CSCRE Statement of Solidarity for ASA Boycott
Read by Paula Ioanide, February 25, 2014 at Professor Eric Cheyfitz's talk at Ithaca College
It is one of the greatest conundrums in the world that people who have been subjected to much oppression in history should themselves become powerful and oppressive at a different historical moment. The American Studies Association’s recent vote to boycott Israeli institutions should be placed in this larger historical context.
As Vijay Prashad has noted, “The boycott developed in 2005, when 171 civil society organizations in Palestine called on the international community to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Among other tactics, these organizations called for the boycott of Israeli institutions that colluded with the occupation, including Hebrew University, which illegally built parts of its campus in the occupied territories. Supporters were asked to raise awareness of Palestinians’ lack of academic freedom, not only in the occupied territories but also within Israel’s 1948 boundaries. Within the Israeli academy, there has been little care for this lack of freedom: In 2008, a petition on behalf of Palestinian academics was sent to 9,000 Israeli academics; only 407 signed it. One reason Western academics have invested in the movement is to offer our fellowship with Palestinian academics whose voices have been drowned out.”
One commonly disseminated myth about the ASA boycott is that it bans individual Israeli scholars from participation in scholarly debates and knowledge production rather than institutions. Consequently, numerous presidents of U.S. colleges and universities, including Ithaca College’s President Tom Rochon, have publicly denounced the ASA boycott in the name of supporting academic freedom. This is actually a red herring, since it falsely favors an abstract notion of academic freedom, rather than focusing on the concrete conditions that permit, enable or radically prohibit academic freedom in the first place.
As philosopher Judith Butler has argued, academic freedom “requires and consists in the workable material infrastructure of educational institutions and the ability to travel without impediment and without harassment to educational sites; by linking academic freedom to the right to be free from violent threats and arbitrary detentions and delays, one would effectively be saying that the very idea of academic freedom makes no sense and its exercise is foreclosed by the conditions of Occupation.” In other words, constructing the issue around academic freedom abstractly denies the realities that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have to confront: the destruction of vital life-giving resources, of civil society, of cultural life and of basic infrastructure.
As faculty in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE), we want to express our solidarity with Palestinian and Jewish people who stand in opposition to the Occupation. We also want to express our solidarity with the ASA Boycott since it explicitly calls for boycotting Israeli institutions that collude with the Occupation. Although our unit tends to focus on the oppressions and systemic racism within U.S. borders, we believe that fighting for antiracism in the U.S. is always connected to an international community of oppressed people who daily struggle against U.S. militarism, occupation and neoliberalism, part of which involves a fatal alliance with Israeli Occupation.
Asma Barlas, Director of CSCRE and Professor of Politics
Sean Eversley Bradwell, Assistant Professor of African Diaspora Studies, CSCRE
Paula Ioanide, Assistant Professor of Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies, CSCRE
Gustavo Licon, Assistant Professor of Latino/a Studies, CSCRE
Nancy Morales, Lecturer of Latino/a Studies, CSCRE
Phuong Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies, CSCRE and Sociology