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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘American Studies Association’

Congressional Letter: Academic Boycott of Israel is ‘Thinly Veiled Bigotry’

Friday, January 10th, 2014

PLEASE NOTE TWO UPDATES AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE

Dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives are busily circulating a request to their colleagues, asking them to sign on to a letter to the leadership of the American Studies Association. That letter condemns the ASA for singling out Israel as the focus of its wrath and for instituting an academic boycott of the Jewish State.

The bi-partisan letter, written and signed by two Democrats and two Republicans, is addressed to Prof. Curtis Marez, current president of the ASA. Marez is a member of the ethnic studies department at the University of California, San Diego.

Marez was famously caught by surprise when a reporter asked him why the ASA was singling out Israel, when there are so many other countries involved in far more serious allegations of human rights abuses. Perhaps the questioner was picturing some countries where the very lives of academics are endangered simply for their thoughts or writings. Oh, places like China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia spring quickly to mind.

But Marez simply answered: “We have to start somewhere.” Right.

The congressional representatives taking the lead on this initiative are House members Peter Roskam (IL-6)(R), Ted Deutch (FL-21)(D), Doug Collins (GA-9)(R) and Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10)(D). Members of Congress from nearly 20 states have already signed on.

The letter itself is strong and unquivocal. It starts out by informing the ASA that the congressional members – as of the time this article was written, representatives from 17 states had already affixed their names – “write in strong opposition” to the ASA’s decision “to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which the ASA disagrees represents a blatant disregard for academic freedom.”

The congressional letter not only condemns the ASA’s boycott of Israel on the grounds of academic freedom, it also denounces it for singling out a single country – Israel, the only Jewish state – for punishment by the ASA when there are so many states engaging in brutal repression of its citizens, including its students and academics, yet about which the ASA remains silent.

Even more concerning is the singular targeting of Israel for boycott. Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly-veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish State. This morally dishonest double standard has already been rejected by well over 100 university presidents, with several member universities even withdrawing from the organization in protest.

William A. Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School, wrote about the congressional letter at Legal Insurrection.  Jacobson said that the members of congress intended to send the letter once they obtained approximately 50 signatures, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

In an email to The Jewish Press, Jacobson explained that those taking the lead on the ASA letter intend to gain as many signatures as possible. He also noted that people were signing on very quickly, “they gained six more names in the space of one-half hour as I was communicating with them.”

“It is not surprising that Congress has taken note given the discriminatory and factually baseless nature of the boycott,” Jacobson wrote. “We will see if Congress takes any action beyond a denunciation.”

Within hours of the letter being circulated, 32 additional members of congress asked to have their names included on the letter.

As of the time this article was published, the signatories included:

Michele Bachmann MN-6 (R), Corrine Brown FL-5 (D), Doug Collins GA-9 (R), Ted Deutch FL-21 (D), Jeff Duncan S-C3

 (R), Eliot Engel NY-16
 (D), Trent Franks AZ-8

 (R), Richard Hudson  NC-8 (R), David Joyce  OH-14 (R), Mike Kelly  PA-3 (R), Peter King NY-2 (R), Doug Lamborn  CO-5 (R), Leonard Lance NJ-7
 (R), Sander Levin MI-9 (D), Tom Marino PA-10

 (R), Betty McCollum MN-4 (D), Grace Meng NY-6

 (D), Patrick Murphy FL-18 (D), Gary Peters MI-14
 (D), Mike Quigley IL-5

 (D), Peter Roskam
 IL-6 (R ), Matt Salmon AZ-5 (R), Adam Schiff  CA-28
 (D), Brad Schneider
 IL-10 (D), Brad Sherman CA 30 (D), Steve Stivers  OH-15

 (R), Eric Swalwell CA-15
 (D), Patrick Tiberi  OH-12

 (R), Dina Titus NV-1 (D), Juan Vargas CA-51
 (D), Tim Walberg  MI-7
 (R), Jackie WalorskiR IN-2 (R), Debbie Wasserman Schultz FL-23, (D) Henry Waxman CA-33 (D), Randy Weber Tx-14 (R), Kevin Yoder  KS-3 (R)

Black State Senator: Academic Boycott of Israel Antisemitic

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Pennsylvania state senator Anthony Williams (D-8) is condemning as anti-Semitic the American Studies Association’s recent decision to boycott Israeli academics. Williams introduced a resolution into the Pennsylvania legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 6, in which he calls out the ASA and calls on all colleges and universities in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to reject antisemitism and refuse to participate in the ASA’s boycott of Israel.

