Nov. 22, 2014

Boycott of Israel violates academic freedom

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January 27, 2014

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Intellectual freedom and the uninhibited exchange of ideas have become not only staples of American colleges, but a worldwide standard.

The American Studies Association recently spat in the face of such scholarly ideals, voting to boycott Israeli universities. Following an eight-day deliberation in December, the ASA felt it had an ethical obligation to support suppressed academics in Palestine by boycotting Israeli universities. The ASA claimed the latter violated human rights and impeded the work of Palestinian academic studies.

Although the ASA may not be wrong in its accusations of Israel, it is wrong to boycott Israeli universities. Despite the ASA’s claims that the boycott is intended to only limit institutional interaction and not individual communication between academics, it is unrealistic to believe such a sweeping declaration won’t affect relationships between academics themselves.

On the face of it, a boycott from a 4,000-member organization wouldn’t ordinarily generate a reaction. The relatively small association doesn’t impact the academic field substantially and has no official ties to Israeli universities. Still, the ASA has the potential to set a dangerous precedent.

The ASA boycott violates academic freedom; academics’ rights to free association disappear alongside any hope of open and free inquiry and study. If, as the ASA claims, Israeli universities unfairly oppress Palestinian academia, then a parallel curtailment of rights will do nothing to help stop Israel’s alleged abuses.

Rather, the ASA and other academic organizations should foster global connections with Palestinian and Israeli academics if the eventual goal is, as the ASA states, the pursuit of global justice. Only through interaction can change come about — hiding behind an idealistic boycott does nothing but worsen existing problems.

The ASA wishes to systematically accuse all Israeli universities of unethical treatment of Palestinian academia. In doing so, the ASA discredits and ignores those Israeli universities which actively oppose the Israeli government and support Palestinian initiatives. A boycott cuts off communication with Israeli viewpoints — both supportive and critical of Israeli politics — essentially dismantling any opportunity to work toward global justice.

Using the boycott’s logic, it holds that the ASA will move in support of academic boycotts of those countries with policies contrary to its ideals. It holds that the ASA would support a membership that only interacts and studies with those academics who actively support the ASA’s political platforms and social agendas.

In no way does that logic support intellectual freedom and the ability to freely exchange ideas. Letting the boycott stand would force universities to adopt certain political ideologies as a guiding force, no matter how unfair those ideologies are, in order to remain in the ASA and other academic organizations that might follow suit.

Should the boycott remain in place, the line between politically neutral academic study and advocacy becomes blurred. College presidents and boards have every right to work toward the protection of their own. Take, for example, those college presidents who petitioned the U.S. Congress for campus gun control following the shooting at Newtown, Conn.

Academic leaders should not become involved in politics that do not directly affect the pursuits of their colleges. The ASA’s boycott does nothing to protect or advance its members and their academic pursuits but instead hampers potential academic work and solutions.

College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley and Provost Michael Halleran’s Jan. 3 rejection of the ASA proposal is commendable, but more can and should be done.

The College is an institutional member of the ASA. Luckily, membership isn’t binding. Academic institutions, including the College, should follow the stead of Bard College, Brandeis University, Indiana University, Kenyon College and Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, all of which withdrew their ASA membership.

The ASA boycott handicaps intellectual freedom. The College should not stand for that.

Email Chris Weber at cmweber@email.wm.edu.

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About Author

Chris Weber

Chris Weber

Sports Editor Chris Weber '15 is an English major from Spotsylvania, Va. Follow @chrisweber18 on Twitter.

(43) Readers Comments

  1. jspark 234
    January 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    I know W&M students are too young to remember apartheid South Africa, but boycott was very helpful in bringing about the end of apartheid. Civil society boycotts step in when governments fail. The US government gives Israel $3-4bn a year in unconditional military aid and vetoes every UN Security Council attempt to sanction Israel for its illegal occupation and gross human rights violations. So civil society is doing what it can. And since when did "academic freedom" trump physical freedom, the right not have your home taken at gunpoint and your children arrested in the middle of the night? Boycott is a nonviolent way to try to end the Israeli occupation and we should applaud the ASA.

    • Arafat
      February 11, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      "Criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-Semitic. But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself while systematically ignoring or excusing the violence and oppression all around it?"

      • mxm123
        February 11, 2014 at 8:53 AM

        Straw man argument. Anything, i repeat anything avoid discussion of Israeli apartheid.

