to Andrew F–“So, your idea is to demoralize the victims to such an extent that they would accept the conditions that the usurper deems reasonable. But aside from this being … well, how do I put it? … wrong, it doesn’t really work. The usurper feels: hey, why not demoralize them even more?”

That’s pretty much it. Andrew’s attitude is that Palestinians shouldn’t get uppity and be willing to take whatever scraps the Israelis are willing to toss. And evidently there’s nothing immoral in pandering to Israeli desires, which is why so many alleged 2SS supporters say nothing while the US supplies billions in aid to Israel, but think BDS is immoral.

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GiT 02.08.14 at 6:27 pm

“No one seems to be boycotting China over the Uighurs or Tibetans”

Because “Free Tibet” hasn’t been a bumper sticker slogan among liberals and leftists for decades.

Oh, wait…

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T 02.08.14 at 6:50 pm

Quick question for those in the know. Has there ever been a circumstance in the past where the ASA boycott of Israeli academic institutions and their representatives would have been binding? Or, as in Henry’s view, is the boycott a “totally symbolic gesture?” Any ASA members?

From the ASA boycott FAQ

“However, the boycott does oppose participation in conferences or events officially sponsored by Israeli universities.” http://www.theasa.net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf
and
“This boycott targets institutions and their representatives, not individual scholars, students or cultural workers who will be able to participate in the ASA conference or give public lectures at campuses, provided they are not expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents, etc.), or of the Israeli government.”

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LFC 02.08.14 at 6:57 pm

@plume, geo

An interesting case here is that of Pakistan. The parallels between Israel and Pakistan — one a Jewish state, the other established in the name of Islam — are examined in a recent book I have not read but have seen mentioned: Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion.

Apologies for linking Amazon but it seems easiest:
http://www.amazon.com/Muslim-Zion-Pakistan-Political-Idea/dp/0674072677/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391885362&sr=1-1&keywords=muslim+zion+pakistan+as+a+political+idea

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Ivor 02.08.14 at 7:37 pm

Surely we can forget the ASA.

The issue is the moral basis for boycotts.

You cannot have academic freedom in unfree society.

Israel is just a case in point.

Has the ASA supported or opposed the boycotts of Cuba or the 1980 Olympic games???

Should one clique in society have access to education denied to others becasue of race, gender, creed?

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DaveL 02.08.14 at 7:58 pm

Plume @ 228: “We in America give Israel more than three billion dollars in aid each year.”

Isn’t that the matching $3 billion to what we give Egypt yearly to bribe both of them to recognize and not be overtly hostile to each other? I.e., an outcome of the Camp David agreement.

“Everyone speeds, your honor. Why pick on me?”

Usually the person saying that is actually behaving much worse than the other drivers. To be a proper analogy, it would have to be someone who was a few mph fast on a road where about one car in four is a drag racer. Under such circumstances one has to wonder why the “offender” is really being pulled over.

GiT @ 231: “Because “Free Tibet” hasn’t been a bumper sticker slogan among liberals and leftists for decades.”

How many academic organizations boycott China in the same way the ASA proposes to boycott Israel? Does the ASA have such a boycott? Perhaps the ASA boycott of Israel has the same intent as the bumper stickers: “symbolic gesture,” as in several previous comments.

All this is, of course, a derailment of the intent of the thread. It is indeed a violation of academic freedom to legislate against such boycotts, and it is the case that the boycotts themselves threaten academic freedom. I would agree that the bill (i.e., something with teeth) is a bigger threat than a “symbolic gesture,” however ill-advised.

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Plume 02.08.14 at 8:33 pm

DaveL,

Egypt receives about half the total going to Israel (per year). But that’s not really the point. Focusing on Israel makes sense for a host of reasons, not the least of them being our long-standing and direct connections. We actually have some influence over their policy decisions. Can the same be said about China? Or even Turkey?

And how often do American and Chinese academics interface, even in the best of times? We don’t have a particular good relationship with them. It would be like boycotting a store you never go to.

The relationship with Israel is a different matter, and they owe us, big time. They, in fact, would not exist without American military power and financial support. This is not something that is said all too often in pubic in America, but it’s true. There would be no Jewish state currently without American support, and the Muslim world knows this as well.

To put it lightly, that is a constant source of “tension.”

237

adam.smith 02.08.14 at 8:53 pm

@MPAVictoria 212/213 — I’m just saying that the idea that no one on the left cares about gay rights in Israel is wrong. As I point out, there is a large discourse on the left about this. Unsurprisingly (I’d say), using gay rights as an argument to deny other people’s human rights isn’t something that goes over particularly well on the left.
And the problem is that the “but Israel is so liberal” line is most frequently employed to essentially legitimize the status quo (with perhaps a token nod to a two state solution). That’s why the Israeli government is very actively using it in its propaganda efforts. The situation people claim to be worried about is just so far fetched: I don’t think a single state is a realistic option at all (and I think its proponents understate legitimate security concerns and hostility between groups). But if you think it is, then you probably don’t imagine that the Israeli Jews will just happily concede to be governed by Hamas. So the situation where suddenly LGBT folks get persecuted in Israeli is not really in the cards and bringing it up all the time in arguments about Palestinian human rights (and people do) is a bit suspicious.

238

Chris Warren 02.08.14 at 9:11 pm

re Plume

They, in fact, would not exist without American military power and financial support.

Exactly right.

But I would go further. Israel is symbolic of all that is wrong with old-world global political economy.

Up until the UN de-colonisation process, the old world was constructed by invasions and expulsions of original inhabitants. Israel is the last remnant of this reality. It represents the same injustice we, in Australia, now struggle within our own birth processes. If Australia has a birthstain due to the eradication of original inhabitants, those who defend Israel are also smeared with the same stain.

It is gratifying that the ASA seems able to take some tentative steps to extricate American academics from their past complicity in fostering a rather rancid, chauvinistic, violent state in the Middle East.

239

Andrew F. 02.08.14 at 9:26 pm

Donald Johnson: That’s pretty much it. Andrew’s attitude is that Palestinians shouldn’t get uppity and be willing to take whatever scraps the Israelis are willing to toss. And evidently there’s nothing immoral in pandering to Israeli desires, which is why so many alleged 2SS supporters say nothing while the US supplies billions in aid to Israel, but think BDS is immoral.

