Israel lobby groups are marshaling their formidable forces for a fierce counterattack against the American Studies Association (ASA), including calls for repressive legislation, boycotts and other measures to punish and silence solidarity with Palestinians.
Earlier this month, members of the ASA voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to endorse the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions which are complicit in Israel’s occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights.
Individuals supporting the boycott have also been targets of intense vilification and hate campaigns.
Pressure on universities
Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”
Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg, have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.
Now, New York University (NYU) is under intense pressure to follow in their footsteps. A 21 December New York Post editorial called on NYU’s American studies program to “sever its ties” with the ASA, pointing out that “almost a quarter of the American Studies Association’s 17 non-student councilors are from NYU, including the group’s president-elect, Lisa Duggan.”
It was the ASA’s governing body, its National Council, that first endorsed the boycott and called for a full membership referendum to back its decision.
In a bizarre anti-Semitic twist, the Post editorial emphasizes that NYU “is supported by many Jewish donors and attended by many Jewish students. It features buildings and programs with names like Steinhardt and Tisch. It makes its home in the US city that has the highest number of Jews.”
It is unclear why any of that should be relevant unless one takes the bigoted position – as the Post appears to do – that all Jews are either implicated in or supportive of Israel’s occupation and other human rights abuses that motivated the ASA boycott.