American Studies Association Faces Consequences from its Boycott

I previously posted about the proposed boycott of Israeli institutions by the American Studies Association, which was approved by a vote of its membership over the weekend. The boycott is pretty lame; it’s supposed to be in solidarity with the international boycott movement advocated by Palestinian “civil society” organizations, which calls for a complete cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Instead, the ASA is only boycotting official Israeli institutions, and announced that it is inviting Israeli and Palestinian scholars to its next meeting–the exact sort of cultural exchange that opponents of the boycott typically advocate. (Hopefully, no self-respecting Israeli will show up).

Nevertheless, the boycott vote is intended to aid the cause of delegitimizing Israel, and raises the question of whether American universities should continue collaborating with the ASA–by the very logic of the boycott, any individual or organization that works with the “official” ASA, as opposed to individual American Studies scholars, is complicit in the ASA’s attempt to aid the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. The question is especially pressing for American universities that have formal ties to Israeli universities, as the ASA is implicitly boycotting the joint programs. Moreover, given that the boycott of Israel has nothing to do with American Studies, the association seems to have revealed itself to be a political, rather than solely academic, organization, which raises the issue of why university funds should be flowing to it.

Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson is organizing a campaign to lobby the universities that are institutional sponsors of the ASA to drop their memberships. So far Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg have announced they are doing so, pretty impressive given that the boycott was only announced two days ago. Look for more universities to follow, substantial resignations from the rank and file, and more. But don’t worry, Roger Waters; there will be no assassinations.*

* It’s worth noting that after Waters’s anti-Semitic rant, the organizers of the ASA boycott solicited an endorsement from him, which he proceeded to provide. The organizers may not be and likely are not anti-Semitic, as opposed to just radical leftist fools, but, especially for purported anti-racism activists, they certainly aren’t intolerant of it.

UPDATE: Clarification: It is not Brandeis University and Penn State *universities* that announced they were breaking ties with the ASA, but the American Studies departments at each university. And I’ve changed the title of the post to better reflect its content.