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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘American Studies Association’

Why are Feminists Not Standing Up for Israel?

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

T.S. Eliot was wrong. March, not April, is the cruelest month. Certainly it is at New York University.  In the early days of the month a conference took place there on “Circuits of Influence: United State, Israel, and Palestine.”  The conference was organized by Lisa Duggan, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, whose academic fields at NYU are listed as lesbian and gay studies, and the history of gender and sexuality.

Professor Duggan is a gender scholar rather than a political scientist renowned for expertise in Middle East history and politics. She is presently president-elect of the American Studies Association (ASA) that on December 4, 2013 disgraced itself and the academic world by its ignorance, its bias, and its bigotry in calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The resolution of the ASA, by 66 per cent of voters, endorsed the Palestinian call for a boycott because of alleged denial of Palestinian basic rights by Israel. The resolution said nothing about the denial of women’s basic rights by Palestinians and other Arabs.

Professor Duggan’s invitation to the conference was ironic. It was sent only to selected recipients, and said, “Please do not post or circulate the flyer (about the conference). We are trying to avoid press, protestors, and publication.” It was ironic because the conference avoided confrontation by inviting only those who were not known for their pro-Israeli views.

The NYU meeting was not exactly secret, but it was a closed-door conference. To no great surprise, it coincided with the celebration of Israel Apartheid Week. It may perhaps have been described as a meeting discussing the Protocols of the Learned Leaders of the boycotters or the New York friends of the ASA.
It is not clear, though one can guess the reasons, why leaders of an association created to deal with American studies, and especially if they are most interested in women’s issues, make declarations on Middle Eastern affairs or why they are primarily or solely concerned with the State of Israel. One would have thought that Professor Duggan and other members of the ASA might be more properly concerned with the problems that women encounter in Arab Middle East societies, including that of Palestinian.

The nature of those problems is detailed in reports of NGO Monitor and various think tanks. Women in all the Middle East countries, except Israel, have few rights, and do not enjoy equality with men. The gender gap in those countries is among the highest in the world. Women are discriminated against in almost all relationships and activities, in marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. They are restricted in movement, expression, and work opportunities. Women suffer from being forced into child marriage, female genital mutilation, and “honor” crimes, which may be punished by death.

Professor Duggan and her ASA colleagues must know that there has been no significant improvement in women’s lives in spite of the “Arab spring.” In most Arab countries women are marginalized; in Islamic societies they are repressed. She should know that the lack of freedom for women in all Middle East countries, except Israel, is a major problem in the world today. Have she and her colleagues in the ASA, reported on this? Are they so concerned with their ideological attack on Israel that they have no time or thought for the political and social freedom of women? Even though they are supposedly interested in American studies, why do the members of ASA not state clearly and unequivocally that women in the Arab world including the Palestinians should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as women in Israel?

Let’s deliver a clear message from the 1993 UN Vienna Declaration to Duggan and the ignorant and biased boycotters of Israel.  The Declaration called for the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at all levels, and eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex.

It may well be, as the UN Arab Human Development report of 2005 said, that it is beyond the power and resources of women’s movements to affect the condition of women in the Middle East. But perhaps Duggan, with the support of other women in the ASA, might have organized a conference on the subject. She might have addressed the problem of why the 2011 departure of dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya has not led to fundamental reforms for women.

The UN Arab Human Development Reports (AHDR), written by Arab scholars about conditions in the 22 member states of the Arab League, have recognized the major problem: the oppression of women. Women suffer from inequality with men and are vulnerable to discrimination in law and in practice.  The prevailing masculine culture and values view women as dependents of men.  Those AHDR reports clearly state the need for change: Arab societies must provide for the complete empowerment of Arab women. Specifically, they should deal with illiteracy (more than half of Arab women are illiterate), the low rate of education of women, maternal mortality, and the low participation of women in politics.

The statistics in the Global Gender Gap Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum, which measures gender-based disparities, confirms the AHDR conclusions. Of the 136 countries analyzed in terms of the access of women to education, political participation, economic opportunity, and health, the Arab countries come last. Political empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia and Qatar is listed as zero.

Gender-based discrimination exists in personal status laws which require permission of a male relative for marriage, favor husbands in divorce cases, give fathers the rights in child guardianship, restrict freedom of movement, make it difficult for women to get a passport, and deprive women of their proper inheritance. In the law courts the testimony of women is regarded as of less value than that of men in a number of countries. Dress codes for women are enforced by the religious police force.

Beyond all this legal and social inequality there is the matter of domestic violence against women. Rape is usually not seen as a criminal offense. Honor killings exist in many of the Arab societies, including that of the Palestinian Authority. It is legal for women to be beheaded, burnt alive, stoned, and tortured for “immoral” behavior such as adultery or having sexual relations with a non-Muslim man. They are also forbidden to marry non-Muslims. On the other hand, polygamy is legal in a number of Arab countries.

