The American Studies Association (ASA) on Sunday became the largest U.S. academic group to back an anti-Israel boycott in solidarity with the Palestinians. Some 1250 of its 5.000 members took opart in the voring and 66% voted in favour of motion of the board. The decision urges U.S. schools not to collaborate with Israeli institutions. Also the ASA itself will not be engaged anymore with Israeli institutions or scholars. But it carries broad exemptions for individual Israeli scholars working with American counterparts.
Israel is worried the measure could pave the way
for grassroots efforts to isolate it in the United States, its main ally
and sponsor of its peace talks with the Palestinians. Anti-Israel
boycotts have gained some traction in Europe. Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin described the ASA as a “radical leftist group” with few links to academia in Israel. However, Elkin told Israel Radio, “we need to prepare
for the danger that it (boycott call) will pass to other, more serious
He said that Israeli diplomats and Jewish American
groups were “intensively” trying to dissuade other U.S. academics from
following the American Studies Association’s lead. The Foreign Ministry, Elkin said, had set up an
advocacy group, “Faces of Israel”, to “work among those who wield
influence exactly in order to prevent cases such as this”.
The ASA’s resolution backed a recent unanimous vote by
its national council. The association said the resolution was a response to
“the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars
and students; (and) the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher
education are a party to state policies that violate human rights”.
Israel said the boycott campaign unfairly singles it out. “The ASA chooses as its first ever boycott to boycott
Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, in which academics are
free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they
want,” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, wrote on
In May, British cosmologist Stephen Hawking withdrew
from a prestigious Israeli conference. Cambridge University said he did
so as part of a boycott by some British academics in protest against
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, lands the Palestinians want for a
The American Studies Association was the second U.S.
scholarly group, after the Association for Asian American Studies in
April, to endorse an academic boycott of Israel.