        • Arafat
          February 11, 2014 at 8:56 AM

          Apartheid? Then why are Palestinians integrated into all walks of Israeli life. Doctors, lawyers, judges, parliamentarians, restaurant owners, you name it they do it. Why is your connection to reality so tenuous? Why are you compelled to lie? Why do you hate Jews so much?

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 9:02 AM

            Really Apartheid. Palestinians from the West Bank have equal rights in Israel. Wow that must be news for them. Cruel news, cause they live in apartheid conditions forced on them by Israel. And u pretend otherwise.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 9:15 AM

            Who is forcing what? Why do you support those who would kill their own? (As is evidenced throughout Islamic countries and goes back to murders within Mohammed's own family.) ............. A report issued by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) this week criticized the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas for assaults on human rights and freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report, which has been ignored by mainstream media and human rights organizations in the West, reveals that 10 Palestinians died in January 2014 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of anarchy, lawlessness and misuse of weapons. The report also lists cases of torture and mistreatment in PA and Hamas prisons. ICHR pointed to an increase in the number of torture cases in prisons belonging to the PA's much-feared Preventive Security Service in the West Bank. During January, ICHR wrote that it received 56 complaints about torture and mistreatment in Palestinian prisons: 36 in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank. In addition, the human rights organization received innumerable complaints about arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM

            Yes apartheid. You mean Israel does not steal land for settlements and force Palestinians to live under apartheid. That would be "news" for us.

  2. mxm123
    January 28, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    "Intellectual freedom and the uninhibited exchange of ideas have become not only staples of American colleges, but a worldwide standard." - Except of course for Palestinians. This editorial is steeped in hypocrisy. Not once does the author address the plight of Palestinians and their disenfranchisement in Israel for the past few decades. Not once.

    • Arafat
      February 11, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      The big picture... Muslim terrorists have killed 5,000 Buddhists in southern Thailand in the last five years. Why? Muslim terrorists have gang-raped, killed, maimed, destroyed and created 500,000 refugees in Mali in the last six months. Why? Muslim terrorists have slowly but surely destroyed the ancient Coptic community in Egypt. Why? Muslim terrorists have slowly but surely wiped out the ancient Hindu community in Pakistan. Why? Muslim terrorists have killed or forcibly converted every single Buddhist in Afghanistan - once home to a great Buddhist civilization. Why? In Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and throughout the Muslim world there is anarchy, repression, violence, sadism. Why? This brings us to Israel (or Kashmir if you prefer). In Israel Muslims call for the murder of Jews and their supporters rationalize it by saying it is the "only thing they can do since Israel has so emasculated them." That's strange since Muslims are doing - or trying to do - that same thing throughout Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Why don't people see the bigger picture, that of Islam being a supremacist religion for whom aggressive jihad has been utilized since Mohammed moved to Medina and started his life-long pursuit for unlimited power no matter what violence was required to achieve it. I hope Muslims do not kill me for writing this.

      • mxm123
        February 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

        The really big picture..... Israel wants to compare itself to every third world country. And the same time tell Americans, its "just like America". You can't practice apartheid and claim your "just like America",

        • Arafat
          February 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

          So Saudi Arabia (despite its trillions in oil revenue) is a "third world country". That's funny. ............. "To clarify: Wahhabism is the only officially recognized and allowed religion in Saudi Arabia. Other forms of Islam and other religions are banned and persecuted by the state. Saudi Arabia is the only Islamic state in which there is no church, no synagogue and no other place of worship of any other religion. Shiite Muslims have been systematically discriminated against for decades. Jews are even forbidden to enter the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia practices a form of Sharia law that is one of the most brutal systems in the world. Saudi Arabia has at all times rejected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Women may not drive a car and can be punished by flogging. Corporal punishment, including amputations and executions, are part of everyday life in the country. Just two weeks ago a Sudanese immigrant in Saudi Arabia was publicly beheaded for 'sorcery.' Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world in which the death penalty is enforced even on teenagers," the paper said.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 9:06 AM

            So you would rather compare yourself with Saudi Arabia, while claiming Israel is "just like America". Apartheid is not "just like America".

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 9:18 AM

            Is it safe to assume you can read a series of connected sentences and remember points made in the first sentence while reading the last sentence? (Rhetorical question.)

