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Congress & the Middle East:
House Letter Criticizing Academic Boycott of Israel

(January 17, 2014)


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In January 2014, a bipartisan group of 134 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter criticizing the American Studies Association (ASA) for its decision of December 2013 to boycott academic institutions in Israel.
The letter was initiated by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).

Mr. Curtis Marez
President, American Studies Association

Dear Mr. Marez:

We write in strong opposition to the American Studies Association's (ASA) recent decision to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions," the letter to ASA President Curtis Marez read. "While ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government, we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom.

The ASA claims that the boycott 'is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.' We believe that this boycott accomplishes just the opposite. The university is an institution intended to foster, encourage, and inspire constructive dialogue and original thought. However, this boycott undermines academic freedom by prohibiting educational and cultural exchanges with Israeli universities and academic institutions.

Even more concerning is the singular targeting of Israel for boycott. Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish state. This morally dishonest double standard has already been rejected by well over 100 university presidents, with several member universities even withdrawing from the organization in protest.

Some higher education organizations -- including the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities -- have denounced the boycott as unjust and harmful to the goals of academic freedom. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejects boycotts of Israel, stating: 'No, we do not support the boycott of Israel. … We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.'

Academic cooperation can be an important tool to help foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but you have chosen the unproductive path of isolation. We hope that the ASA will learn to appreciate the mutually beneficial academic ties between the United States and Israel and work with us to promote peace and academic freedom.

Sincerely,


Sources: Israel Hayom (January 27, 2014); U.S. House of Representatives

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