Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/FLASH90
Arab students from Birzeit University. Archive: Nov. 2012

Oh those American academics are at it again.  Always trying to prove they are on the cutting edge of political correctness, professional academics know full well that the cheapest and easiest way to do that is to attack Israel, thereby establishing their street cred as true champions of the world’s favorite underdog, the Palestinian Arabs.

This time it is the American Studies Association. At its annual meeting, this year held in Washington, D.C., the ASA entertained a resolution calling upon the association to boycott Israeli academic institutions.


The resolution was proposed by the ASA’s Academic and Community Activism Caucus, and was endorsed by the current president, Curtis Marez of the University of California at San Diego and the president-elect of the Association, Lisa Duggan, of New York University, according to the site Inside Higher Ed.

When the Boycott Israel resolution was discussed at the meeting, 37 out of 44 speakers favored passage of the resolution. The JTA, not known as a right wing media outlet, described the 90 minute session as characterizing the Jewish State as “the colonizer, the settler state, the perpetuator of apartheid.”

A primary reason offered in the body of the petition in support of the boycott resolution is that the Israeli “Occupation” has a severely deleterious effect on the academic freedom rights of Palestinian Arabs. To wit:

Palestinian universities and schools have been periodically forced to close as a result of actions related to the Occupations, or have been destroyed by Israeli military strikes and Palestinian students and scholars face restrictions on movement and  travel that limit their ability to attend and work at universities, travel to conferences and to study abroad, and thereby obstruct their right to education

The petition goes on a bit in that vein, and includes the fact that foreign academics face interference when trying to reach “Palestinian” academic institutions.

So here’s the irony.

The “Occupation” began at the end of the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of the areas referred to by so many as the West Bank and Gaza. It stands to reason, then, since the American Studies academics are aghast at the horrors visited upon the Palestinian Arab students, Palestinian Arab academics and Palestinian Arab academic institutions by Israel, that they wish the Middle East to return to that prior state of bliss, to life as it existed before the “Occupation.”

In other words, all those who blathered on, urging the ASA to approve the resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions presumably would prefer that there were no Palestinian Arab institutions of higher learning.

Because not a single one of the 19 degree granting institutions serving the Arab Muslim population of the “West Bank” or Gaza existed before 1967.

That’s right, before the hegemonic Israeli Occupying Forces arrived, nobody could go to college in “Palestine.”

Several universities were established in the 1970’s, including the University of Palestine, which is located in Gaza, and was founded in 1972.  Prior to the “Occupation,” Egypt controlled Gaza and maintained the Palestinian Arab population living there under unrelenting military rule.

An Najah National University, located in Nablus, the largest of the Palestinian Arab universities, was established in 1977.

Even Birzeit University did not grant its first bachelors degrees to graduating students until 1976. This school was known as Birzeit College as far back as 1942, but that name simply reflected the local custom of referring to high schools as “colleges,” as acknowledged on Birzeit University’s own website.

The American Studies Association Boycott Israel resolution is modeled on the 2004 call by Palestinian Arab academics for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, which was modeled on the boycott campaign against South Africa during its Apartheid regime.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: [email protected]