  3. Arafat
    February 11, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    While I find it highly questionable that "not a single Israeli academic institution has petitioned their government to protect the Palestinian right to education," perhaps that is because they are too busy giving those students an education (including building the very Palestinian universities that didn't exist until the start of the dreaded "Occupation"). And the accusation that Palestinians students are "forced to remain silent or face persecution" would be news indeed to that Tel Aviv University graduate student Omar Barhouti who has not only benefited from being enrolled in a world class Israeli university (a subject he would rather not discuss or have discussed) but is also free to travel the globe as leader of the BDS "movement" calling for the very school he attends to be shunned. This is type of hypocrisy (one which applies to the author of this piece much more than those she criticizes) that is not just personal but institutional within a BDS "movement" which devotes limitless time and energy into demonizing Israelis (including Israeli academics) but cannot seem to find a moment to help those Palestinians they claim to care for so much.

    • mxm123
      February 11, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      Actually none of the Palestinian universities were built or funded by Israel. But nice of Ari, our paid IDF settler/blogger, to take credit falsely. Ari, our paid IDF settler/blogger, won't tell u that Palestinians from the West Bank cannot apply and attend any university in Israel proper. Because he's too busy making up stories of "equality"

      • Arafat
        February 11, 2014 at 9:06 AM

        mxm, I know your connection to reality is tenuous, at best, but it is easy to find information proving hundreds of West Bank Palestinians attend Israeli universities. Yes, they have to go through checkpoints, but that is because so many Palestinians have blown up buses, cafes and even universities requiring checkpoints. Israel cannot help it if Palestinians embrace death more than life. Israeli didn't teach them that lesson, Allah did.

        • mxm123
          February 11, 2014 at 9:10 AM

          Ari, our paid IDF settler/blogger, makes stuff up. Palestinians cannot attend Israeli universities. That's how apartheid works. Stop stealing Palestinians land. Before u preach about their behavior.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 9:26 AM

            Ahhhh....I get it now! So Palestinians can do whatever they want. Blow up buses, slit little girl's throats, send thousands of rockets into Israel and it's all cool with you. But if Israel chooses to protect its citizens against people who do these things it's not OK with you. Thanks for helping me understand your thought process {sic}.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 11:29 AM

            Is stealing land for settlements a way to "protect its citizens". Nope just another excuse for apartheid in Israel.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM

            While the UN considers war and conquests therefrom to be illegal, Article 52 of the UN Charter provides an exception to the illegality of war in cases involving self-defense. Israel acquired the West Bank (territory illegally seized by Jordan in 1948) through defensive conquest. Since Israel had the legal right to defend itself against aggression, its territorial conquest resulting from a defensive war is legal and binding. There is not a single case in history where a nation was forced to relinquish territory it had acquired through defensive conquest.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 11:45 AM

            Those who condemn settlement activity rely on Article 49, Clause 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that, “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” As previously noted, the claim that Israel is an “Occupying Power” as defined in Article 49 is dubious at best. Israel maintains a valid, legal claim to the West Bank, far superior to those of the Palestinians or any other entity. But even if Israel was to be given the designation of “Occupying Power,” Article 49 would still be inapplicable. Israel has not transferred or deported any part of its population into the West Bank. Individual Jews, with varied motivations, voluntarily moved into these territories. Moreover, many Israelis were born in the West Bank thus further highlighting the inapplicability of Article 49. Article 49 does not impose on Israel any duty to prevent its citizens from developing or moving into the West Bank.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 2:20 PM

            Except almost every country in the UN has stated that such occupation is illegal. Israel never transferred its population ? How can u blithely make up such gibberish. They built roads, subsidized the housing, built the walls. And u claim such transfers never occurred. And many Palestinians were born in Israel proper also. But i guess apartheid laws mean different interpretation of UN "laws" for different persons.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 2:31 PM

            No, the UN is not a club of morons. It has become a multi-billion-dollar bureaucracy of career wonks, parasites, moochers, useless diplomats, well-paid support staff, professional courtiers, ass-kissers, flesh-eating zombies, and altruist snobs, paid for largely by U.S. contributions and dues. The UN is a signal instance of how we are paying for our own destruction. There isn't a single UN agency that has done a lick of good. It has never solved the "problems" of hunger, disease, and poverty, and never will, because it has a vested interest in perpetuating those things. The only good thing it has done was to approve the creation of Israel, and that was in the way of an apology for the West not having opposed Nazi Germany early enough to prevent WWII, as a kind of compensation for the Holocaust. No good could ever come from a formal association with what has become a clique of dictatorships, authoritarian régimes, welfare states, and feudal monarchies, for the alleged purpose of advancing "peace." But ever since its creation the world has seen more strife, turmoil, butchery, misery, and slaughter than in any other period of human history, except perhaps during the Dark Ages, when the competition in death was between disease and savages.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 2:33 PM

