In my post about how boycotters justify their antisemitism one of the boycotts mentioned was that of the American Studies Association (ASA). The proposed boycott was finally ratified yesterday. even though the number of members who voted yes form a minority of the association:
Of note, the total number of votes equals only about one-quarter of the total ASA membership of 5000. Those voting Yes represent approximately 16% of the total membership, yet it will be a vote that will stain the ASA for years to come.
Contrary to previous academic boycotts, this one appears to have hit a nerve, and outraged reactions are being issued from all sides of the spectrum. Prof. Bill Jacobson at the Legal Insurrection website goes so far as to compare it to the infamous Zionism is Racism UN resolution.
Prof. Jacobson has been following this boycott from its first proposal to its ratification and is now one of the leading voices in the pushback against the boycott.
This particular academic boycott is much worse, it is much worse because 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, one of the very few countries whose neighbors regularly vow its annihilation, that that would be the one chosen, is I think beyond outrageous as a suggestion…
[…] the choice of only Israel at a moment when Israel faces this kind of existential threat I think takes how wrong this is to a different level.
In response to the approval of the boycott, Prof. Jacobson proposes challenging the tax-exempt status of the ASA:
ASA’s anti-Israel academic boycott resolution calls ASA’s 501(c)(3) status into question for many reasons, including but not limited to the act of engaging in an academic boycott not satisfying the requirements of 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that an organization must be “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable,…or educational purposes…” An academic boycott, which clearly is a substantial activity of the ASA and will be for the coming years, does not satisfy this test.
In addition, the anti-Israel boycott arguably exceeds ASA’s legal purpose as set forth in its bylaws, among other places, used to obtain that tax exempt status:
The ASA boycott also arguably is unlawful under the NY State Human Rights law, and possibly other anti-discrimination laws, in that it discriminates on the basis of national original and religion. Indeed, a letter opposing the resolution signed by numerous ASA members including 7 past Presidents notes:
In no other context does the ASA discriminate on the basis of national origin—and for good reason. This is discrimination pure and simple. Worse, it is also discrimination that inevitably diminishes the pursuit of knowledge, by discarding knowledge simply because it is produced by a certain group of people.
Adopting an unlawful and/or discriminatory academic boycott resolution and acting on that resolution calls ASA’s 501(c)(3) status into question under IRS guidelines.
As I stated before, ASA can spew all the venom it wants at Israel, but once it becomes a participant as an organization in an academic boycott of Israel based on unlawful and/or discriminatory grounds, ASA has ceased acting for charitable or educational purposes and is not entitled to the tax preferences that come from 501(c)(3) status.
This is very serious stuff, possibly much more than the radical chic terrorist-loving academics at the ASA ever considered. Let’s hope that the threat of hitting the ASA in their pockets will bother them more than any accusation of antisemitism.
Kol Hakavod to Prof. Jacobson for not taking the initiative in combatting this boycott and not letting the matter rest. I wish him the greatest success for the sake of all of us.
A scathing article by Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg excoriates the ASA for its boycott of Israel (emphases are mine):
In the matter of the American Studies Association’s just-ratified boycott of Israeli academic institutions, one must be thankful that the organization’s president, Curtis Marez, is something of a dolt. What did Marez — an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at San Diego — do to earn this designation? He failed to challenge the allegation that he was leading an effort to scapegoat Jews. Savvier scapegoaters know how indispensably important it is to deny singling out the world’s one Jewish country for discriminatory treatment simply because it is Jewish. When asked “Why Israel?” they are ready with an answer: “Because Israel is a uniquely evil country.”
Marez, an earnest but unskilled propagandist, failed this very basic test. When New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena asked him why Israel, alone among the countries of the world, was chosen for excoriation and isolation — the ASA has heretofore boycotted no other country — Marez “did not dispute 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.” Marez then compounded his error by telling Perez-Pena, in his organization’s defense, that “one has to start somewhere.”
It seems, though, that one might want to start with China, where a prominent economist, Professor Xia Yeliang, was recently dismissed from Peking University; one state-run paper charged him with arguing for “freedom and democracy.”
Is it a coincidence that these academics are singling out the world’s only Jewish-majority country for boycott? Only to those who know nothing of the history of anti-Semitic scapegoating. This is not to say that Professor Marez and his colleagues are personally anti-Semitic. Larry Summers, a past president of Harvard University, told Charlie Rose that he considers boycotts of Israel “anti-Semitic in their effect if not necessarily in their intent.”
The ASA is also facing an unlikely opponent in its anti-Israel campaign: Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, supports the boycott of settlement-made goods, but he has come out against broad anti-Israel boycotts. The ASA is more Palestinian, in other words, than the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Still, this vote by the ASA marks something of a turning point — this is the second time this year that a U.S. academic organization has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I assume the ASA won’t be the last group to do so. And I believe that we will one day see groups such as the ASA call for the boycott of American institutions and individuals who support Israel. Such a campaign would represent a logical extension of the boycott ratified this weekend. Yes, a boycott of businesses owned by pro-Israel American Jews would have a special odor about it, but really, doesn’t the ASA boycott have something of the same smell?
The onslaught on the ASA continues with another scathing article at CiFWatch by Jon from DivestThis! who explains How ASA Became RASA (Racist American Studies Association):
As with any BDS debate, many questions regarding why a boycott was being directed at one country and one country only were met with well-rehearsed answers that never got to the real reason why the ASA was ready to abandon the principles of academic freedom in order to punish Israel and Israel alone.