“I’ve been greatly disappointed by recent actions taken by people lauded as ‘scholars,’ and particularly offended by them as someone who fights for equal justice for all. The only glimmers of hope I’ve seen in this debacle are the rigorous and principled retorts and rebukes of the ASA boycott by academic leaders in our area, across Pennsylvania and across the country,” Williams said in a statement released to the public on Jan. 6.

“The rationale offered for this boycott is flimsy at best; intellectually dishonest at worst, and seems to indicate an encroaching anti-Semitic sentiment that was shameful a century ago, but even more so as we enter 2014. Intolerance will not lead to acceptance or understanding. An exchange of ideas, even conflicting ones, will bring us closer to that desired outcome, which once was the goal of higher education. Let’s hope it will be again.”

In Williams’ Pennsylvania Senate Resolution 279, the background of and the backlash to the ASA Israel boycott is laid out clearly. Important facts, such as that a mere 16 percent of the ASA’s membership voted in favor of the boycott, and that so many presidents of leading universities and academic associations have condemned the ASA boycott, are spelled out.

To date, 145 college and university presidents have condemned the ASA boycott, including the president of every Ivy League institution and nearly all of the top ranked schools in America.

What is emphasized most strongly in the Resolution is that Israel is a Jewish democratic nation which promotes academic freedom and free speech and educates students from around the globe.

The Resolution Williams introduced concludes that the “practical effect of the American Studies Association Israeli boycott is a resurgence of anti-Semitism.”

If passed, Williams’ anti-boycott resolution will represent the full Pennsylvania Senate’s condemnation of the ASA’s boycott of Israel “in the strongest possible terms.”

THE RESOLUTION HOLDS THAT THE ASA BOYCOTT IS AN ‘ANTI-SEMITIC, BASE FORM OF BIGOTRY’

The resolution, if passed, will represent the Pennsylvania legislature’s view that the ASA boycott is an “intolerable, anti-Semitic, base form of bigotry and hatred” which is “unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”

The Resolution was sent to the Education Committee. The Jewish Press will track its progress.

Although his district – Pennsylvania’s 8th – does not have a large Jewish population, Senator Williams has long been a stalwart friend of Israel and of the Jewish community. He introduced legislation last year, PA Senate Bill 47, which would mandate Holocaust education in Pennsylvania public schools for grades six through twelve.

ASKED PENN PRESIDENT NOT TO HOST BDS CONFERENCE, THEN CAME AND SPOKE OF HIS REJECTION OF BDS TO JEWISH STUDENTS

In the winter of 2012, the University of Pennsylvania played host to a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference. Williams opposed the university playing host.  This is what he wrote to Penn president Amy Gutmann:

While an ardent supporter of free speech, [I believe] hate speech remains an exemption from this privilege,” he wrote. “Based on prior evidence brought to my attention, that is to what BDS amounts. I would no more support this event than I would a Klan rally, a homophobia convention, a ‘birther’ march, or an Islamophobia assembly on the Penn Quadrangle.

When Penn chose to host the conference anyway, Williams showed up at Penn’s Hillel building to speak with Jewish students and express his solidarity with them.

REJECTED JVP’S CALL FOR WILLIAMS TO REJECT ZOA AWARD

At this year’s annual gala dinner of the Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia District, held on Oct. 9, Williams was honored with the Friend of Zion Award.

Senator Williams not only gladly accepted ZOA’s award, he rebuffed a public overture made to him by Jewish Voice for Peace and other cloyingly named anti-Israel groups which urged him to decline it.

Those groups warned Williams that the ZOA is a “fringe right-wing group” which supports “the illegal – and chronically violent – settler movement,” condemns “Palestinian expressions of national rights,” and even had the temerity to “endorse Knesset legislation that could revoke the citizenship of Palestinian citizens for alleged ‘disloyalty.’”

The anti-Israel Jewish groups threatened Williams.  They warned that if he went to the ZOA event and accepted its award, they would go to the media and explain that Williams was intolerant to the Muslim community, which comprises a portion of his own district.

Williams responded to JVP both in deed and with words. The Pennsylvania state senator not only accepted ZOA’s award to him, he gave a ten minute speech about why he did. The video of that speech can be seen at the end of this article.

