19 December 2013

Universities quit American Studies Association over Israel boycott

Two US academic institutions withdrew their membership in the American Studies Association this week, after the national body endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions earlier this month, with its members approving the measure on Monday.
Penn State Harrisburg was the first university to announce a break with the ASA on Tuesday, with Brandeis University following suit Wednesday.
Penn State’s Dr. Simon J. Bronner, chairman of the American Studies department, announced that his school was dropping its institutional affiliation, saying the ASA’s boycott measure would “curtail academic freedom.”
“The withdrawal of institutional membership by our program and others allows us to be independent of the political and ideological resolutions issued by the ASA and concentrate on building American Studies scholarship with our faculty, students, and staff,” Bronner added in a statement.
A similar message was posted on Brandeis’s American Studies program homepage.
“We view the recent vote by the membership to affirm an academic boycott of Israel as a politicization of the discipline and a rebuke to the kind of open inquiry that a scholarly association should foster.“We remain committed to the discipline of American Studies but we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture– freedom of association and expression,” the statement read.
The ASA’s boycott has not gone unnoticed by lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released a statement blasting the decision, which he said “applies a deeply offensive double standard.”
Nadler said that the ASA had “embraced an approach that is anathema to our desire for Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist in peace and security...” ...

...Earlier this week, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) also criticized the vote.

...The Anti-Defamation League called the vote to endorse the boycott “manifestly unjust.”
“This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the American Studies Association should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change,” said National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement...

*Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, Stuart Winer, Raphael Ahren and JTA contributed to this report.