That’s a grotesque misunderstanding of my argument, which is:

(1) A realistic settlement between Israel and Palestinians obviously must be comprised of terms acceptable to both parties;

(2) The BDS demands include terms that are manifestly not acceptable to Israel, and are unlikely to become acceptable to Israel in the foreseeable future;

(3) To insist upon those demands is to oppose a realistic peaceful settlement;

(4) To encourage the adoption of those demands by Palestinians and others globally is to foster increased opposition to any realistic peaceful settlement;

(5) While sometimes conflict is to be preferred over an unjust peace, here the BDS demands are unnecessary to achieve a two-state solution, to achieve autonomy for the Palestinians, and to achieve statehood for the Palestinians.

Conclusion: BDS is a movement that makes a peaceful settlement more difficult to achieve by encouraging the adoption of demands that cannot be agreed to by Israel and that are unnecessary to the substantial goals of a peaceful settlement. They are an obstacle to progress.

Sorry. What LFC said above re: likely settlement would include close to 1967 borders, but with some land swaps (taking into account some Israeli settlements), and would not include right of return, is completely correct.

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adam.smith 02.08.14 at 9:49 pm

(2) The BDS demands include terms that are manifestly not acceptable to Israel, and are unlikely to become acceptable to Israel in the foreseeable future;

that’s not much of an argument. Because one of the things that make the conflict so intractable is that this is just as true:

(2) The Israeli demands include terms that are manifestly not acceptable to any Palestinian group, and are unlikely to become acceptable to Palestinians in the foreseeable future;

so why should Palestinians give up their core demands but Israel shouldn’t?
It’s not like the right of return is an idea that some radical UK academics invented and then introduced into the Palestinian collective psyche via BDS…

241

Plume 02.08.14 at 9:57 pm

Andrew F. #239,

Not sure you really have a very good conception/understanding of what boycott and protest movements generally are all about. They don’t do what they do in order to fit in nicely with an idea of mutually agreeable compromise. That’s not their job. That’s for “official” negotiators to hash out later.

Boycott and protest movements are designed to get in the face of people, organizations or states they see as oppressive and push back hard against their oppression. It’s rather bizarre to expect them to play nicey nicey and stay within parameters that would appeal to the oppressor in question. In effect, you’re asking them to pre-negotiate with Israel, to craft their demands in such a way that is acceptable to a state they see as highly oppressive — at least along the lines described.

It would be like asking abolitionists to craft their message and their demands in such a way that slaveholders wouldn’t be too put off by it all.

242

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.08.14 at 10:01 pm

Andrew, a piece of paper signed by politicians is not a “realistic peaceful settlement”. It’s nothing. How do 5 million 1948/67 refugees (what is unacceptable to them) fit into your scheme? Your relentless insistence that the Israeli society is so savage that it’s absolutely unable to right its wrongs and therefore must be appeased, is very troubling and unpleasant. After all, white South Africans did manage to end the apartheid, when enough pressure was applied. What’s so different about this situation?

243

Plume 02.08.14 at 10:10 pm

IOW,

boycotts and protests apply pressure. They’re designed to compel change. They’re also designed to provoke international support for that change. Negotiations and compromise, OTOH, come later.

Any protest movement that cedes ground upfront is beyond foolish. Any protest movement that tries to make it easier for the other side to accept its positions by accepting their framing of the issue?

Well, they need to go back and study protest movements, because that’s how one gets rolled.

244

Collin Street 02.08.14 at 10:42 pm

Andrew, the claims the palestinians make are going to be entirely things the israelis don’t want to give up. And vice-versa. Think on the social dynamics here:
+ you don’t claim things you don’t want
+ if the other side doesn’t want it you can have it without them objecting
+ you don’t claim things you already have.

… so the only claims left to make are the things the other side wants and is thus claiming themselves. No? And getting any claim involves the other side giving up something it wants, and the other side doesn’t want to do that: the only way to keep the other side entirely happy is to not claim anything they want.

And that’s not going to work for delivering you what you want, is it?

[Really, the problem with middle-east peace is that because of the focus on israel's military strength and with the backing of the US government the israeli population has forgotten that their actual negotiating position, stripped of violence and the threat of violence, is in reality extraordinarily weak. And -- for reasons that should be obvious -- military strength and potential-for-violence doesn't actually hugely change the shape of the peaceful solutions. So there's this huge expectations gap: everything that the IDF has been able to deliver on the battlefield becomes essentially meaningless for the peace negotiations, if you want the outcome to actually be peaceful. Which... yeah. It's not like the israelis weren't told all this in the seventies, and we can't actually save people from the consequences of their own bad decision-making: effort that israel has put into shoring up its military position is essentially effort that won't shift the final-status negotiated solution. Israel is pretty fucked, strategically, and the sooner they cut a deal the better the deal will be. Certainly the deals they were offered in the past are better than the deals they're getting offered now: it's seeming like they're starting to realise. Denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance.]

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T 02.08.14 at 11:07 pm

js & SoU

Seems you wanted a specific example of an infringement on academic freedom by the ASA resolution. I think the fact that the “boycott does oppose participation in conferences or events officially sponsored by Israeli universities” is one. http://www.theasa.net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf This might be a non-issue in ASA in practice (don’t know), but it is definitely not in other academic fields. Many boycotts do not have an enforcement mechanism so the fact that any particular scholar can do what they want is, in my opinion, not a persuasive rejoinder. That person would still be violating the boycott. And, of course, it would have negative effects on the boycotted conference. I’d be interested in your response.

Let’s all turn down the snark dial.

246

Andrew F. 02.08.14 at 11:36 pm

adam.smith @240: so why should Palestinians give up their core demands but Israel shouldn’t? It’s not like the right of return is an idea that some radical UK academics invented and then introduced into the Palestinian collective psyche via BDS…

Gorgonzola @242: How do 5 million 1948/67 refugees (what is unacceptable to them) fit into your scheme?

The right of return does not have as much impact on the Palestinians as it does upon Israel, for the reason that Kaveh raised earlier: most who qualify will probably not return as they have created, or for the most part have been born into, lives elsewhere.

While the Palestinians risk nothing by being granted an option to move to Israel as full citizens, Israel risks its very identity.

