State Sen. Leach: ASA Israel Boycott Is “Misguided, Irrational”

In a letter to the president of the American Studies Association (ASA), Curtis Marez, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery County) attacked the boycott of Israeli institutions by the Association.

In the letter, that will be publicly released tomorrow (Tuesday), Leach wrote, “you did not issue a statement criticizing a particular practice of the Jewish State; you singled out Israel for an alleged widespread systematic abuse of human rights.

“Among the countries you have not chosen to boycott are Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and even North Korea, which apparently just executed a former government official on the day of his ‘trial’ by feeding him to a pack of starved wild dogs.”

Dear Mr. Marez,

As a former college professor and current Pennsylvania State Senator and member of the Senate Education Committee, I was disappointed (although, sadly, not surprised) to learn of the American Studies Association (ASA)’s decision to boycott academic establishments in Israel.

It is my view that this decision is misguided, irrational, and a slap in the face to the very concept of academic freedom.

Letter continues after the jump.
In your statement attempt the justify the academic boycott of Israel, the ASA said: “The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all,” and that the boycott is warranted because “Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.”

Really?

Certainly a case could be made that when it comes to human rights, Israel is imperfect. I would note that the same case could be made in regards to the United States, both in the past and currently.

But you did not issue a statement criticizing a particular practice of the Jewish State; you singled out Israel for an alleged widespread systematic abuse of human rights.

To my knowledge, you have call for a boycott of no other nation. This action suggests that Israel is uniquely deficient in its respect for basic rights.

Among the countries you have not chosen to boycott are Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and even North Korea, which apparently just executed a former government official on the day of his “trial” by feeding him to a pack of starved wild dogs.

Even the Palestinian Authority, which you purport to be fighting for, conducts summary trials and executions and extra-judicial murders by militias of people deemed “collaborators” and has nothing resembling a free press.

Those countries are apparently fine. But you boycott Israel, which:

  • is a democracy;
  • respects the rights of women, who are considered fully equal in Israeli Society;
  • legally recognizes the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens;
  • has an independent judiciary which sometimes strikes down government actions;
  • has the rule of law;
  • has minority voting rights and Arab members of the Knesset; and
  • has a completely free press.

As you may already be aware, more than 100 American universities have taken issue with ASA’s decision, and have themselves decided to reject the boycott. The American Council of Education, the Association of American Universities and the American Association of University Professors have also expressed their opposition.

Further, it has been noted in the media that only approximately 16 percent of the ASA’s 5,000 members actually voted in favor of the boycott. It was troublesome to learn that this decision, which has severe implications, was pushed through with minimal member input and significant public opposition.

Finally, in an examination of your association’s mission statement, is it not a violation of academic freedom and aspiration to target students and professors in a country for reasons beyond their control?

A goal of your organization is to “enlarge [academic] freedom for all”, but does the boycott not actually limit academic freedom, thereby only granting it to some?

I will conclude this letter by reinforcing what was previously expressed to you by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, senior Democratic Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when he wrote that he encouraged you to review the most recent Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the State Department.

I would reiterate his statement pointing out that the report says that “there were no government restrictions on academic freedom” apparent in Israel.

ASA Israel Boycott Backfires


“Example of the unfair double standard Israel is regularly and unfairly subjected to.” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).

— by Steve Sheffey

Some saw the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli institutions as a proof of anti-Israel bias in academia. It was anti-Israel bias, for sure, but more and more institutions are rejecting the boycott.

If your alma matter or the college your child attends is not on the list, find out why.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) voiced his opposition to the ASA boycott last week, and this week, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) penned a stinging rebuke to the ASA president, Curtis Marez:

I believe such action by the ASA is another example of the unfair double standard Israel is regularly and unfairly subjected to by organizations such as yours…

Unfortunately, your response that “we have to start somewhere” when queried about this contradiction only serves to highlight your organization’s bias against Israel.

If you must “start somewhere,” than I strongly suggest the ASA turn its attention to Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s forces have indiscriminately shelled universities, killing students even as they sat for exams.

More after the jump.
To hear some people tell it, our college campuses are cesspools of anti-Israel Marxist propaganda. I have been hearing for decades about how bad it is, and yet support for Israel among Americans remains as strong as ever.

College is a time for experimenting with ideas and listening to different perspectives — that is why it is called “liberal” arts: It is about thinking.

We do our kids and our universities a disservice when we assume that they cannot tell light from dark.

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ASA Israel Boycott Widely Condemned


Related Article: Is Your Alma Mater Complicit in ASA’s Israel Boycott? Includes universities’ contact information so that you can make your views known.

— by Steve Sheffey

The American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been condemned by organizations, politicians and public figures from all across the political spectrum.

The American Association of University Professors said in an official letter that it opposes academic boycotts, including the ASA boycott, as violations of academic freedom.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a press release, “This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the [ASA] 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.”

Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.

Comments from Ambassador Oren, Rep. Schneider, JStreet, Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg follow the jump.
The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in his official Facebook page that the boycott “singles out the world’s only Jewish state, the Middle East’s only democracy, undermines academic freedom, and defies Abu Mazen’s opposition to such boycotts.”

More needs to be said about fighting back. The United States has long imposed strict penalties on companies complying with the Arab boycott of Israel. Similar measures should be enacted denying state and Federal funding for any activities associated with the promoters of this racist anti-democratic measure.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) tweeted that the “decision by ASA to boycott Israeli academic institutions is misdirected and wrong.”

In its official blog, JStreet wrote that it “strongly opposes the American Studies Association’s decision today to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.”

