Anti-Israel boycotters tighten grip on American Studies Association

Boycotters including Steven Salaita elected to National Council.
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We have been tracking the descent of the American Studies Association into an anti-Israel political operation ever since the ASA’s boycott of Israel was proposed in late November 2013. Scroll though our American Studies Association Tag for the full history.

The ASA move was part of the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel.

Most recently, we covered the ASA’s discriminatory admission policy at its Annual Meeting in November 2014, which by ASA written policy was to exclude representatives of Israeli academic insitutions and was to apply a discriminatory litmus test to Israeli faculty members. After a threat of legal action against the hosting hotel under California’s anti-discrimination laws, the ASA changed its policy and announced that even Bibi Netanyahu was welcome at the annual meeting.

There was some small hope that the ASA would reconsider or at least moderate its academic boycott ways, but that seems highly unlikely in light of recent elections of a new president-elect and governing national council.

The ASA’s 2015 Election Results solidified the grip of the BDS movement on the supposedly educational tax-exempt organization.

The current President-Elect (based on last year’s elections) is David Roediger, University of Illinois, an endorser of the academic boycott of Israel.

The next in line President-Elect will be Robert Warrior, Director of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign American Indian Studies Department. Warrior is a proponent of the BDS academic boycott of Israel.  Warrior participated in an anti-Israel Red Washing conference at the American University in Beirut, opposed a Navajo leader’s visit to Israel, and criticized the Native American writer, poet and musician Joy Harjo for serving at a Writer-in-Residence at Tel Aviv University.

Warrior continues the recent succession of anti-Israel BDS advocates in the ASA President position, starting with Curtis Marez (Ethnic Studies Dept., UC-San Diego), who helped push through the 2013 boycott resolution, and infamously justified singling out Israel because “one has to start somewhere.” After Marez came current President Lisa Duggan, whose use of faculty power at NYU to push the BDS agenda has been the subject of extensive press coverage.

Also elected was the controversial Steven Salaita, whose contingent offer to join the UI-UC Department headed by Warrior (who was Salaita’s Ph.D. dissertation adviser at the University of Oklahoma) was rejected by the UI Board of Trustess and is the subject of litigation. In addition to his Twitter controversy, Salaita was the author of a Guide on how faculty could use their position within academia to advance the academic boycott of Israel (which of course is ironicconsidering his lawsuit is based on him allegedly being unfairly boycotted).

At least two of the others elected are endorsers of the academic boycott of Israel (in addition to Warrior and Salaita), Jodi Melamed (Marquette University) and Nadine Naber (University of Illinois, Chicago). The other council member is Sharon Holland (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), whose position on BDS is not clear.

I know there are some ASA members who hoped that the organization could moderate its dedication as an institution to an all-out academic war on Israel.

The Eastern and California Chapters of the ASA announced they would not honor the national ASA boycott, over 250 University Presidents plus the major academic organizations denounced the boycott, and the ASA has become, in the words of the NY Times, a pariah:

With its recent vote to boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians, the American Studies Association has itself become the target of widespread criticism and ostracism. It has gone from relative obscurity to prominence as a pariah of the United States higher-education establishment, its experience serving as a cautionary tale for other scholarly groups that might consider taking a similar stand on the Middle East.

But change always was unlikely to come, because of the grip the boycotters held on key committees and the national council.

Having taken over the ASA, there was no way the boycotters were going to voluntarily give up using the organization as a base of operations to attack Israel.  To the contrary, the ASA padded its membership rolls with people supportive of the boycott call in the few weeks after the boycott passed.

So anyone truly interested in advancing American Studies as a legitimate area of scholarship and pedagogy can pretty much kiss the ASA goodbye.

If you participate in the ASA, you are complicit in an organization that has lost all but the pretense of being anything but political.

That violation of its educational mandate is one of the grounds on which I challeged the ASA’s tax-exempt status, the status of that challenge remains behind an IRS veil of secrecy.

Anti-Israel boycotters tighten grip on American Studies Association

Boycotters including Steven Salaita elected to National Council.
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