Williams told the crowd that “forty years ago the Jewish community and the African American community locked arm in arm and fought to provide civil rights for all citizens. So when you challenge me on the integrity of my friends, the only thing I can resort to is that you are not my friend.”

In one of many statements Williams made that brought the crowd to its feet, Williams thundered,

There is a state of Israel not just because Jews wanted it, but because the world demanded it. Israel is not a mistake, it is not an affront it is not a robbery, it is a contribution in a region that sometimes is not only sexist and racist but also ignorant about democracy.

Williams concluded his remarks by acknowledging that his appearance at the event and acceptance of the award would likely be a talked-about chapter in his political history. But, he said, “I am proud to carry this award, I am proud to be a part of this event. Shalom.”

Watch his entire speech here:

 

Israel Academic Boycott Group’s Tax Status Challenged

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Just as he said he would, and as The Jewish Press reported in December, Cornell Law professor William A. Jacobson has filed a challenge to the American Studies Association’s tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Jacobson filed his challenge on Monday, Jan. 6. The essence of the 36 page challenge is that the boycott of Israeli academic institutions is inconsistent with the only purpose for which the ASA was granted tax exempt status, i.e. education.  In addition, the boycott itself constitutes discrimination on the basis of national origin, and therefore it is a violation of American public policy.

According to the 36 page legal document, filed under the federal “Tax Whistleblower Act,” the ASA’s boycott was taken on behalf of “Palestinian civil society” and will impact all Israeli academic institutions and all faculty representing or acting on behalf of Israeli academic institutions or the Israeli government.

But, Jacobson challenges, the ASA’s academic boycott is not consistent with the bases upon which its tax exemption was granted.  The challenge and Jacobson’s explanations can be found at his blog, Legal Insurrection.

The remedy sought by Jacobson’s challenge is the revocation of the ASA’s tax exempt status because, as the result of its decision to pursue the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the ASA is “no longer ‘organized and operated exclusively for charitable or educational purposes’ and does not primarily serve a public purpose” as required under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

 

Wiesenthal Center’s Top Ten Anti-Semitic Slurs of 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has just released its top ten anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs for the year 2013.

The SWC saw the most extreme hatred exemplified by three Arab and/or Muslim leaders, a UN official, a Christian Canadian denomination, a far right-wing European party, an aging rock star, an aging formerly famous novelist, an overripe teenager, an American academic association, a small New York school district, and quite a few European athletes.

1. The very top of the list of outrageous insults comes from Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who referred to Israel as the “rabid dog” in the Middle East region. Successfully adding insult to injury, Khamenei also said that Israel’s “leaders look like beasts and cannot be called human.”

“The genocidal animus of Iran’s Supreme Leader against the Jewish state continued unabated throughout the secret and direct negotiations with the United States and the P5+1,[which] places him at the top of the list,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center’s Associate Dean.

2. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan placed second on the SWC’s most worst list. Erdogan achieved this dubious honor in a year characterized by a dramatic deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel. Twice the Turkish leader blamed Israel – using the code word “interest rates lobby” for serious challenges to his authority by the citizens of his country.  First it was the Gezi Park uprising and most recently that same “interest rates lobby” was blamed for a huge, still ongoing corruption scandal that has profoundly affected his government, with more than a dozen ministers either resigned or being fired or reshuffled.

3. In third place is the first Jew on the list. It is the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Arab Territories, Richard Falk.  This year Falk described Israel has harboring Nazi-like genocidal intentions towards the Palestinian Arabs. The hatred he exudes towards Israel is, perhaps, summed up best in his justification of suicide bombings perpetrated against Israel as a legitimate means to inflict sufficient harm on Israel.  There is much more to make your blood boil on the SWC site.

4. In fourth place the SWC listed the economic and legal warfare against the Jewish state known as BDS.  BDS stands for the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel that is urged on by haters of the Jewish State.

In this BDS category, special mention is made of several practitioners. The first example offered is the American Studies Association.  Much has already been written on these pages about the ASA’s misguided effort to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The good news, of course, is that the ASA appears to have done far more damage to its own organization than any harm that could possibly befall Israeli academic institutions because of the ASA’s stunt. With close to 100 universities condemning the ASA’s boycott and several withdrawing from the organization altogether, perhaps we should really place the ASA’s boycott on a list of efforts taken which resulted in nationwide solidarity in support of the Jewish State.  So, thanks, actually.