So looking simply at the balance of actual interests, this is a demand to which Israel will reasonably not accede to, and cannot be persuaded to accede to. By contrast, since most Palestinians claim little interest in exercising an option of return, this is a demand that they would be unwise to render essential to the formation of a settlement that gains them the opportunity for greater economic and political progress.

As to why I am sympathetic to the idea of Israel’s existence, presumably there is no need to recite the historical events that spurred the creation of the modern Israeli state. And while I do not regard that as license for Israel to exercise discrimination against non-Jews, I do think it reasonable for Israel to deny admittance to a huge influx of persons who have no connection to the Israeli nation-state, who indeed for the most part have a great and understandable antipathy, and who could literally control the democratic institutions of its government.

That said, I also think an acknowledgement of the pain and suffering caused by the forced exodus of many, and as part of that acknowledgement, compensation, is morally important and politically prudent.

Plume @243: Any protest movement that cedes ground upfront is beyond foolish. Any protest movement that tries to make it easier for the other side to accept its positions by accepting their framing of the issue?

Let me call bullshit.

I judge a political movement by its stated goals and actions. I see nothing to indicate that BDS has a super-secret agenda for a realistic peace settlement, towards the achievement of which its current demands are merely useful bargaining chips. Indeed the leaders of BDS have stated precisely the opposite. Your defense of BDS is essentially: sure, their demands are unreasonable, but they don’t really mean what they say.

You also seem to think that BDS is simply making demands towards Israel. But it’s not. It’s asking that others take certain actions to force Israel to accept certain demands. BDS isn’t empowered to represent anyone and has no control over anyone else’s actions. So whether they are effective depends crucially on whether they are persuasive; and whether they are persuasive depends largely on whether those specified demands are reasonable and helpful. They aren’t in a position to call off boycotts once Israel agrees to a package they secretly find acceptable, because they don’t control any of those boycotts. So they can’t negotiate. And since none of us is in possession of the secret communique in which BDS explains that these demands are really just bargaining ploys, and what we’re really aiming for with these boycotts is something else, and we’re all going to tacitly coordinate to achieve that something else, we’re just going to have to determine whether to endorse or reject BDS’s call based on what they actually say.

And by the way, a protest movement that depends on persuading others and starts out with unreasonable demands isn’t going to need to get rolled, because they’re likely going to be completely ineffective.

247

MPAVictoria 02.09.14 at 1:06 am

“past complicity in fostering a rather rancid, chauvinistic, violent state in the Middle East.”

Name me a state in the Middle East that ISN’T “rancid, chauvinistic, violent”.

248

SoU 02.09.14 at 1:10 am

“Name me a state that ISN’T ‘rancid, chauvinistic, violent’.”
ftfy

249

MPAVictoria 02.09.14 at 1:11 am

Heck name me one state anywhere!
/and I just made myself sad…. Sigh.

250

MPAVictoria 02.09.14 at 1:12 am

Looks like we had the same idea SoU.

251

Collin Street 02.09.14 at 1:37 am

I see nothing to indicate that BDS has a super-secret agenda for a realistic peace settlement

The thing is, it’s israeli expectations that are unreasonable. Normal starting point for these sorts of negotiations is:
+ status-quo-ante-bellum [in this case, '67 borders.]
+ as-it-stands [in this case, one-state solution]
+ some third position mutually agreed.

If they want anything beyond the ’67 borders, or if they want to impose limitations on palestine [demilitarised, whatever], the israelis are going to have to pay the palestinians to agree. And pay them good and proper, because the palestinians and the israeli government know how weak the israeli position is, even if the israeli population doesn’t.

[the same goes for right-of-return, but having right-of-return in your negotiating position is no more unreasonable than asking to keep any settlements: it's something you're going to have to pay for, but that doesn't mean you can't ask.]

252

Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 1:42 am

Collin Street @152, 218:
[again: does the government of the state of israel run any arab-language universities for the twenty percent of the population of israel-proper that speaks arabic as their first language? Finland's about the same size as israel-proper and manages it for a 5% minority language...]

A better comparison might be the states of Arizona and New Mexico, or the southern third of California — comparable total population, minority language prevalence, and history of adversarial occupation, legal oppression and economic privation. (Visiting Española and the pueblos east of it from Los Alamos has been aptly described by more than one Israeli visiting scientist as “going into the territories.” Against that low benchmark, Israeli higher education is doing pretty well.

Al-Qasemi teaching college in Baqa is Arabic-first in all respects, and Western Galilee College (in Akko) and Safed Academic College (in Tzfat) both have majority-Arab student populations, with bilingual education. Israel has six full research universities, plus the Weizmann Institute which has only graduate students; of these, Haifa University has the most Arab students, probably about 20%. Haifa, TAU and Ben Gurion all have a full range of Arabic studies, literature and language departments, with Arabic-language departmental home pages. Hebrew University is a fifteen-minute bus ride and a checkpoint crossing from Al-Quds University, which admits students from both sides of the Green Line (about a third of the 14,000 enrolled are Israeli citizens). Al-Quds has a satellite campus on the Israeli side of the fence, with about 1000 students.

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Collin Street 02.09.14 at 1:45 am

Essentially the only things the palestinians are asking for that they aren’t 100% completely and totally entitled to is
+ right of return
+ land transfers [which tbh they don't hugely want, anyway.]

Getting the palestinians to drop the right-of-return means basically means that the only thing the israelis would have to offer in exchange for a square mm of settlement land would be the threat of violence, which isn’t exactly the basis of a peaceful resolution, is it.

254

SamChevre 02.09.14 at 1:55 am

Just to note–I didn’t pick Poles and Czechs at random. I picked them because they live in countries that are western democracies in good standing, and expelled more people on ethnic grounds since WWII than the entire population of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan in 1948. (Sudetendeutsche, Pomeranians).

255

Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 1:56 am

Getting the palestinians to drop the right-of-return means basically means that the only thing the israelis would have to offer in exchange for a square mm of settlement land would be the threat of violence, which isn’t exactly the basis of a peaceful resolution, is it.

What did the Poles offer in 1945 (or since) in exchange for Silesia and Pomerania? Twelve million violently resettled but peaceful Germans are mildly curious.

