In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This decision is perhaps the largest victory of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States, and it has provoked a major backlash by university officials and politicians.
Urgent action is needed to show support for the ASA and other scholarly organizations that have voted to respect the boycott (the Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) or have begun to discuss BDS and passed other measures criticizing Israel (the Modern Language Association).
Here are 5 ways to stand with these organizations currently facing intense attack:
1. Sign and share this petition thanking the American Studies Association for its principled decision and condemning the harassment and intimidation of ASA members and this petition calling on the Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association (MLA) to make a statement against intimidation and reprisals for social activism on Palestine.
2. Monitor the media for recent articles condemning these organizations and write letters to the editor in support of the academic boycott and denouncing attacks. (Past articles attacking the ASA and MLA have been published in the NY Post 1-3-14, NY Times 1-5-14 and WSJ 1-8-14.) Letters should be polite and short (150 words maximum) and optimally submitted within 1 to 4 days of the article’s publication. They should include your name, address, and phone number. For further information about the ASA boycott resolution, including replies to many of the attacks, see USACBI’s round-up of writing on the resolution and the PACBI website. Have more to say that can’t fit in a letter to the editor? Consider writing an op-ed (approximately 700 words). If you’d like assistance contacting media to run the op-ed, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Call your NY representatives and tell them to keep their hands off academic freedom. Politicians are threatening to defund organizations that support the boycott and even universities that maintain ties with these scholarly organizations. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of state aid to support organizations that “promote discriminatory boycotts.” New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein and Assemblyman Dov Hikind plan to propose a bill that would end state funding and bonding privileges for public or private schools that don’t withdraw support for the ASA within 30 days.
4. Are you a student, faculty, staff, or alumnus of a university or college whose administration has denounced or severed ties with the ASA and other scholarly associations supporting the boycott? Write to university officials, write an op-ed in the university’s newspaper, and organize in your networks to raise awareness and act collectively to pressure administrators to respect departmental autonomy and the academic freedom of faculty. Participate in this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week (February 24 – March 2) and hold an event on academic boycott and academic freedom.