Given her scholarship on the history of sexuality, Professor Duggan must surely be familiar with the sad condition of women in all Middle East countries except Israel, where women have full social and political rights. Can we expect her as the leader of ASA, to organize a conference on that sad condition and to call for equality and justice for women in the Arab countries?  If not, she may be judged guilty of indifference to the problems of women.
Originally published at The American Thinker.

NYU American Studies Confab Has Pro-Boycott Focus

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The New York University American studies program’s annual conference this year is focused on the boycott-Israel movement and dominated by its supporters.

The student-organized conference is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday and is titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel and Palestine.”

A flyer advertising the conference promises discussion on how “recent American Studies scholarship on the political economy of racialization, empire, and settler colonialism led the highlighting of this particular ‘triangle.’”

The flyer notes the American Studies Association’s decision in December to boycott Israeli educational institutions.

Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU who is the president-elect of the ASA, is moderating one of the conference’s panels, on the “History & Efficacy of Boycotts.”

Individuals and organizations identified with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement feature throughout the conference.

The conference’s three workshop sessions are all led by representatives of groups that advocate for various Israel-related boycotts: Adalah-NY, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. These sessions focus on activism, with titles like “Movement Building,” “Student Organizing” and “Public Engagement.”

A pro-Israel blog, Elder of Ziyon, on Sunday re-posted the conference flyer after Duggan posted it on Facebook. In a comment below her Facebook post, Duggan asked that the flyer not be widely distributed, writing, “We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”

In a statement issued to JTA, New York University said that the conference was intended for academics, not the press or the public.

“This weekend’s American Studies Program Annual Conference is an annual academic conference that is organized by graduate students in NYU’s American Studies Program and designed for faculty and students in this and related disciplines,” said Philip Lentz, the university’s director of public affairs. “Given the purpose of the conference and space considerations, it is not open to the general public or the press.”

Duggan told JTA in an email that nothing was unusual about how the conference was planned or announced.

“It is not ‘secret,’ it is simply a limited registration academic conference, not a public event,” she wrote in her email.

She said that the student organizers did not deserve to be caught up in “the maelstrom of publicity surrounding the ASA boycott vote.”

“I wish our students could have their conference in relative peace and obscurity, as is usual for their conferences,” she wrote.

Israeli Schools Thank US Academics for Solidarity Against Boycott

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The leadership of Israeli academic institutions sent a letter of gratitude to the American academic institutions who condemned the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions which was passed late last year.

Menachem Ben-Sasson, chair of the Council of University Presidents in Israel, and president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, sent the letter of gratitude. In it, he addressed the literally hundreds of American university presidents and heads of academic associations who refused to remain silent in the face of an outlandish inversion of academic freedom.

Those academics refused to ignore an American academic association, hijacked by hatred of Israel, which had approved a boycott of academics solely on the basis of national origin and on the policies of an independent government.

The letter from Ben-Sasson, and on behalf of every Israeli academic institution, thanks their American counterparts “for both your courage and for your steadfast adherence to the principle of free and independent scientific thought.”

“We hope that the collaborative efforts between Israeli universities and leading research institutions around the world will increase and expand,” Ben-Sasson concluded.

The letter was sent to Hillel International so that it could be distributed to the American academic leadership who publicly opposed the misguided ASA boycott of Israeli academics and their institutions.

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International said that Hillel is working to distribute the Israeli message of gratitude to the American university leadership.

The ASA approved its resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions and all Israeli academics speaking either on behalf of their institution or the Israeli government in December, 2013.

The response from American university leadership was resounding: do not claim to act on behalf of academic freedom when instituting an academic boycott!

Even the heads of universities who have turned their heads and ignored viciously hostile anti-Israel activities on their campuses which were in many instances officially supported by their own institutions, responded with condemnation.

The universities which have publicly condemned the ASA Israel boycott include Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Catholic University of America, Trinity College, Brandeis University, Penn State University (Harrisburg), Kenyon College, Indiana University, Smith College and more than 200 0thers.

House Bill to Slap Financial Penalties on anti-Israel Boycotts

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

This week the “Protect Academic Freedom Act” was introduced into the U.S. Congress. If passed, the legislation will block universities from receiving federal funds if they engage in the boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.

The Bipartisan Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009) was introduced on Tuesday, Feb. 4, by Reps. Peter Roskum (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL). The measure would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965.

The congressmen said the bill was introduced in order “to address the growing threat of unjustified boycotts against the Jewish State of Israel,” according to a statement they released on Thursday.

By introducing the proposed legislation, Roskam and Lipinski seek “to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”

The much-maligned boycott resolution passed by the American Studies Association in December, 2013, was specifically mentioned as an impetus for the bill. The ASA was the second academic association to pass boycott measures in 2013.  It is anticipated that many more academic associations may consider similar measures this year.