256

js. 02.09.14 at 2:50 am

Israel defenders claim Israel is a Western democracy, and then turn around and attack its critics on the grounds that some other countries are as bad or worse. I happen to agree with them on that part–I don’t think Israeli oppression of Palestinians is anything extraordinary in the annals of human oppression. But then the Israel defenders shouldn’t play the game of saying that Israel is this wonderful democracy , and then on the other hand complain that Israel is being boycotted the way we might boycott another Western democracy that oppressed a minority group.

This. A thousand times.

257

Kaveh 02.09.14 at 3:05 am

َAndrewF @246 The right of return does not have as much impact on the Palestinians as it does upon Israel, for the reason that Kaveh raised earlier: most who qualify will probably not return as they have created, or for the most part have been born into, lives elsewhere.

While the Palestinians risk nothing by being granted an option to move to Israel as full citizens, Israel risks its very identity.

You’re trying to have it both ways: if not migrating (back) to Palestine/Israel isn’t a huge loss for Palestinian refugees, they’re going to be willing to compromise on this point when real negotiations start (they have not started). If it is really critical for them to return, then right of return should be counted as important alongside “Israel’s identity”. BDS by Americans is not preventing Palestinians from negotiating by encouraging unrealistic demands. That is obviously wrong in so many ways (1. I doubt care that much what we think or do here, they care about results 2. They need to go somewhere; some of them at least really should go back to Palestine/Israel 3. They are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves how important returning to Israel is…)

Real live, non-hypothetical negotiations will work these things out. I just don’t see what the hang-up is over the American BDS movement’s position on right of return. It sounds like concern trolling, or an attempt to find something/anything wrong with the ASA position because you can’t bring yourself to admit they’re right.

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Collin Street 02.09.14 at 3:55 am

Against that low benchmark, Israeli higher education is doing pretty well.

Thanks for that. Better than I’d thought.

259

Plume 02.09.14 at 4:48 am

Any discussion of Polish and Czech expulsion of Germans after WWII should not leave out the fact that the Germans had so recently conquered and occupied their countries, slaughtering those ethnic groups, and had planned to exterminate them. The Nazi plan was to exterminate all Poles, Czechs and Slavic peoples in Europe, not just occupy, expel or imprison them. In light of that, “expulsion” might be seen (under the circumstances) as showing restraint. Those expulsions also ended roughly in 1948.

Regardless, we’re talking about the Jewish state of today, in the year 2014. It’s not a valid defense to say that other nations have engaged in horrific acts, too. Yes, they have, obviously. Including the US. Especially the US. But that doesn’t take anyone off the hook.

260

Donald Johnson 02.09.14 at 5:49 am

“I didn’t pick Poles and Czechs at random. I picked them because they live in countries that are western democracies in good standing, and expelled more people on ethnic grounds since WWII than the entire population of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan in 1948.”

Are German refugees asking people to boycott Poland because of the crimes that Poland committed against German citizens after WWII? For that matter, are Polish citizens requesting boycotts against Germany for the crimes they committed against Poland, or do most Europeans consider all that settled? Are ethnic Germans currently living under Polish occupation? Is the US currently supporting Poland as it oppresses German civilians living under occupation?

Hey, why limit yourself to Poland and the Czechs? Go Godwin. Why did people made such a big deal about South African apartheid, when Germany was a Western democracy in good standing during the 80’s and did worse things in WWII?

“I judge a political movement by its stated goals and actions. “

Same here. And when I see so many self-proclaimed supporters of a 2SS opposed to any pressure on Israel, while not expressing any comparable dismay regarding kneejerk US support for Israel, I judge their support for a 2SS to be fraudulent. At best, such supporters would welcome a 2SS if and when Israel decides to grant it, but failing that, the real motivation is to minimize the trouble the Palestinians or their supporters might cause. One way to do this is to have a “peace process” ongoing while the Israelis continue to steal more land and to set up rules by which any pro-Palestinian movement will automatically be suspect. One of those rules is that Palestinians asking for a right of return are opposed to peace, while Israelis who take for granted that they will get to keep most of their settlements are “reasonable”. It’s that sort of reasonableness that encourages them to build more settlements.

261

SamChevre 02.09.14 at 2:18 pm

Are German refugees asking people to boycott Poland because of the crimes that Poland committed against German citizens after WWII?
No. This may have some connection to the fact that Germany treated them as citizens. If they had been confined to refugee camps on the border of Poland ever since, and spent three generations being encouraged by the Germans to hate the Slavs, I would expect that to be somewhat different.

Are ethnic Germans currently living under Polish occupation?
No, Poland expelled them all–quite violently.

It seems to me that the differential treatment of Poland and Israel is on grounds of how the neighbors reacted to the displaced persons, rather than on grounds of how badly they acted.

(I’m a supporter of a two-state solution on the original Balfour declaration grounds, with the Jordan as the dividing line.)

262

Corey Robin 02.09.14 at 2:35 pm

SamChevre: “(I’m a supporter of a two-state solution on the original Balfour declaration grounds, with the Jordan as the dividing line.)”

I’m not sure what in the original Balfour Declaration gives you grounds for supporting a two-state solution. As you know, there is nothing in the Balfour Declaration that even acknowledges the political aspirations of the Palestinian people. Here is the key part of the text:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

While there’s some debate about whether “national home” was supposed to mean “state” — my point does not depend on that — there is little dispute that the Palestinians were given short shrift by it, particularly since all they got in the deal was that their “civil and religious rights” — i.e., nothing there about political rights — would not be prejudiced.

So no mention of a two-state solution. The most appropriate reading of the text is that the Brits were giving the Jews the land, with the proviso that the civil/religious rights of the overwhelming native majority should not be harmed.

As Hannah Arendt would write in 1943 (I’ve quoted this on another thread but it seems appropriate here), the argument of those pushing for a Jewish state in Palestine (as opposed to a binational state) was simply “that tomorrow’s majority [the Jews] will concede minority rights to today’s majority [the Palestinians], which indeed would be something brand new in the history of nation-states.”

Seems like a pretty good description of the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.

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LFC 02.09.14 at 2:49 pm

I don’t really understand Collin Street’s comments, esp those about the ‘weakness’ of Israel’s negotiating position. The strength/weakness of a negotiating position can’t be considered in isolation from the whole picture, incl. (1) facts on the ground, whether one likes them or not, and (2) relative ‘material’ strength, and (3) int’l alignments, again whether one likes (2) and (3) or not. There is no such thing as a ‘pure’ or ideal-typical negotiating position based on what one thinks X or Y should be entitled to as a matter of right (or even of int’l law). That’s not what negotiation in the real world means. I’m not expressing this esp. well but it’ll have to do.

