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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#BDS_Fail: American Studies Association drops boycott of Israel, claims there never was one

As you might recall, in December 2013, the American Studies Association adopted a boycott of Israel. They have now dropped that boycott. In fact, they have gone so far as to claim that it never existed.
What is clear is t[h]at the ASA decided, in a widely-publicized move, to discriminate against some Israeli academics. Now, the ASA says it will not discriminate against any Israeli academics. The Conference is open to “everyone,” the group says, even, as the ASA’s executive director explained to me, “representatives of Israeli institutions.”
That is a clear revision of the original boycott action. Indeed, as David Bernstein noted at the time, the boycott was always narrow potentially to point of irrelevancy; narrowing it further constitutes a complete retraction of the boycott as applied to academics. The remaining portion of the boycott bars formal relationships with Israeli institutions, which required no change in the group’s action – the boycott is a null set.
But the ASA does not just say that they’ve jettisoned their discrimination against Israeli academics. Worried about potential civil rights litigation threats from the intrepid American Center for Law and Justice, they claim there never was any boycott of any Israelis at all. As evidence of this, the say no one falling within the parameters of the boycott tried to participate in the conference, and thus no one was subject to national origin discrimination.
This argument is beyond silly. When one hangs a sign on the door, “No Blacks Allowed,” or in this case, “Entry by Israelis Restricted,” it is not a defense to a civil rights action that none ever try to get in. The purpose of the policy is to turn them away before they even knock. The deterrent effectiveness of their policy does eliminate its discriminatory nature.
The ASA also says that even its original ban on Israel academic “representatives and ambassadors” was quite narrow. This would not be clear to an outside observer. Academics typically go to conference as representatives of their schools – going to conferences is part of their job. The institution’s name appears on their name tag. People who are not at schools may be identified as “independent scholars,” but people who are at an institution are not independent, they are with that institution.
Much of the credit for the boycott being dropped goes to Cornell Law Professor Bill Jacobson, who has been all over the ASA since the beginning through his blog, Legal Insurrection

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