On the floor of the House, Roskam described the ASA boycott as a “shameful thing” which was “clearly an act of anti-Semitism” on the part of those voting in favor of the boycott.

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren is quoted in the statement released by the congressional co-sponsors announcing the proposed legislation.

“The Protect Academic Freedom Act represents the first legislation that defends Israel against discriminatory boycotts which impede rather than advance the peace process and that seek to deny Israelis the right to free speech on American campuses,” said former Ambassador Michael Oren.

“As a citizen of Israel and its former ambassador to the United States, as well as an historian and visiting professor on leading American campuses, I strongly support this courageous initiative. It can be the turning point in the struggle against the delegitimization of the Jewish State,” was Oren’s strong endorsement of the bill.

“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea,” said Congressman Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus.

Roskam explained that academics are protected by the First Amendment to have and to express their views against Israel, “but the American taxpayer doesn’t have to participate in it, the American taxpayer doesn’t have to be complicit in it, and the American taxpayer doesn’t have to take any part in it.”

“As a former university professor, I appreciate the value of academic exchanges involving universities and individuals, particularly between strong international allies with robust academic programs like the United States and Israel. Scholarship and research should be about the pursuit of knowledge, and universities have been and always should be a community where different opinions and ideas are encouraged and nourished,” said Congressman Dan Lipinski.

HOW THE BILL WOULD WORK IN PRACTICE

The language in the proposed bill states that any institution of higher education shall not be eligible for federal funds if the Secretary of Education “determines that such institution is participating in a boycott of  Israeli academic institutions or scholars.”

The way to determine whether a university is participating in a boycott – which is not necessarily obvious as, for example, the ASA is not a part of a specific university – is “if the institutions or any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.”

The Pro-Israel Backlash to Anti-Israel Activity Continues

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The forces aligned against Israel have had the playing field to themselves for so long that when there was finally some pushback, it took them by surprise.

First there was the resounding chorus of condemnation from a huge swathe of American academia, condemning a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Then there was the SodaStream boycott fizzle. And today there is more good news from a new corner, the Philadelphia City Council.

***

What pro-Israel person didn’t cheer when Israeli company SodaStream’s beautiful mega-movie star spokesperson Scarlett Johansson refused to back down from her job as Israel haters demanded? Then she resigned rather than continue as an ambassador to what is supposed to be a non-political, humanitarian organization like Oxfam International when it began making noises suggesting she was committing a political correctness faux pas by sticking with SodaStream?

And for those who haven’t yet seen it, a media outlet no one can suggest is biased in favor of Israel, the Christian Science Monitor, ran a story about the Palestinian Arabs employed by SodaStream who applauded Johansson’s position.

The significance of having someone from the Hollywood world which is so dominated by knee-jerk anti-Israel sentiment is huge.

So, too has been the response from academia to the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

American academia has long been the restricted playground on which only anti-Israel positions and players were welcome.  But as of this week, 226 universities have condemned the ASA’s boycott.  The anti-boycott movement has had a watershed movement, but there remains much work to be done on college campuses.

Many of the same university presidents who publicly condemned the ASA boycott of Israel are still blind deaf and dumb – emphasis on the last – when it comes to distinguishing between academic freedom and inappropriate and unacceptable vilification of Israel when it is publicly accepted by, and even supported and sponsored by, the institutions themselves.  More on this next week.

Another arena in which pro-Israel, or at least anti- anti-Israel sentiment has not been in great abundance, is in municipal government. Sadly, even less likely to stand up for Israel have been the African American legislators who – or at least whose constituents – have been inclined to identify with the Palestinian Arabs. Who can fault them when national politicians as far apart as President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explicitly and so publicly made those comparisons?

The identification between the two groups of minorities is flawed almost to the point of being obscene. Wasn’t it the African Americans who were the ones being beaten, had summary justice- i.e. summary execution – applied, and were misrepresented as the aggressors? That’s more like the Israelis than the Palestinian Arabs. Nonetheless, the flawed identification remains the view of many.

PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL LEADS THE WAY

But in what appears to be the first of its kind act of municipal government, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday, Jan. 30, condemning the ASA boycott.

The sponsor of the Resolution was Council member Kenyatta Johnson, an African American who has served in the Philadelphia City Council for two years. For the three years prior to joining the City Council, Johnson was a Pennsylvania state legislator.

The resolution calls on the City Council, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the State System of Higher Education and all colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to reject the academic boycott of Israel.

Councilman Johnson issued a release stating his pride in the passage of the resolution.

“This Boycott limits the academic freedom that is an indispensable component of a free and democratic society, and should be guarded vigilantly. Furthermore, the boycott is short sighted and diminishes the opportunity of American Universities that may engage in progressive dialogues with Institutions of Higher Learning in Israel.

