Major US Scholarly Association Votes for Academic Boycott of Israel

Dec 17 2013 / 12:57 am

The largest and oldest academic organization dedicated to the study of the United States announced on Monday that its membership had voted overwhelmingly to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

In a landmark decision, more than 66 percent of voting members of the American Studies Association opted in favor of a resolution that supported the boycott. The resolution also expressed the association’s support for US-based academics to speak critically of Israeli policies.

“The ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members,” a statement released by the association on Monday read.

The results of the vote follow the decision of the association’s national council to endorse the resolution in early December, as Ma’an reported at the time.

Although the council expressed its support for the resolution, it also referred the final decision to its members. Of the association’s 5,000 members, 1,252 cast their votes. 66.05% said yes, while 30.5% said no and 3.43% abstained.

According to the ASA’s website, the resolution entails a ban on “formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions.”

It does not, however, call for “a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange,” the site clarifies, adding that “the goal of the academic boycott is to contribute to the larger movement for social justice in Israel/Palestine that seeks to expand, not further restrict, the rights to education and free inquiry.”

The American Studies Association is the largest US-based academic association to support the academic boycott of Israel to-date, and it follows the Association for Asian American Studies’ decision to do so in April.

The vote is a particularly historic move given that the United States is one of Israel’s strongest allies and gives it more $3 billion in aid per year.

The campaign was supported by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), a major scholarly organization with nearly 1000 endorsements from many leading US academics.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was officially launched in 2004 by Palestinian civil society in order to pressure the state of Israel to end its systematic violations of Palestinian human rights, including the right to education.

Activists argue that extensive institutional collaboration between Israeli universities and the Israeli military warrant an international boycott campaign, as part of a broader movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel in order to end the occupation and its extensive human rights violations.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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