January 14, 2014

The ASA Boycott: Academic Freedom for Me, But Not for Thee

Seeming to give credence to Orwell’s wry observation that “there are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them,” the fatuous members of the American Studies Association (ASA) passed a December 15th resolution to institute an academic boycott against Israeli universities.

Admitting that the organization consciously made the decision to ignore the academic transgressions of universities in any number of other totalitarian, oppressive countries which stifle dissent and imprison errant professors, and which might actually deserve to be censured, ASA president Curtis Marez, a University of California at San Diego associate professor of ethnic studies,  said “that many nations, including many of Israel’s neighbors, are generally judged to have human-rights records that are worse than Israel’s, or comparable.”  Nevertheless, he contended, his tendentious organization would focus solely on Israeli institutions, since, as he stated quite tellingly and disingenuously, “One has to start somewhere.”

It was a comment that has garnered universal obloquy, primarily because to accept that the ASA was starting with Israel and would then subsequently call for boycotts elsewhere one would have to believe that this Left-leaning group, academics who Professor Bruce Thornton of California State Fresno has characterized as a “motley crew of Marxists, squishy leftists, radical feminists, deconstructionists, social constructionists, multiculturalists, and other postmodern warriors against patriarchal corporate hegemony,” would of course call for boycotts against other errant university systems in other countries. But Professor Marez hinted that was unlikely, that Israel would be the sole target for boycott, since while “the current resolution answers the call of Palestinian civil society, to my knowledge there has never been a similar call for boycott from the civil society in another country.”

That may well be true, but one has to wonder exactly what was so compelling about Palestinian “civil” society that motivated an academic association to call for an academic boycott—something which such reputable groups as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), for example, have pointedly and historically denounced as anathematic to higher education.

ASA Boycott

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