The other practitioners mentioned are Pink Floyd’s former frontman Roger Waters, and the United Church of Canada.Waters has also been the subject of several articles here at The Jewish Press. The United Church of Canada, however, merits special attention.

“As Christians suffer in Syria, ethnic cleansing in Iraq, and are threatened in Egypt, the United Church of Canada endorsed a boycott of Israel – the only Middle East state that guarantees full religious freedom and protection to all faiths,” is how the SWC describes the UCC’s folly.

5. The extreme far-right wing Hungarian party, Jobbik, is fifth on the list of most awfuls. The deputy leader of the Jobbik party called for a registry of all Jews in Hungary as a security measure last year.  He also alleges that Israel “runs a Nazi system.”

6. In sixth place is a meme that never seems to go away.  This is the “Hitler as Hero” meme, which was taken up by an alarmingly large and diverse group of Arabs and Europeans over 2013, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Iraqi cleric Qays bin Khalil al Kalbi, Saudi cleric Muhammal al Farraj, a famous Lebanese singer, and several Turkish immigrants in Holland.

7. Several particularly egregious Cartoons That Defame Israel are seventh on the SWC list of most anti-Semitic/anti-Israel Slurs for 2013.  In what passes as an art form that has been around for centuries, this year’s entries into the pantheon of dehumanizing depictions of Jews (and the Jewish State) are prize winners.  Check the SWC site to see this ugly art.

8. The small upstate New York school district of Pine Bush has permitted ugly anti-Semitic abuse of its Jewish students. Parents have sued the school district for allowing the ugliness to continue. One school official allegedly responded that the complainants’ “expectations for changing inbred prejudice may be a bit unrealistic.”  Really? Let’s hope that official’s hope to keep his job is a bit unrealistic.

9. Two American authors, one a has-been and the other a never-been, are in the 9th place “poison pen” position on SWC’ list. Alice Walker, who easily could have appeared in the fourth place as a practitioner of BDS, appears here because her most recent book, The Cushion in the Road, is described by the SWC as being approximately 25 percent “a diatribe against the Jewish state.”

Walker was the author of a hugely popular and powerful novel, The Color Purple, albeit that was 30 years ago.  The second person in the poison pen category is mostly famous for having a semi-famous daddy, Sidney Blumenthal, a speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Max Blumenthal seems to have spent the past 20 years of his life attempting to be an enfant terrible, but now he’s mostly just terrible. His new book, Goliath, practically takes anti-Semitism to pornographic heights.  He refers to Israelis as Judeo-Nazis, and blames the Arab-Israeli conflict on “Israeli society’s nationalistic impulses.” Blumenthal is at least nominally Jewish.  So sad.

10. The Wiesenthal Center describes various European Sports Venues as having been “Hijacked for Hate,” and placed them in the final slot of its 2013 list of most egregious anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs. Of particular note were European soccer stadiums as the stage where a great deal of ugly anti-Semitism played out over the past year. Italian, English, Polish, Hungarian, Latvian and Croatian teams or their members were cited for anti-Semitic activity this past year.

In a late-breaking addition to the list, the Wiesenthal Center included its request that NBA Star Tony Parker apologize for using a Nazi-like salute which is currently widely used by neo-Nazis in Europe. The gesture is called a quenelle, or a reverse Nazi salute.  It has been denounced by French authorities and leaders of the French Jewish communities.

The Wiesenthal Center asks readers to share with it incidents of anti-Semitic or anti-Israel slurs so that such incidents can be explored and exposed, and the perpetrators held accountable.

Philly Federation: Urge Your Alma Maters to Leave Group Boycotting Israel

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia sent out a statement condemning the recent boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the American Studies Association to the Federation’s boards of directors and trustees. The statement will also be sent to the general public.

In the statement, high-powered securities lawyer Sherrie R. Savett makes clear that the Philadelphia Federation finds the boycott of Israel by the ASA to constitute an effort to both delegitimize Israel and to undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

Savett quotes condemnations of the boycott by the American Association of University Professors and by the Association of American Universities, and the suggestion of the executive committee of the AAU to “American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”

Then she calls on all who will read the statement of the JFGP to do two things.

