A Strong Denunciation of the ASA Boycott of Israeli Universities

Found here. Kudos to John Garvey for bringing a sense of perspective and reality to the debate; perspective and reality being alien to the American Studies Association. I suppose that I would have drafted a much stronger and more blunt statement, but seeing as how the president of the Catholic University of America found it within himself to be able to call the ASA “a kind of inept volunteer fire department, aiming to put out the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration by throwing gasoline on the fire,” and then immediately amended to say that in fact, the ASA had “decided to pour gas not on the source of the fire but on bystanders, some of whom are trying to extinguish the flames,” I think I can learn to live with how Garvey has framed the issue. And of course, the following is outstanding:

Rather than restricting academic freedom to advance political causes, academic organizations like the ASA should be working to foster dialogue with their foreign interlocutors, perhaps especially those they disagree with. The academy – universities, faculties, and satellite institutions – is a place where research, open discussion, and creative thought can lead to reforms and new approaches to longstanding problems. I hope the ASA’s call for a boycott produces just the opposite of its intended result – a proliferation of U.S. linkages with Israeli universities and other universities in the Middle East.

It’s a pity that the ASA opted for extreme epistemic closure, rather than choosing engagement and dialogue, but it is nice to see that much of academia rejects the ASA’s stance. Incidentally, now that the ASA has been named and shamed by the likes of John Garvey, why not also name and shame individual academics who are trying on their own to promote the boycott? After all, what kind of example are they setting for those who value academic freedom, academic integrity, intellectual inquiry and the promotion of an educational atmosphere that crosses borders and boundaries?

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