Unilaterally placing blame on one party, as the ASA boycott does, is an overly simplistic and unhelpful approach to an incredibly complicated and dynamic political situation. And it is one that is not befitting of an academic community.

The Daily Beast columnist, Peter Beinart, wrote that the boycott is “dead wrong,” because it denies “the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.”

The Bloomberg columnist, Jeff Goldberg, wrote, “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.”

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Is Your Alma Mater Complicit in ASA’s Israel Boycott?

— by Ronit Treatman

This week, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. A Cornell University professor, William Jacobson, is leading an effort to encourage universities to disassociate themselves from the ASA.

As of this writing, Brandeis University, Penn State University Harrisburg and Willamette University have disassociated themselves with the ASA, and Northwestern University heavily criticized the boycott, but the ASA still has many members.

I have sent an email to the president of Temple University — my alma mater — Neil D. Theobald, inquiring about Temple’s position on this matter. I pointed out that Temple is a member of the ASA, and as such supports it financially.  

Please use the contact information after the jump to contact the president of your university and share your thoughts, and use the link at the end to share a link to this article with your friends and family so that they can do the same.

As alumni, donors, and parents of potential future students, we have the right to know where our schools and their American studies departments stand.

Is the college you attended a member of the ASA? Contact information after the jump.
Remaining Members of the American Studies Association

List current as of publication. Please send updates or corrections.

Alabama

Alberta: See Canada.

Arkansas

California

  • California State University, Fullerton
    • Mildred García, Office of the President, 800 N. State College Blvd.,  CP-1000, Fullerton, CA 92834, 657-278-3456, [email protected]  
    • Chair of the Board of Trustees: Bob Linscheid, c/o Trustee Secretariat [email protected], 401 Golden Shore, Suite 620, Long Beach, CA 90802, (562) 951-4020  
    • Chancellor: Timothy P. White, [email protected], Office of Public Affairs, 401 Golden Shore, 6th Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802-4210, Phone: (562) 951-4800, Fax: (562) 951-4861

  • California State University, Long Beach  
    • Donald J. Para, Interim President, California State University, Long Beach, Office of the President, Brotman Hall BH-300, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840-0115, 562/985-4121, [email protected]  
    • Chair of the Board of Trustees: Bob Linscheid, c/o Trustee Secretariat [email protected], 401 Golden Shore, Suite 620, Long Beach, CA 90802, (562) 951-4020  
    • Chancellor: Timothy P. White, [email protected], Office of Public Affairs, 401 Golden Shore, 6th Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802-4210, Phone: (562) 951-4800, Fax: (562) 951-4861

  • University of California, San Diego  
    • Janet Napolitano, University of California, Office of the President, 1111 Franklin Street, 12th floor, Oakland, CA 94607, Media office: (510) 987-9200, [email protected]  
    • Board of Regents, Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents, 1111 Franklin St.,12th floor, Oakland, CA 94607, fax: (510) 987-9224, [email protected]  
    • Pradeep K. Khosla, Office of the Chancellor, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive # 0005, La Jolla, California 92093-0005, (858) 534-3135, [email protected]  
    • Peter King, Public Affairs Executive Director, Phone: (510) 987-0279  
    • Daniel M. Dooley, External relations – Senior Vice President, Phone: (510) 987-0060  
    • Charles F. Robinson, General Counsel and Vice President – Legal Affairs, Phone: (510) 987-9800

  • Stanford University

  • University of Southern California  
    • C. L. Max Nikias, USC Office of the President, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019, Phone: (213) 740-2111, Fax: (213) 821-1342  
    • Chair of the Board of Trustees, Edward P. Roski Jr.   USC Alumni Association, Epstein Family Alumni Center, 3607 Trousdale Parkway, TCC 305, Los Angeles, CA 90089-3106, (213) 740-2300

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

  • University of Hawaii  
    • David Lassner, University of Hawaii, Office of the President, 2444 Dole Street, Bachman 202, Honolulu, HI 96822, [email protected], tel (808) 956-8207, fax (808) 956-5286

Illinois

  • DePaul University
    • Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D., Office of the President, 1 East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60604-2287, 312-362-8850, [email protected]  
    • American Studies Department, Allison McCracken, Director, Schmitt Academic Center, 5th floor, Room 560, 2320 N. Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614, 773-325-7194, [email protected]
    • Tracy Krahl – Assistant Vice President, Alumni Engagement, Alumni Center, 2400 N. Sheffield Ave., Suite 150, Chicago, IL 60614, 312-362-5577, [email protected]
    • Board of Trustees, Secretary of the University, Edward R. Udovic, C.M., 312-362-8042, Fax: 312-362-6606, [email protected]
    • Chancellor, Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., 773-325-8712, [email protected]

  • Northwestern University, Contact information needed.

Indiana

Iowa

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

  • Kenyon College, Contact information needed.
  • Youngstown State University
    • Dr. Randy J. Dunn, President, One University Plaza, Youngstown, Ohio 44555, [email protected], 330.941.3101  
    • Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Tod Hall, Room 203, Youngstown State University, One University Plaza, Youngstown, Ohio 44555, Phone: (330) 941 3370, Fax: (330) 941 3108
    • Dr. Sylvia J. Imler, Chief Diversity Officer/Interim Director, [email protected]
    • YSU Board of Trustees Chair: Sudershan K. Garg, M.D., Chairman, c/o YSU Office of the President, One University Plaza Youngstown, Ohio 44555, (330) 941-3101

Oklahoma

Ontario: See Canada.

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington DC: See District of Columbia.

Washington State

Wyoming

Canada

Japan

United Kingdom

Source: American Quarterly, September 2013, Volume 65, Number 3.