American Studies Association ‘boycott Israel’ motion: The Justification


Here’s the 3rd post on the proposed ASA boycott, by Jon from DivestThis! (Here’s part 1 & part 2)

ASAProbably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.

Long-time BDS watchers will recognize the well-rehearsed responses to typical questions about why an organization is choosing to target one nation and one nation only for boycott vs. targeting nations with far worse human rights records (which pretty much includes every nation supporting the BDS “movement”). 

First you’ve got the pre-digested word-blobs that seem to get trotted out whenever BDS selective morality is brought into question.  My favorite is the one about how the boycotters would gladly respond to any call if it came from members of non-Palestinian civil society organizations (implying that the best way to avoid the wrath of the morally perfect is to actually be a totalitarian government that crushes civil society, rather than one which lets it exist to organize global boycott campaigns).

And whenever these and all the other hypocrisies and inconsistencies are exposed (not to mention the truncated arguments and outright fabrications that fill the BDSer’s bill of indictment), the next automatic set of responses include:

  • Ignoring critics and pretending that smashed arguments were never responded to
  • Flooding the airwaves with pictures and stories of Palestinian broken children (even if some of those photos need to be imported from Syria) in hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience that will overwhelm reason
  • Claiming (falsely) that any argument against a boycott boils down to nothing but accusations of anti-Semitism

The thing is, when years ago I summed up the various defenses and responses you are now seeing used by the ASA leadership and its supporters as a blast shield against legitimate criticism, I was thinking about them in the context of how undergraduates use these tactics when making their case to other undergrads on a college campus.  But in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.

In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want.  And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.

As this story plays out, don’t forget that nothing is preventing any ASA members from writing and saying anything they like about the Arab-Israeli conflict or joining a group dedicated to defaming the Jewish state.  But that’s not what they want, is it?  For a professor speaking in his own name is just a partisan individual who can be judged based on the strength and honesty of his or her arguments. 

But get a boycott passed by an organization (by any means necessary) and suddenly those partisans can claim to speak in the name of every man and woman in the association and, by extension, the field (if not the academy as a whole).  In other words, getting a voting majority (which may very well constitute a membership minority) to pass a boycott will allow a group of single-issue partisans to punch considerably above their weight, the needs of the association and the profession be damned.

As with other equally ill-conceived campaigns, Israel will survive this particular flaccid string and blunt arrow.  But I’m not sure the same thing can be said regarding the American Studies Association.

 

3 comments on “American Studies Association ‘boycott Israel’ motion: The Justification

  1. Even more embarrassing that supposed academics mindlessly join the rest of the herd. How very easy and popular.

  2. Jon:

    “it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.”

    We are now seeing the result of US 80’s failing education systems.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-shehori/poll-37-of-americans-unab_b_150933.html

    Sadly this argument principles (as described in the post) can also be found in western Europe and else where in Asia.

    It is somewhat shameful that Professors reduce themselves to a sheep mentality of following the “fashionable” herd.

    As for Israeli Universities and schools;
    The below shows a good example of what really happens in Israeli schools when Arabic teachers are harrassed by a racist father.
    Though the father is far from being a normal Israeli the teachers backing up their colleagues are.

    http://theuglytruth.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/jewish-father-tells-arab-teacher-my-blood-is-pure-yours-isnt/

    Of course the idiots in the “ugly truth crap site” don’t realise how stupid they are.
    While racist fathers and mothers can be found in every society on earth, the education system in Israel stood by the Arab teachers and Arab coordinator.

    The big question is would you see the same thing in other places in the ME where the police is controlled by a majority religion and the victim is a member of the minority?

    I have attached the original article.

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4463249,00.html

    The reason I added this is to show the comments below the line (to those who understand them) and to see the large amount of outrage against the father and support for the the teachers.

    But that’s off topic I guess.

  3. Pingback: How boycotters justify their antisemitism | Anne's Opinions

Comments are closed.