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ASA Members Vote To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Council’s announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval.

American Studies Association Resolution on Academic Boycott of Israel

December 4, 2013

Whereas the American Studies Association is committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the struggle against all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, discrimination, and xenophobia, and to solidarity with aggrieved peoples in the United States and in the world;

Whereas the United States plays a significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians;

Whereas there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation, and Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students;

Whereas the American Studies Association is cognizant of Israeli scholars and students who are critical of Israeli state policies and who support the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement under conditions of isolation and threat of sanction;

Whereas the American Studies Association is dedicated to the right of students and scholars to pursue education and research without undue state interference, repression, and military violence, and in keeping with the spirit of its previous statements supports the right of students and scholars to intellectual freedom and to political dissent as citizens and scholars;

It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University is complicit inIsrael’s unequal treatment of Palestinians (5% of its student population), the majority of whom are citizens of the Israeli state, and the suppression of political dissent; for instance:

  •  Tel Aviv University has chosen to remain silent while the entire population of Gaza has been excluded by the Israeli government from the possibility of enrolling and studying at the university.  Palestinian students from Gaza have a better chance of acceptance at a university in the United States than at Tel Aviv University.[1]
  •  The Tel Aviv University administration restricts the freedom of speech and protest of Palestinian students by honoring the “Nakba Bill,”[2] discriminatory legislation meant to discourage academic discussion and public commemoration of a day of mourning, on the anniversary of the establishment of Israel, for the expulsion by Zionist and Israeli forces of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land, and the massacre of thousands more, during 1947-49.
  •  Tel Aviv University requires potential enrollees to take psychometric exams, a combined aptitude and personality test that has been criticized as culturally biased.  The university likewise administers English language proficiency entrance exams that are structurally biased as a result of Israel’s “separate-but-equal” primary and secondary education system, which prioritizes and promotes Jewish Israeli advancement while under-funding and thus under-developing Palestinian-majority schools.[3]
  •  Like all Israeli universities, Tel Aviv University also adheres to an Israeli law which stipulates that universities must give special treatment to student military reservists—in the form of financial assistance, age restrictions for entry into particular programs, and student housing allotments. This evidences both Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation and its discriminatory practices against Palestinian students, who are not required to serve in the Israeli military.  The university likewise discriminates against the small but significant number of Jewish conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).[4]  
  • Tel Aviv University is participating in a settler-run archaeological dig in the “City of David” national park located in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.[5]
  • Tel Aviv University, like most Israeli universities, is built on the land of a Palestinian Arab habitat, in this case, Shaykh Muwannis, a large village whose inhabitants were forcibly expelled by the IDF in early 1948. The story of the expulsion, destruction and erasure of this village is told by Professor Shlomo Sand of the Tel Aviv University Department of History.[6]  Part of Sand’s description details the five decades of silence and denial by the University of the facts of this expulsion.

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