            For the last hundred years the best and brightest of the civilized world have been engaged in the business of peace. In the days before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, it was expected that scientific progress would lead to moral progress. Nations would accept international laws and everyone would get together to replace wars with international conferences. Instead technological progress just gave us better ways to kill each other. There have been few innovations in the moral technology of global harmony since Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” laid out a plan to grant world citizenship to all refugees and outlaw all armies, invasions and atrocities with the whole shebang would be overseen by a League of Nations. That was in 1795 and Kant’s plan was at least more reasonable than anything we have two-hundred years later today because it at least set out to limit membership in this body to free republics. If we had done that with the United Nations, it could conceivably have become something resembling a humane organization. Instead it’s a place where the dictators of the world stop by to give speeches about human rights for a show that’s funnier than anything you could find eight blocks away at the Broadway Comedy Club.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 6:12 PM

            More and more of the same gibberish to pretend that Israel does not practice apartheid. Talk about nations "accept international laws" from an Israeli shill is talking about financial planning with a Nigerian email scammer,

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 6:10 PM

            The same UN that gave Jews a country called Israel, is now the enemy. I wonder why. Oh yeah, because they call out Israel on its theft of Palestinian lands and the establishment of apartheid. Predictably comes the vile from the Hasbara crown. Shocker.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 6:16 PM

            mxm, This is going to be a hard concept for you to understand so read this slowly. Institutions change. Institutions change. Institutions change. The Un is now run by a bunch of third world despots. The UN has changed. Now countries like Syria and Libya sit on the Security Council. Institutions change. Can your teeny-weeny mind understand this concept, or do you still think today's UN is just like that of 1948? Silly little child.

          • mxm123
            February 12, 2014 at 7:01 AM

            The Institution that gave Israel the land in 1948 was quite clear as to its borders. And you still pretend those borders don't exist. "Institutions" may change. But Israeli Hasbara while stealing Palestinians land and subjecting them to apartheid has never.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 2:18 PM

            There is no such concept as defensive conquest. A made up concept by those who wish to justify apartheid. The UN has made it very clear, that Israel is violating the law. Quit pretending otherwise.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 2:29 PM

            Actually there are international laws based on this "concept". Just because in your little mind you do not want to believe in something does not make it so.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 6:08 PM

            Just because u state it, and u state a lot of "facts" doesn't make it true. There is no UN concept of defensive war. The whole world calls the settlements illegal.

  4. Arafat
    February 11, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvard University 1968.

    • mxm123
      February 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      “Clearly there is much in Mississippi and Alabama to remind South Africans of their own country, yet even in Mississippi we can organise to register Negro voters, we can speak to the press, we can in short organise the people in non-violent action. But in South Africa even the mildest form of non-violent resistance meets with years of imprisonment, and leaders over many years have been restricted and silenced and imprisoned. We can understand how in that situation people felt so desperate that they turned to other methods, such as sabotage.” Martin Luther King on Apartheid.

      • Arafat
        February 11, 2014 at 9:04 AM

        And where is Israel mentioned here? That's your problem, mxm, you hear Israel when people are talking about anything and everything.

        • mxm123
          February 11, 2014 at 9:08 AM

          Israeli settlement pogroms started after MLK died. His views on an apartheid are similar to what Nelson Mandela saw in Palestine.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 9:23 AM

            I'm drawing a blank here. Could you inform me of the history of "Palestine"? When did it start? What is its language? What is its constitution? Are Jews allowed to live there? Stuff like that would be helpful.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 11:26 AM

            Could u inform me of the history of Israel. When did it start? What is its language? What is its constitution? Are all Arabs allowed to live there? Stuff like that would be helpful.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 11:40 AM

            Israel was legally created in 1948. Her language is Hebrew. Arabs live freely in Israel and a Palestinian Arab even serves on Israel's supreme court. Arabs make up approximately 20% of Israel's population. Hope this helps.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 2:14 PM