Another thing: the individual issues like boundaries, Jerusalem, water rights, etc will get resolved, assuming things work out this way, in the context of an overall agreement in which both sides recognize the other’s statehood and right to exist and in which there are security guarantees. So I don’t understand the refs. to the “only thing the Israels can offer is the threat of violence.” The whole point of an overall agreement is that both sides will agree, as an integral component of the agreement, to a set-up in which the threat of violence shd no longer be a routine part of their relationship.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.09.14 at 3:04 pm

SamChevre:

This may have some connection to the fact that Germany treated them as citizens.

This may have even better connection to the fact that it was Polish government expelling them, from Poland, and in the aftermath of a genocidal German occupation of Poland. That is: it had a strong (albeit misguided) sense of a certain brand of justice. Which is completely absent from any unbiased version of what has been happening in Palestine since 1948.

Andrew:

As to why I am sympathetic to the idea of Israel’s existence, presumably there is no need to recite the historical events that spurred the creation of the modern Israeli state.

Wouldn’t it make more sense, in this context, to be sympathetic to the opposite idea, the idea of rejecting all manifestations of ethnic nationalism and chauvinism, especially where it becomes government’s dominant ideology?

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Plume 02.09.14 at 3:51 pm

A minor point, perhaps: It might be better to separate Poland and the Czech Republic, at least on “ethnic cleansing” grounds. Today, Poland is 94% Polish, though it actually does have a small German population, roughly 0.07% of its 35 million inhabitants, give or take.

The Czech Republic, OTOH (for the most part), did not expel anti-fascist or anti-Nazi Germans, and that was the official state position. They were officially welcomed to stay. They also selectively skipped over some Germans, if they viewed them as essential to the Czech state. Roughly 64% of the Czech Republic is Czech today, and it recognizes the German language “officially.” The land of Kafka, Hasek and Smetana is fairly diverse, at least by Central European standards.

But, again, recourse to Poland or the Czech Republic as a precedent for Israeli action just doesn’t pass the test of history or logic. The context is radically different. And, at best, it’s a claim that oppression is justified in one place because it occurred somewhere else. If one is left attempting that kind of argument, they’ve already lost.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 3:56 pm

Plume @259:
Any discussion of Polish and Czech expulsion of Germans after WWII should not leave out the fact that the Germans had so recently conquered and occupied their countries, slaughtering those ethnic groups, and had planned to exterminate them.

This only makes sense if (1) there exists a level of murderous aggression on the part of an undemocratically ruled enemy that justifies general peacetime reprisal against the former enemy’s civilians, and (2) Israel’s Arab neighbors in the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars did not rise to that level. Neither proposition is defensible enough that it would be even briefly entertained if Jews weren’t involved.

Regardless, we’re talking about the Jewish state of today, in the year 2014.

There are millions of Poles living in German houses today, in the year 2014. Which brings us to:

Donald Johnson @260:
Are German refugees asking people to boycott Poland because of the crimes that Poland committed against German citizens after WWII?

The thirty million refugees of Eastern Europe and India/Pakistan after WW2, and the fifty-odd million who have come under the protection of the UN High Commission on Refugees in the sixty-odd years since Israel’s birth, and for that matter the 800,000 Jews forcibly expelled from Arab countries in 1948-54, have been fed, housed and resettled (with varying degrees of kindness and justice) by host countries, world agencies and NGOs that are trying to solve refugee problems. The unique status of UNRWA as an anti-UNHCR for Palestinians is cruel, contemptible, and has facilitated multigenerational suffering, where as you observe other outcomes are the norm even in the aftermath of far more brutal conflicts than Israeli independence.

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Plume 02.09.14 at 4:26 pm

Joshua Burton,

It was the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who kicked people off Palestinian lands, held by Palestinians for nearly two thousand years prior to their expulsion. And, unlike the Central European tragedies, the Jews who did so came almost exclusively from thousands of miles away. They also came back to a region after an absence of nearly two thousand years. And, unlike the Czech or Polish situation, the people the Israelis kicked out had done nothing to them. They were not in conflict until the Israelis kicked them off their lands — or tried to in the run up to 1948.

Btw, I in no way condone reprisals against civilians. The point is that the two scenarios are not even remotely alike.

And you definitely exaggerate the numbers of Poles living today in “German houses.” Please provide a citation for that claim.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 4:29 pm

Citation. I really don’t care for “let me Google that for you” snark, but was there any plausible search that wouldn’t have taken you straight to that page, if you’d looked?

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 4:39 pm

It was the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who kicked people off Palestinian lands, held by Palestinians for nearly two thousand years prior to their expulsion.

And vice versa, in comparable numbers.

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Plume 02.09.14 at 4:50 pm

I googled much last night, as a refresher on the subject. The claims about Poland are contested to this day, with wildly different estimates for refugees, deaths, rationales, causes, etc. etc. as the article you link to says repeatedly. There is so much disagreement on this issue, the article itself is contested. If we try to pull it all together and average the estimates, it is in the millions for a combination of Germans fleeing the allied forces, Polish reprisals and forced expulsions. It was a tragedy on top of a tragedy of world historical proportions. A horror after a horror.

Regardless, there is no likeness between the two tragedies. They are obviously and self-evidently (wildly) different. And even if you could — you can’t — make a case for their similarity, what would that prove? That the Israelis are justified in oppressing the Palestinians because the Poles oppressed the Germans after the Germans tried to exterminate the Poles?

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Corey Robin 02.09.14 at 4:51 pm

Joshua W. Barton: “And vice versa, in comparable numbers.”

Only if you subsume Palestinians into some generic Arab nation, and the specific land of Palestine into some generic Arab space.

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Plume 02.09.14 at 4:56 pm

Joshua Burton 269,

Oh, come on. That was after the Israelis did it to the Palestinians. What is the common denominator in all of this? If there had never been a Jewish state imposed on that strip of land from outside and by outside forces, the subsequent wars, retaliations, intifadas, reprisals, wars, retaliations and on and on and on would not have happened.

What set this all in motion? The violently forced creation of the Jewish state.

