January 13, 2014 15:30
by Alex Margolin
Everything you need to know about fighting BDS and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
1. Modern Language Association (MLA) proposes an anti-Israel resolution but stops short of calling academic boycott.
The proposed resolution, reached after hours of raucous debate, calls on the US State Department to look into cases of American academics being denied visas to enter Palestinian universities in the West Bank. A second resolution defending the American Studies Association (ASA) may be forthcoming in the coming days.
One of the participants in the debate, Joel Griffin, reported on the proceedings:
The first resolution accused Israel of having “arbitrarily denied academics of Palestinian entry into the West Bank and Gaza.” Delegates were requested to approve deletion of reference to Gaza after realizing that Egypt, not Israel, controls the entry of academics into Gaza. Perhaps some background information should have been gathered prior to such defamation.
In addition, the substance of the resolution was in error, as evidenced by a recent United States Department of State human rights report advises that “no overt threat to academic freedom” exists in Israel.
The decision to drop the reference to Gaza reveals the central purpose of the resolution – to condemn Israel, not to defend academic freedom in Palestinian territories. Otherwise, why refrain from criticizing Egypt as well?
See JNS coverage of the debate for more information.
2. ASA claims First Amendment right to boycott Israel.
The ASA, already under fire from some 180 universities for its academic boycott of Israel, came under a new attack from Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin (the Israeli Law Center). The NGO claimed that the boycott constituted discrimination: “for any person to boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, or otherwise discriminate against any person, because of the race, creed, color, or national origin.”
The ASA rejected the discrimination argument, insisting that the boycott was protected speech under the First Amendment, a position Shurat HaDin rejects, according to the Jerusalem Post:
Shurat Hadin made the case that BDS is not “protected free speech” as it is “action” and not mere speech, adding that BDS infringes on the free speech of other academics.
The NGO said that, “as of January 8th, 2013, more than 100 college presidents have gone on record as opposing the ASA boycott and at least five universities have withdrawn or plan to withdraw as institutional members of the association.”
3. BDS supporters gloat over comments from Yair Lapid.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s comments about the threat to Israel posed by boycotts and sanctions were widely distributed by BDS promoters such as Electronic Intifada.
Lapid had told the Hebrew edition of Ynet that the growing movement to isolate Israel has had an effect on Israel’s standing in the world, which has harmed Israel’s ability to respond to threats like those from Iran.
Other BDS-related content:
What to do? Facing a similar (British) academic boycott of Israelis seven years ago, Alan Dershowitz and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg wrote an open letter declaring that, for the purposes of any anti-Israel boycott, they are to be considered Israelis.
Meaning: You discriminate against Israelis? Fine. Include us out. We will have nothing to do with you.
Thousands of other academics added their signatures to the Dershowitz/Weinberg letter. It was the perfect in-kind response. Boycott the boycotters, with contempt.
* While proponents of BDS sometimes claim they are only oppposed to Israel’s presence on the West Bank, posters like the one below clearly target all of Israel.