Home February 2014 Pyrrhic Victory?

Pyrrhic Victory?

Jewish people everywhere can take comfort in the fact that the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott of Israeli academia was met by harsh criticism, withdrawals from the organization and exposure of the fact that the vote included only a tiny fraction of the organization’s members.  More than 100 universities, including UCI, have censured the boycott thus far.
According to a memo from Jewish Federation & Family Services Orange County, “The ASA boycott bars the organization from entering into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars representing those institutions or the Israeli government, ‘until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.’…The resolution denounces ‘Israeli occupation of Palestine,’ not the West Bank, thereby blurring the definition of what it perceives to be Palestinian territory and calling into question Israeli rights within the Green Line.  And it is premised on the accusation that Israel has legalized a system of racial discrimination that meets the criteria of apartheid under international law.”
The memo goes on to say that the resolution “is an attempt to demonize Israel by distorting the Israeli-Palestinian national conflict over territory, and all of the security challenges it presents, into a racial struggle, and ascribing to democratic Israel institutions of racial subjugation that do not exist…By perpetuating these slanders and instituting a boycott, the ASA has aligned itself philosophically and formally with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to eliminate Israel by undermining its legitimacy as a nation state.”
Only 1,252 ASA members out of an estimated 4,000 actually voted on the boycott resolution, and only 827 were in favor of it.  Meanwhile, numerous academics, elected officials and Jewish community organizations have condemned the boycott “as an assault on academic freedom and as blatant discrimination against Israelis,” according to JFFS.
Interestingly, while boycott proponents were mobilizing support for their resolution, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake and faculty members from UCI’s School of Medicine and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering were in Israel for several academic collaborations, including the second UCI-Tel Aviv University workshop on the future of technological innovation. The International Medical Innovation Technology 2025 conference, held in November in Tel Aviv, and its predecessor, Communications 2025 held last year in Irvine, were co-sponsored by the Rose Project.
Still, the ASA boycott was actually the second attempt at a boycott of Israeli universities in 2013. The Association for Asian American Studies voted on a similar resolution last April.  The Native American Studies Association voted to join the ASA boycott later in December.
In January 2014 the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted on a resolution to condemn but not boycott Israel.  MLA’s annual conference in Chicago also had a round-table discussion called “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine,” about the merits of an academic boycott of Israel, featuring four speakers and a moderator who are all supporters of the BDS movement against Israel.
One has to wonder why scholarly organizations would want to boycott Israel, especially under the guise of human rights violations.  The charges are blatantly false, and many of Israel’s neighbors are guilty of heinous acts against their own citizens.
Have these academics simply bought into the media hype about the plight of the Palestinians, or do they simply begrudge the Israelis a tiny strip of land in which they have succeeded so well, shared their innovations with the world and shared themselves whenever and wherever disaster strikes?  Wasn’t the Holocaust enough proof that such attitudes have to be stopped now?

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