NY Assembly Bill to Punish Colleges Supporting BDS

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly would suspend funding to educational institutions which fund groups that boycott Israel.

The legislation, introduced earlier this month by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and first reported by Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist news site, would ban state funding to colleges which fund groups that boycott “in countries that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.”

A08392 “Prohibits the use of state aid by colleges and universities to fund or provide membership in academic institutions that are boycotting a country or higher education institutions of a country.”

The intent of the bill, according to its sponsors, is spelled out:

The legislature hereby finds that it is beneficial to students of this state to have access to an education that is not bound by borders and to have the opportunity to obtain a global education. The legislature further finds that it is important that New York State undertake efforts to ensure that its students succeed in a world that is continually becoming more interdependent and diverse and further that students have access to international higher education institutions. A global education allows students to connect, compete, and cooperate with their peers around the world. Therefore it is the policy of the State of New York that colleges not use state funds to support boycotts of countries, or higher education institutions located in countries, that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

The bill, which currently has 48 sponsors out of 150 members, would cut funding to institutions that pay dues to groups such as the ASA or which subsidize travel to its conferences.

A number of New York-based universities have Israel branches, and Silver made clear in a statement that the target was groups that boycott Israel. According to Mondoweiss, while the word “Israel” is not mentioned in the bill, New York’s Regents board has certified institutions located in Israel, Lebanon, the Czech Republic and Hungary—and one of these states are obviously not like the others.

Also, Assembly Speaker Silver—my representative from the Lower East Side, may God grant him health and many long years, has made clear that he introduced the bill “in response to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel and its academic institutions.”

“Colleges should not use funds to support boycotts, resolutions or any similar actions that are discriminatory and limit academic opportunities,” Silver said in the statement.

The ASA was one of three U.S. academic groups to boycott Israeli academic institutions last year.

The legislation was criticized by Dima Khalidi, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support group as unconstitutional. Khalidi wrote MW that, in her view, boycotts are speech, and that the First Amendment also prohibits public officials from denying public benefits as a way of censoring speech activities.

She would have had a point, had the protections of the First Amendment clearly included Hate Speech. Should the case go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would be interesting to see if they extend the BDS the same rights they did corporations. I welcome comments from the legal professionals in our crowd.

The teeth of the new bill are in this segment: “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no college shall be eligible for state aid during the academic year that such college is in violation…”

It means, I believe, that while the school is struggling through the appeals process, grounds worker Willie must go without pay. It’s kinda’ thuggish, and, for once, It’s fun to be on the side of the thugs…

Congress Members Blast ASA for Boycott Decision

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

A bipartisan slate of 134 U.S. Congress members wrote a letter to the American Studies Association protesting its decision last month to boycott Israeli universities.

“Academic cooperation can be an important tool to help foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but you have chosen the unproductive path of isolation,” said the letter dated Friday, initiated by Reps. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.), the chief deputy whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the senior Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee. “We hope that the ASA will learn to appreciate the mutually beneficial academic ties between the United States and Israel and work with us to promote peace and academic freedom.”

The ASA, with a membership numbering less than 5,000, was the largest of three academic organizations to recommend boycotts against Israeli institutions last year, a breakthrough in the United States for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

The move has been repudiated by close to 200 U.S. universities and the larger academic groups, such as the American Association of University Professors, have pushed back such attempts.

Anti-Israel Resolution Passes Preliminary MLA Vote

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Delegates to the Modern Language Association’s annual convention upheld a resolution accusing Israel of keeping Palestinian academics from entering Judea and Samaria, but rejected another expressing solidarity with academics that boycott Israel.

After an hour or so of acrimonious debate in Chicago on Saturday, the MLA’s delegate assembly in a 60-53 vote approved a resolution calling on the U.S. State Department to “contest Israel’s denials of entry to Judea and Samaria by U. S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

The resolution goes to the MLA’s executive committee for consideration next month. If the executive committee approves it, it goes to the full membership.

Another resolution referred to a vote last month by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities, and its aftermath, in which over 180 American universities have rejected any such boycott.

That resolution, defeated 59-41, “condemns the attacks on the ASA and supports the right of academic organizations and individuals, free from intimidation, to take positions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against racism.”

The resolution did not specify what intimidation the ASA had suffered as a result of its vote.

“Academic freedom guarantees the right of academics to debate issues with passion,” said Geri Palast, the director of the Israel Action Network, which helped lead pro-Israel activities around the conference. “Statements made in the public sphere attracting public debate and controversy is not the equivalent of attacks and intimidation.”

The MLA convention this year featured, among about 800 events, a panel of scholars who favor the boycott; another panel opposing the boycott, convened too late to be included in the official program, was held in a nearby hotel.

The Israel Action Network and the Israel on Campus Coalition organized the pro-Israel panel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/anti-israel-resolution-passes-preliminary-mla-vote/2014/01/12/

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