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Plume 02.09.14 at 4:57 pm

Corey 271,

Good point.

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Plume 02.09.14 at 5:29 pm

Quick note for me, before heading out for day:

I do thank the Joshua Burtons and Sam Chevres for reminding us of horrific reprisals against civilians after WWII, though I don’t think it’s relevant to the discussion of Israeli government policy. The complexity of human tragedy is something that often can stun, especially once we rid ourselves of the idea of cut and dried, evil versus good narratives.

Nazism is and was unmistakeably evil. But not all responses to it were unmistakeably good.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 5:29 pm

Assad’s father, six months after launching and losing the 1973 war: “Palestine is not only part of the Arab homeland but also a basic part of South Syria. We consider it our right and duty to insist that Palestine should remain a free part of our Arab homeland and our Arab Syrian country.” I won’t quote King Feisal I’s earlier comments to the same effect, because they were conciliatory and pro-Zionist and that’s not where I’m going with this; you can look it all up in Martin Gilbert or wherever the usual web searches lead you.

For I concede that there is a distinct Palestinian national identity, and that a just solution today must honor that identity. But that national identity did not exist when Mark Twain visited in the 1860s. It exists as a consequence of a modern history of injustice and dispossession which is mutual and which involves millennia-old Jewish communities from Morocco to Yemen as well as Palestinian Arabs. That the former are now Israeli cabinet ministers, while the latter raise a fourth generation in refugee camps (in the very countries that expelled the former!) is a regional injustice and demands a regional historical reckoning. Or, that Palestinian refugees are suffering where they live is a humanitarian crisis that should be humanely addressed by the UNHCR without holding another generation hostage under UNRWA to the big questions. It’s the conflation of the two (Palestinian victims of pan-Arab/Zionist conflict, preserved in amber as pawns of pan-Arab hostility to Zionism, now demand a Palestinian/Israeli peace that repairs Zionist, not pan-Arab, injustices) that is not right and cannot work.

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Donald Johnson 02.09.14 at 5:33 pm

“I’m a supporter of a two-state solution on the original Balfour declaration grounds, with the Jordan as the dividing line.)”

The Jordan River? So Israel gets the West Bank? So you favor a 1SS with equal rights for Palestinians and Israeli Jews, or else the current 1SS with apartheid-like policies, or perhaps more Palestinians need to given a little encouragement to leave.

There is some debate about what was meant by the Balfour declaration, but it’s all irrelevant anyway, unless one thinks the British has some right to determine who got to live in Palestine, which seems a little farfetched to me.

“It seems to me that the differential treatment of Poland and Israel is on grounds of how the neighbors reacted to the displaced persons, rather than on grounds of how badly they acted.”

The difference is that in the aftermath of WWII we immediately went into the Cold War and more atrocities occurred, on a smaller scale but still terrible. To prevent this from happening would have required WWIII. When this sort of behavior began occurring again in the former Yugoslavia, people didn’t react by saying that we didn’t really care, because much larger acts of ethnic cleansing had occurred in the 40’s and there wouldn’t be a problem if the neighbors just accepted the refugees into their own societies. Why don’t we simply take ethnic cleansing off the list of crimes altogether, and instead put all the onus on the countries where the refugees flee, and on the refugees themselves?

I don’t think what Israel did in 1948 and what it has been doing ever since is particularly unusual in the scale of human rights violations, as I said already. What is unique in my experience is the bizarre way that people defend Israel–by invoking other acts of ethnic cleansing as a defense and putting the moral onus on anyone and everyone except Israel.
I first saw this in 2004 when Benny Morris invoked the American treatment of the Native Americans as a precedent, and actually argued that what the US did was justifiable. Previously people like Chomsky and Finkelstein had invoked the Native American comparison, but as a demonstration that Israel was part of the long tradition of Western settler colonialism. Nowadays one mainly sees the analogy used by people who use it as Morris did, as a justification. That’s the sort of “defense” that Israel gets.

Which is fine, if people are consistent. So can we just cut the nonsense about Israel as this moral beacon, stop supplying them with billions of dollars in aid every year, and just speak of it as another country which democratically chose to establish itself by expelling the bulk of the original inhabitants and maintains an apartheid-like system on the WB to this very day. This shouldn’t be any more or less my business as an American than the acts of any other godforsaken government in the Middle East, except for the fact that the US supports Israel no matter what it does. Stop that support and then the argument against Americans singling out poor little Israel will have more force.

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Donald Johnson 02.09.14 at 5:40 pm

Incidentally, the basic logic of Israel apologetics was first outlined in 2008 by the jewssansfrontieres blogger Gabriel Ash with this classic post–

link

Seriously, virtually every argument you’ll ever see is presented in a few paragraphs.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 5:41 pm

Oh, come on. That was after the Israelis did it to the Palestinians.

No. As a factual matter, there was never a day between 1900 and today when the cumulative number of Arab civilians killed by Zionist forced expulsion equaled the cumulative number of Jewish civilians killed by pan-Arab forced expulsion.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 5:47 pm

There is some debate about what was meant by the Balfour declaration, but it’s all irrelevant anyway, unless one thinks the British has some right to determine who got to live in Palestine, which seems a little farfetched to me.

The British asserted this as a legal right under the League of Nations mandate, and as a moral right on the basis of having created Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and later Jordan. Leave British and French imperialism out, and Arab nationalism (including the new Palestinian instance) has the same status under Turkish sovereignty as Kurdish or Assyrian or Armenian nationalism.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 5:54 pm

What is unique in my experience is the bizarre way that people defend Israel–by invoking other acts of ethnic cleansing as a defense and putting the moral onus on anyone and everyone except Israel.

What is unique is that every other instance since 1950 has been under the authority of the UNHCR, while Palestinian refugees are held hostage under UNRWA, an organization with explicitly nonhumanitarian goals. This, too, is an injustice with Cold War roots, but it has now survived the end of the Cold War by a quarter century.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 6:49 pm

Corey Robin @271:
Only if you subsume Palestinians into some generic Arab nation, and the specific land of Palestine into some generic Arab space.

Note that there are 1.96M refugees registered by UNRWA in the West Bank and Gaza. Imagine that Israel were to demand, as a precondition of any further negotiation with Palestine, that these Palestinian citizens currently living in Palestine be reclassified as internally displaced persons, and provided with humanitarian aid aimed at prompt internal resettlement. This in no way concerns the larger Arab world; it simply lays bare the current Palestinian negotiating position, that two-state peace is an incremental step.

