What the ASA should be doing?

Photo by Ishai Parasol via Flickr

Raul Herrera/Contributing Writer

Recently, the American Studies Association claimed that it would commence a boycott on Israeli academic institutions. Florida International University has come out in opposition to this decision. And I must say, this decision is laudable.

The ASA cites the reason being a “multi-tiered system of oppression that has denied Palestinians basic rights.” In the same report, they imply that Israel is an apartheid state, a claim that is largely questionable. Let us look at the facts.

Dennis Prager once noted that if Israel truly were a state that endorses such an abominable practice, then more individuals would have accused it of being one during the apartheid era in South Africa. Prager continued to mention in his piece on his website the stories of Reda Mansour, Walid Badir, Ishmael Khaldi, all Arabs who rose to prominence in Israel. This would be nigh impossible in an apartheid system.

In addition, as pointed out by Fay Goldstein in an article with student media, Israelis have provided Palestinians with water and electricity, a violation of human rights indeed.

These facts aside, the entire debacle begs the question: why is Israel being singled out? Should the ASA not boycott Saudi academic institutions over concerns about women’s rights in that nation-state? Should it not boycott Chinese institutions as a backlash against their government’s family planning policy? Should the ASA eventually collapse in on itself when it boycotts the United States for something we may have done? Simply put, why do allegations (that, as far as my research has led me to believe, are largely unproven) of apartheid merit the shunning of academic institutions, but not the aforementioned political issues?

Plus, how does Israel’s right to defend itself against extremist groups like Hamas play into the equation? These are all serious questions that must be posed in this debacle, and I imagine are part of the reasoning behind the university’s stance against the boycott.

Most people want a peaceful solution to the conflict, but this can only be accomplished through dialogue and negotiation. Rather than encouraging that, the ASA has moved against it. In the world of academia, one is encouraged to look at different perspectives and look at the evidence as opposed to acting rashly. We are encouraged to think, listen, and educate one another, not put our fingers in our ears and scream “oppression” until the voices we do not like go away. It is truly a shame that ASA, which is in favor of education, has forgotten this.


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