And that reason is that there is a worldwide propaganda campaign directed at the Jewish state by dozens of wealthy and powerful countries who have corrupted organizations such as the UN in order to ensure global censure is directed against their enemy while the human rights spotlight never highlights the fact that Israel’s accusers represent the worst human rights abusers on the planet.
ASA President Marez told the New York Times that Israel was chosen to be the group’s human rights pariah because “you have to start somewhere.” But the chances that the organization will continue from this starting point to act on human rights issues regarding other countries is nil since, as noted above, the ASA’s leaders are not human rights activists but anti-Israeli partisans first and last. And given that they have forced the organization to throw academic freedom on the pyre in the name of their cause, I think it’s fair to say they should no longer even be considered scholars.
So what are we supposed to do about it?
Well first of all, we need to stop referring to this organization as the ASA. For those who have destroyed the organization on Sunday should not have carte blanche to trade on its name and reputation on Monday. I have chosen to refer to them from now on simply as RASA with the “R” standing for either “Rump” or “Racist” (take your pick based on your level of generosity).
But we can do more than that. Real American Studies scholars who decide to remain in the organization should quadruple down on their relationship with real Israeli scholars and demand the RASA reject joint papers and joint presentations at conferences and publish the organizations communications on the subject for all to see. They should show up to next year’s conference wearing a yellow star with a Z in the middle of it, or all manner of paraphernalia from every boycotted Israeli college and university they can find. And maybe someone can publish a scholarly American Studies paper on the corruption of civic organizations within the US using ASA as their case study.
And most importantly, the misery the RASA leadership has visited upon the organization – the rancor, recriminations, resignations and condemnations by genuine scholars – should be held up to every other academic organization in the land as an example of what happens when a scholarly groups decides to stop being scholars to participate in a BDS program that demands self-immolation as an entrance fee.
Strong words indeed but Jon is absolutely right. I hope the sane minds in the ASA take heed of his suggestions.
The question remains, why is there this hatred for Israel on the left of the political spectrum? An interesting op-ed by Allan Goldstein in today’s Algemeiner declares that Israel has the right to exist and the Left needs to defend it as much as the Right:
When a tiny nation faces mortal peril—and Israel always faces mortal peril—it needs a solid, impregnable defense, from the right to the left. Today, the right wing looks strong. But the left flank is bristling with enemies, and its few liberal defenders are overwhelmed, virtually disarmed.
Israel is fighting for its right to exist with one hand tied behind its back. The left hand.
… One needn’t travel far from the center of conventional liberal opinion to find anti-Israel sentiment—even virulent anti-Israel sentiment—on the left.
Among otherwise sensible liberals, the question of an entire nation’s existence is an acceptable subject of polite conversation.
That state of affairs would be shocking if we weren’t so used to it. But, as a liberal, I will never get used to it, because it is a perversion of everything liberalism stands for.
The natural home of the left is with Israel, not its enemies. Because Israel, as a real, live country, embodies everything the left purports to believe in.
In all of the Middle East there is only one state that enshrines freedom of conscience and religious choice in its laws, and strives mightily to practice those ideals within its borders. That state is Israel. The other nations in the Middle East trample on the rights of their religious and ethnic minorities with murderous glee.
Large parts of the left are anti-Israel. The question is what do we do about it?
Some on the right say give liberalism up. According to them, anti-Israel sentiment is just more evidence of how wrong-headed liberal philosophy is: If you want to support Israel you must become a conservative.
I reject that dangerous idea, and so should even the staunchest conservative. Israel needs all the friends it can get. Shouldn’t we, at the very least, reinsure ourselves by having a loud, clear voice unapologetically advocating for Israel on the left?
I know this isn’t a forlorn hope because I am one. I’m an unshakable defender of Israel and progressive political values, both at the same time. There is no contradiction in those positions; they are mutually reinforcing. Many of my fellow liberals feel the same way.
I’m just saying we need to engage the liberal/leftist half of humanity with all the energy and passion we can muster. Right now our enemies hold that field by default. Liberal supporters of Israel—and don’t kid yourself, we are legion—are mostly scared into silence by the perverted peer pressure of a high-decibel minority, full of rage and wrath as only those possessed by an irrational, unsupportable, political fetish can be.
Pro-Israel liberals, when they do find the courage to come out of the closet, are timid in their support, even apologetic. That condition reaches its nadir with Jewish liberals, the so-called self-loathing Jew. They don’t loathe themselves for being Jewish; they loathe themselves for not having the guts to stand up against the aggressive, bellicose fragment of the Israelophobic left that dominates the conversation, and them. And they allow the most outrageous lies and defamations that infest the liberal press and blogs to pass unchecked, not because they believe them, but because they don’t have the strength to fight back.
But a better case for Israel can be made from the left than from the right. The deepest values of liberalism and the cornerstones of liberal philosophy achieve their ascendancy in one place in the Middle East, one place in all of Asia: Israel.
All the left needs is the political, philosophical, and moral firepower to fight, and win, that existential argument. But the only place a liberal can find those weapons is on the left.
Well said Mr. Goldstein. I wish you great success in your endeavour and I’m sure you will find many supporters if you manage to amplify your voice loudly enough. Although I am not of the left I give you my whole-hearted support and look forward to full cooperation between the Left and the Right in supporting and defending Israel.