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T 02.09.14 at 8:05 pm

Corey and Henry — specific examples of infringement of academic freedom by an academic boycott:

The “boycott does oppose participation in conferences or events officially sponsored by Israeli universities.” http://www.theasa.net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf

All conferences run by the Weizman Institute (Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky Center) http://www.weizmann.ac.il/katzir/annual-conferences

Many conferences run by the Weizmann Institute Conference Unit http://www.weizmann.ac.il/ConferenceUnit/confrences

There are many other examples.

As an example of an Israeli scholar being subject to a boycott in the US consider the case of Stan Fisher, former MIT economist and current vice-Chaiman of the Fed. He was Governor of the Israeli Central Bank from 2005 to mid-2013 and would have been barred from participating in multiple US academic conferences because he was an Israeli gov’t official.

So, no, the boycott is not a mere symbolic gesture but, in fact, infringes on academic freedom.

With respect to the ASA, I leave it to members or others to provide any instances. But it’s my understanding that the ASA considers their boycott a model for other US academic associations.

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Corey Robin 02.09.14 at 8:16 pm

T: “The ‘boycott does oppose participation in conferences or events officially sponsored by Israeli universities.’ http://www.theasa.net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf

How is this a violation of academic freedom? It’s an entirely voluntary boycott. If the members of the ASA decide that they will not participate in conferences sponsored by Israeli universities, how are they violating academic freedom? Unless you believe they have some positive duty to participate in each and every conference sponsored by an Israeli university? And if they do have such a duty, is it enforceable? In either scenario, it would seem it is you who violates academic freedom insofar as you believe you can tell academics that they must participate in conferences sponsored by Israeli universities.

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Corey Robin 02.09.14 at 8:20 pm

Joshua: “Assad’s father, six months after launching and losing the 1973 war: ‘Palestine is not only part of the Arab homeland but also a basic part of South Syria. We consider it our right and duty to insist that Palestine should remain a free part of our Arab homeland and our Arab Syrian country.'”

If you want to take your intellectual, moral, and political cues from commander of the Butcher of Hama, be my guest. But understand that you forswear whatever moral position you claim to be occupying in this discussion.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.09.14 at 8:35 pm

Butcher of Hama

“You make peace with your enemies, not the Queen of Holland.” — Y. Rabin, Sept 1993.

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SusanC 02.09.14 at 8:53 pm

I’m somewhat hesitant to get drawn into these Israel threads, but I am rather struck by “postmodern” aspect of the ASA boycott, in that they probably weren’t going to publish papers in Israeli conferences anyway. Bit like holding a strike by not working for someone who isn’t your employer, and you weren’t going to work for anyway. Just how many top-tier American studies conferences are in Israel?

For contrast, the threatened boycott of RSA Conference by computer security researchers (because RSA Data Security Inc allegedly put a backdoor in their BSAFE security product, as suggested by the Snowden revelations), has possibly a bit more teeth to it, in that computer security researchers do actually publish at that conference.

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LFC 02.09.14 at 9:08 pm

@Joshua W. Burton
Not entirely sure why you’re harping on UNRWA. It does *not* have explicitly nonhumanitarian goals, at least to judge from the opening grafs of the Wikipedia article. I also don’t understand your 281 — how can the Palestinians living in WB and Gaza be (re)classified as internally displaced persons? Typically IDPs must have a state to begin with (that’s why they’re internally displaced — they’re displaced within their state) and the Palestinians don’t have a state.

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T 02.09.14 at 10:16 pm

Corey – 283
Thanks for the response. It seems that a U.S. scholar who went to a conference sponsored by an Israeli institution would be violating the boycott. The ASA has been very careful to try to make sure that the boycott doesn’t affect a U.S. scholar who wants to work with an Israeli scholar — they’re not violating the boycott and their academic freedom is not infringed. Similarly with with Israeli conferences not sponsored by Israeli academic institutions. But the one’s I pointed to are Israeli institution sponsored and will effect the ability of U.S. scholars to attend very important conferences if they honor the boycott. Similarly, the Israeli and other foreign attendees will be affected by the absence of US scholars honoring the boycott. Of course no one is required to go to any conferences. (Honestly, I couldn’t figure that comment out.)

Many boycotts don’t have an enforcement mechanism – they’re voluntary. If you classify all boycotts without such mechanisms as “symbolic gestures” so be it. But it doesn’t look like that was the intent given the distinctions ASA made between individual and institutional measures and between Israeli university conferences vs. Israeli conferences unaffiliated with academic institutions. And it seemed that distinction was a big deal in the political context. For example, one of the reasons the NYT opposed the NY bill was that it didn’t affect scholar-to-scholar collaborations. (While somewhat unrelated, it might not be a good career move for a junior faculty member to attend an Israeli sponsored conference in a U.S. department with a lot of senior folks subscribing to the boycott. Some enforcement mechanisms are explicit and some not so much.)

I didn’t see a response about the Stan Fischer example. Is the exclusion of Israeli officials at ASA conferences voluntary or mandatory? For example, if some panel organizer at an ASA conference wanted Fischer, would the organizers prohibit his attendance (send a nice letter asking him not to come and taking his name off the program?)

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T 02.09.14 at 10:36 pm

Corey – 283
And to the extent funding is denied to U.S. scholars to attend Israeli academic conferences, the boycott isn’t voluntary. Given the expense to attend a conference in Israel, that really is a barrier.

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Joshua W. Burton 02.10.14 at 12:13 am

LFC @287:
Short version (polemical but well-sourced). Long version (more balanced, insider’s view from former UNRWA general counsel).

Typically IDPs must have a state to begin with (that’s why they’re internally displaced — they’re displaced within their state) and the Palestinians don’t have a state.

