Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Un-American Studies Association

by Elliott Abrams
December 16, 2013


The American Studies Association has voted 2-to-1 for an academic boycott of Israel.

The best comment on this move came from former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who criticized

the idea that of all the countries in the world that might be thought to have human rights abuses, that might be thought to have inappropriate foreign policies, that might be thought to be doing things wrong, the idea that there’s only one that is worthy of boycott, and that is Israel.

There are 200,000 dead in Syria and millions of refugees, zero academic freedom in China….well, why go on; none of these matters seems worthy of notice by the ASA. It is illuminating that one of the endorsers of this move (actually, it is the second name that appears) on the ASA web site is Angela Davis, former Communist Party candidate for national office and now professor of Feminist Studies Emerita at UC Santa Cruz. She, like the ASA, has long been blind to human rights abuses–except in Israel.

This move by the ASA will not harm Israel, but it is enlightening for anyone with children attending or soon to be attending college that this group of academics harbors such an extraordinary bias. The much larger American Association of University Professors has opposed this and all academic boycotts, but that is only partial comfort. The AAUP opposition means that ASA members had a principled and academically defensible basis for voting against the boycott of Israel, yet they voted for it. Those votes express not only bias against Israel, for the reasons Summers notes, but a bias as well against the spirit of free inquiry that is supposed to infuse American academia.

The AAUP position is worth quoting:

the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas.

Post a Comment 7 Comments

  • Posted by amartin123

    Is there any getting around the fact that Israel is treated differently from all other countries? Throughout the Arab World, opponents are regularly imprisoned, tortured, killed — but who says a word? There is hardly an African country that does differently. And what about China or Russia or Venezuela and the like? How many cry out shame against their brutalities?

    And yet tiny Israel, a mere nine miles wide at its mid-section, has been attacked repeatedly in its 60 some years of existence, with its Arab neighbors over and over trying to destroy it. This, while the Palestinians have repeatedly refused multiple offers for statehood — starting at the time Israel became a state. Yet the world focuses obsessively on this one, lone, Jewish state on the face of the Earth. Is this right?

  • Posted by Peter

    ASA boycotts Israelis – deplorable, but reminds me of Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off.

  • Posted by sidney winawer

    The extremely biased and shameful ASA action toward the only democratic country in the middle east speaks volumes about their academic integrity. It is hard to imagine a more outrageous decision considering the human rights abuses so prevalent in countless countries today.

  • Posted by Abdulaziz

    Type your comment in here…too bad . You have only one way of looking at issues that you do not agree with.

  • Posted by Professor Watson

    Speaking to South African reporters during his visit to Nelson Mandela’s memorial, PLO Abbas said, “No, we do not support the boycott of Israel. But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal.” The European Union (EU) recently published guidelines which boycott Israeli companies which operate in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Read, “Why an Economic Boycott of Israel is Justified”
    The article appears in the January 14,2006 issue of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten by Norman G. Finkelstein(leading expert).
    Former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote the book, Apartheid, which is about the human rights violations of Israel. Nelson Mandela, in his letter to Thomas Friedman of the NY Times, expressed his reservations about the Apartheid of Israel.
    According to many, we need to honor Nelson Mandela’s memory with following the EU in their boycott of Israel to show that the USA stands against Apartheid. The President wants us to honor Mandela’s memory with deeds, not just rhetoric.

  • Posted by Rob Miller

    ‘Professor Watson’ has an interesting POV.

    First he assumes that just because Mahmoud Abbas SAYS that Judea and Samaria are ‘his’ and are to become part of the Jew free reichlet he’s been quite open about wanting to establish that this represents truth.

    The ‘Professor’ is either unaware or willfully denying that this has no basis in fact or in international law. The area in question was a villayet of the Ottoman Sultan, to whom all land in the empire technically belonged to. If one looks at the 1924 League of Nations San Remo agreement that established Jordan as the Arab part of Palestine east of the Jordan, it allowed Britain to move the Jewish settlers in that area to the west and established everything west of the Jordan as the Jewish homeland.The fact that the Brits later ignored that Jews had the unlimited right to settle on all parts of the Palestine Mandate west of the Jordan under the San Remo Agreement does not abrogate that right.

    He’s also unaware or perhaps willfully denying the wholesale ethnic cleansing of Jews in the Arab world and the massive theft of Jewish property that occurred starting in 1948 which included Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. The UN did absolutely nothing to try and prevent what would have been genocide if the Arabs had won..a mere 3 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.

    That ethnic cleansing included property legally purchased by Jews in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Ariel, and the entire Gush Etzion bloc, among many other locations. While the UN never recognized that theft (only the UK and Pakistan did) they did nothing about it, which, along with recent events suggests that there is one ‘international law’ for Jews and another for everybody else. Apparently ‘Professor Watson’ agrees with that POV.

    Oh, and Mandela? Certainly he loved homicidal dictators like Arafat, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Castro, but there’s no need to use a forgery to prove that he was anti-Israel. The letter to Tom Friedman Professor Watson speaks of which supposedly constitutes Mandela’s major comment on Israel was actually an admitted forgery, written by a Palestinian ‘activist’ named Arjan el Fassed.

    The Professor’s quoting Holocaust denier Norman Finklestein, who ‘resigned’ from DePaul after he was refused tenure as a ‘leading expert’ also gives us a pretty good idea on where ‘Professor Watson’ and those whom think like him are coming from.

  • Posted by Professor Watson

    Mr. Miller, it is clear that you are on the opposite spectrum than I. It is a shame that Norman Finkelstein has been persecuted so much for expressing his views. It is libel to say that Professor Finkelstein is a “Holocaust denier.” He is against the commercialization of the Holocaust like many right wing Christians are against the commercialization of Christmas. Just another viewpoint. The real reason he is persecuted is that he is a human rights advocate that offends some people.
    Regardless, Nobel Peace Prize winners Carter and Mandela disagree with your radical right viewpoint. Fortunately, your extremist viewpoint is not shared by another Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama. Mr. Miller, your views are on the wrong side of history and will not prevail. President Larry Summers(fired from Harvard) has been discredited by noted feminists. Former Secretary of State Clinton(future President) has criticized Israel’s discrimination against women. This is grounds enough to boycott Israel, according to some feminists.

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