            And just like todays Palestine, It did not exist. What was Israel before 1948. Are All Arabs allowed freedom. How come u never answer this.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

            o No Palestinian is being kicked out, but I assume you are referring to 1948. The Arabs of Palestine fled at the urging and fear mongering of their own leaders, who promised that after the Jews were wiped out they could return. You can listen to their testimonies—their very own words—on youtube: watch?v=FuGqpFxogRg ; watch?v=cn4r7ZjG9Nc . In contrast, no Jewish leader told the 850,000 Jews in Arab countries to move out temporarily so the Arabs in their lands can be exterminated, and then they can return. And in many of these lands, e.g., Mesopotamia, the Jews predated the Arabs by more than 1,200 years. These Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel, unlike their 750,000 Arab counterparts who fled Palestine and were refused settlement and rights among their very own Arab brethren. By 1950, “Saturday” was largely complete. The Jews were gone. Today “Sunday” is taking place, and Christians are fleeing Arab lands in droves. As the current Arab saying goes, “After Saturday comes Sunday.” Palestinians could have stayed if they had not listened to the exaggerated scare stories of Hazam Nusseibeh and Hussayn Khalidi of the Higher Arab Executive, who had actually intended with their horror stories to draw in more Arabs to the fight. The Jews in the Arab countries could NOT have stayed. It was either fleeing as refugees (and losing an untold fortune that had been built over many generations) or facing death. They fled. They lost all their land, business and property, and became penniless refugees in Israel.

          • Arafat
            February 11, 2014 at 2:27 PM

            Apartheid is a psychological warfare and propaganda technique used by Arabs and their water carriers to demonize Israel. In 1948, the Arabs said they were going to invade Israel, which had at that time "occupied" NO Arab land (Egypt owned Gaza, and Jordan Judea and Samaria), and throw all the Jews into the sea. The Arabs had modern weapons and aircraft, and the Israelis had small arms and a Piper Cub. The Arabs lost because they don't like to fight armed men, or even armed women. They are pretty good with children, as shown by the Palestinian terrorist who smashed a little girl's head with a rifle butt. The Arabs started another war in 1956, which they lost. The Arabs started yet another war in 1967, again with the intention of exterminating all the Jews. They lost, and only then did Israel occupy any land. You do realize, of course, that, had a country done the same thing to the U.S. that the Arabs did to Israel, nuclear weapons would have been used in response. Then the Arabs started another war in 1973: that is four in the space of 25 years. The Palestinians also perpetrated an ongoing litany of mindless terroristic violence, including the Ma'alot school massacre and Munich Massacre. Then, when Israel turned Gaza over to these people, it gave them greenhouses in which to grow food and build an economy. The Palestinians promptly destroyed the greenhouses, along with synagogues they could have converted into mosques, schools, housing, and so on. Recall that, when the "Terrible" Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, they did not raze the Hagia Sophia; they turned it into a mosque, and even preserved the Christian mosaics which can therefore be seen even today. All I can say is that the Palestinians made their own bed, so now they must lie in it. They are also living proof, as in a controlled experiment, that Arab culture is inferior to Euro-American and Judeo-Christian culture. Israelis and Arabs live on similar land that is relatively poor in natural resources, although some Arabs have oil wealth. Israel's per-capita income is, however, much higher than that of even Saudi Arabia. Maybe it has something to do with women playing an equal and important role in Israeli society, while Saudi religious policemen drove girls back into a burning school because their faces were not covered properly. Maybe it has to do with Israel's promotion of education and science over religious fanaticism which is what Palestinian children are taught.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 6:06 PM

            Building settlements on stolen land and subjecting Palestinians to a military occupation with no rights is Apartheid. Also, quit lying about the wars. 1967 was started by Israel and don't give us the baloney about "defensive wars". When Israel turned over Gaza, it then made it into prison. Your endless fables regurgitated (actually cut and paste) over and over again does not negate the apartheid Palestinians are subject to.

          • mxm123
            February 11, 2014 at 6:03 PM

            Sure terrorist groups like Irgun did no ethnic cleansing. Next u'll tell us the sun rises in the West. Israel got land, where Jews where a minority, for its refugees. The settlements are outside the UN borders and yet Israel sets about stealing it. Pretending that a refugee looses his/her rights to their homes and lands is an open lie. But then were dealing with fanatics.

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