Which gets exactly to the problem of definition. Refugees must also have a state to begin with, which (unlike IDPs) they are no longer in; as the Palestinians didn’t have a state in 1946-48, they are not refugees under the UNHCR’s definition, either. But status negotiations toward a 2SS are premised on the idea that one of the negotiating parties is a Palestinian state in utero; that party has certainly made persistent efforts to be recognized by the world as a state in being, and has that diplomatic status already with respect to various UN organizations, NGOs and, I believe, a majority of the nations in the UN. So: the UNRWA “refugees” resident on territory that is undisputed future-Palestine are either (1) Palestinian citizens living where they belong (except that UNRWA is keeping them in shacks and preventing as a matter of policy the construction of permanent housing that might prejudice some right under the other theory), or persons with some claim to repatriation inside the Green Line. On the latter theory, the Palestinian negotiators have no authority to conclude a peace, so why even sit down with them until they repudiate it?

Note that there were Israeli refugees from Gaza, the Old City and Gush Etzion in 1949, and from Sinai in 1979 and Gaza again in 2005. In each case, Israel regularized their status as citizens inside its borders, and their descendants are not registered as hereditary refugees — a concept foreign to UNHCR but foundational to UNRWA. Is there any definition of “hereditary refugee” that doesn’t point us inevitably backward to Pocahontas and Joshua son of Nun?

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Corey Robin 02.10.14 at 12:23 am

T: I don’t understand what you’re saying at all about enforcement mechanisms. My point is that unless you believe US scholars have a mandatory obligation to go to conferences in Israel, I fail to see how an individual scholar’s decision not to go there — in order to honor the boycott — is a violation of anyone’s academic freedom. That scholar’s decision is voluntary, so clearly it’s not a violation of her freedom. As for the Israeli institutions, you write, “the Israeli and other foreign attendees will be affected by the absence of US scholars honoring the boycott.” Being affected is not the same as having one’s academic freedom violated. Those Israel and foreign attendees will be affected by many things: the price of airline fares, the state of security in Israel, the quality of the conference program, and more. That some portion of American academe has refused to attend will be one more factor affecting the conference. But hardly a violation of academic freedom. Again, you have to show me how it is a violation before I’ll accede to the point.

As for funding being denied: the ASA can’t deny funding to anyone, so I don’t know what you’re talking about there. As for whether a university can deny funding if it is boycotting an Israeli university, I don’t think it could legally do that. Certainly not if it’s a public university.

Stan Fischer: if he were currently a member of the Israeli government and officially representing it, no, he would not be allowed to speak. That he once was a member of the government would not, as far as I know, be grounds for a boycott.

But again you seem not to see the difference between an individual voluntarily honoring the boycott — which would of course impose costs on that individual (and on the Israeli institutions that would not benefit from that individual’s presentation) — but an imposition of costs is not a denial of academic freedom.

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LFC 02.10.14 at 1:46 am

Joshua W. Burton @290
thanks, I will read the links (at least the short one), though not this evening.

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T 02.10.14 at 2:44 am

Corey – I think the academic freedom of US scholars is infringed if qualified Israeli scholars in government posts would be excluded from US academic conferences as you acknowledged in the example of Stan Fischer. (Of course, Fischer’s freedom to associate with scholars at the conference is infringed as well. Does the denial of Fischer’s freedom matter to you or only the freedoms of US scholars? I’m unclear from the posts.) My take from your post is that Fischer’s exclusion is mandatory. (“if he were currently a member of the Israeli government and officially representing it, no, he would not be allowed to speak.”)

So, there are really three levels to the boycott. Academic collaboration with Israeli scholars is outside the boycott. Going to Israel academic conferences is part of the boycott but voluntary. And the exclusion of Israeli scholars with gov’t posts to US conferences is mandatory.

The way I read your post is that only mandatory restrictions on scholars can be considered infringements of academic freedom. First, with respect to Israeli conferences, Israeli, third country and participating US scholars will suffer from the absence of US scholars that voluntarily boycotted a conference. You compare boycott to any other reason these scholars my not attend (airfare costs, etc.) I’m not so sure. To the extent that the US scholar would have attended but for the boycott, it is the boycott that is preventing academic association with the consequent loss of academic freedom. That’s the boycott’s intent. Second, the voluntary nature of the boycott in theory may not be so voluntary in practice. To the extent that US scholars don’t attend Israeli conferences because of the boycott other than for reasons of conscious, there is an infringement of academic freedom. Will US scholars refuse to collaborate with someone violating the boycott? Will junior faculty damage their tenure prospects? Will referee reports be affected? Will solidarity with the academic organization supporting the boycott trump certain academic pursuits for some association members? To the extent the voluntary aspects of the boycott precipitates these effects, then academic freedom will be diminished. You know the ASA. It seem like a pretty political group (cough). Will this voluntary boycott coerce decisions by ASA scholars inconsistent with academic freedom? You’re the expert on power relations.

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Collin Street 02.11.14 at 12:02 am

Of course, Fischer’s freedom to associate with scholars at the conference is infringed as well.

And your wife’s monogamy impedes my freedom to “associate” with her, too.

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T 02.11.14 at 12:37 am

294
A panel leader at an ASA conference wants to invite Fischer. Fischer’s exclusion from the conference is mandatory according to Corey. There is no question that the academic freedom of the panel leader is infringed. And everyone else that wanted him at the conference. If Fischer would have accepted, his freedom is infringed, too. But he’s the target of a mandatory ASA boycott so that’s OK? Just asking.

Not only did he/she voluntarily refuse to associate with you, they stopped you from associating with everyone who wanted to associate with you (at the conference.) And it’s mandatory. Yeah, your freedom was infringed.

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roy belmont 02.11.14 at 1:14 am

I am right now at this minute working on a way to boycott institutions and organizations and corporations and governments I disapprove of without bothering them or their employees or members or really anyone at all.
While still being an actual boycott, with you know, effects and stuff.
So then this sunk-to-the-asinine devolved-into-recondite-meaninglessness conversation will have no longer have any foundational substance.

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Collin Street 02.11.14 at 1:35 am

Yeah, your freedom was infringed.

Is it an infringement of my freedom that you didn’t invite me to your birthday party and thereby denied me a chance to meet with your wife?

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T 02.11.14 at 1:46 am

Roy — “I am right now at this minute working on a way to boycott institutions and organizations and corporations and governments I disapprove of without bothering them or their employees or members or really anyone at all.”

Henry “is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.” The ASA is arguing that the boycott is totally voluntary with no effects on academic freedom. So yeah, maybe you could work with them on your plan.

I think the boycott has real effects on academic freedom. So ASA should own it and step up. I think your argument is with the ASA, not me.

Academic boycotts are a really crappy type of boycott.

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