First, she suggests that “any academics or people who are closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, to contact them regarding institutional resignation.” Several schools have already withdrawn their membership in the ASA because of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Those schools include Penn State University, Brandeis University, Kenyon College and Indiana University.

Second, she asks Federation supporters and others in the region to “condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.

The Jewish Press reached Savett by phone who was still in her law office late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.

“There is a concerted strategy of public relations warfare here in the U.S. to poison the minds of students and others against Israel.  We have to use our voices loudly and clearly to push back at the deep-rooted anti-Semitism that is driving these efforts to destroy and dismantle the state of Israel,” Savett said.

“The goal of the people driving these boycotts is to turn Israel into a pariah state, and then to destroy that state, and they are doing this in the guise of liberalism.

“We at the [Philadelphia] Federation call upon universities and colleges to withdraw from the ASA and to condemn it for embracing this boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a move which is antithetical to academic freedom.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is the first Federation to take such a clear, unequivocal, action-oriented stance against the ASA boycott. Go Philly!

This is the statement that was sent out by Sherrie R. Savett, president of the JFGP, on Tuesday, Dec. 24

Good morning everyone,

 As you are well aware, last week the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to adopt an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Unfortunately, this issue has gained national attention.  Coverage also spotlights several organizations that have or are considering endorsing anti-Israel resolutions. In the case of academic boycotts, these efforts both seek to delegitimize Israel and undermine the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

Together with the 40,000 member American Association of University Professors (AAUP), we believe in and support the right of scholars to freely pursue ideas without being targeted for repression, discipline, or institutional censorship. To echo the AAUP, the ASA “vote represents a setback for the cause of academic freedom.”

Further, the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada including Harvard, Stanford and Yale, condemned the move. “Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general,” their statement read. “Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.”

There are currently efforts underway by academics both in and outside of ASA to call on their universities to withdraw their institutional memberships from the ASA using the message of the endangerment of academic freedom and the singling out of one country for discriminatory treatment. If you are an academic or closely affiliated with the leadership of a college or university, contact them regarding institutional resignation.

Please see the attached list of institutions that hold institutional membership in ASA. Two universities have already dropped their membership and many have publicly condemned the boycott move (they are listed in the attached document).

We ask you to join us in the effort to condemn this action and exert influence by writing to the presidents and provosts of your alma maters, calling on them to make public statements in opposition to all academic boycotts.

Thank you for your leadership.

More US Universities Withdraw from ASA over Boycott

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Two more American institutions of higher learning officially withdrew their memberships from the American Studies Association after its membership voted in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.

Kenyon College and Indiana University on Monday joined Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg in canceling their memberships in the association. Dozens of other universities also have condemned the ASA boycott, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland and New York University.

The executive committee of the Association of American Universities, composed of 60 public and private U.S. colleges and universities and two Canadian universities, issued a statement Dec. 20 opposing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Earlier this year, the Association for Asian American Studies announced it would mount an academic boycott of Israel. On Dec. 15, the Native American Studies Association urged its members to boycott Israeli educational institutions. The Modern Language Association next month will debate an academic boycott of Israel.

Growing Number of Schools Blast Academic Group Boycotting Israel

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

It has been exactly a week since the American Studies Association ratified its vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions.  Since that vote, an ever-growing number of individual professors, American Studies departments, academic associations and universities have come out with statements rejecting the ASA boycott.

Within a day of the ratification, the American Studies Departments of both Penn State University and Brandeis University announced their intent to withdraw from the ASA because of the boycott vote.

Since that time, the Association of American Universities, the umbrella organization for 62 major universities and university-systems, and the Association of American University Professors, which has multiple chapters in more than 35 states, have both firmly rejected the boycott.

In addition to those academic institutions, an additional 23 universities have officially rejected the ASA boycott.

Professor William A. Jacobson, clinical professor at Cornell Law School, has been collecting the information at his website, Legal Insurrection. He has been covering the ASA boycott extensively and continuously. His site is the virtual treasure trove of information regarding responses to the ASA boycott. He gives the reason for his focus in a poignant note he posted on Dec. 17, calling for a boycott

The schools joining Penn State and Brandeis include Harvard University, Princeton University, New York University, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Jacobson notes that neither he nor anyone else has been able to find a single institution of higher learning in the United States which has endorsed the ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/growing-number-of-schools-blast-academic-group-boycotting-israel/2013/12/23/

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