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PACBI-Historic Decision: American Studies Association National Council Unanimously Endorses BDS

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PACBI | 6 December 2013

Historic Decision: American Studies Association National Council Unanimously Endorses BDS

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the American Studies Association (ASA) National Council in the United States for its principled support for the cause of justice in Palestine by unanimously endorsing a resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions on December 4, 2013.  By doing so, the ASA National Council sends a message that it stands in full solidarity with the world-wide BDS movement initiated and led by Palestinian civil society.

This historic decision comes after a similar decision by the Association of Asian American Studies and a number of important student council votes in support of divestment from companies involved in Israel's occupation, accentuating an already visible trend of growing support for BDS in the US.  This great accomplishment led by conscientious scholars in the ASA is further evidence of a real, significant shift in public opinion on US campuses, in particular, in support of Palestinian rights under international law and BDS as the most effective and morally consistent means to achieve those rights.

Palestinian academics, students and society at large deeply appreciate and are inspired by this most effective expression of international solidarity that reminds us of similar initiatives taken by academics and academic associations worldwide in the 1980s in support of the academic boycott of South Africa under apartheid.

The ASA resolution, unanimously endorsed by the National Council and awaiting ratification from the ASA membership, resolves that the association “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” [1].

PACBI wishes to acknowledge, with gratitude, the determined efforts of all the academics who diligently and strategically worked on and those who endorsed this unprecedented resolution. Considering the prevailing climate of intimidation in the US academy when it comes to voicing the slightest criticism of Israel’s violations of international law, it indeed takes courage to advocate for the academic boycott and to demand that the rights of those who support the BDS movement should be protected. 

Such resolutions indicate a refusal to be intimidated by the persistent efforts of defenders of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid and Israeli lobby groups inside and outside the academy to keep BDS outside the domain of acceptable public discourse.  The publication of a number of compelling pro-BDS articles by the American Association of University Professors’ Journal of Academic Freedom a few months ago [2], for instance, sent the lobby into overdrive in its relentless attempts to undermine this prominent validation of the need to debate BDS and Israel’s system of injustice in academia.

The ASA decision cannot but be viewed as a triumph for the logic of academic boycott against Israel's complicit academy, as consistently reflected in the positions of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) as well as PACBI and its partners worldwide. It is, indeed, a significant step in the direction of holding Israeli institutions accountable for their collusion in maintaining the state's occupation, colonization and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.

The ASA resolution amounts to a clear decision to challenge the notion that Israel’s complicit institutions, including the academy, can be "normal" partners of any self-respecting institution or association.  Indeed, it has to be recognized by academics the world over that Israeli universities, in particular, are part and parcel of the structures of domination and oppression of the Palestinian people.  Far from being neutral, Israeli academic institutions have played a direct and indirect role in promoting, justifying, developing or otherwise abetting the state's racist policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law.  As the resolution acknowledges, it is significant that not only have Israeli academic institutions failed to condemn the state's colonial policies and practices and the longstanding siege of Palestinian education, they have facilitated, enabled, and often encouraged the collaboration of their academic departments, faculty members and researchers with the Israeli military-security establishment, above all in the occupation regime, in flagrant violation of the principles of the independence of universities and academics. 

The ASA has proven beyond doubt that effective solidarity with the oppressed is the most morally and politically sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and to promote human rights and justice. And solidarity starts with “withdrawing support,” as a fundamental first step, from a system of injustice, as Martin Luther King Jr. says. We are certain that this outstanding expression of solidarity and support for the Palestinian BDS movement will further galvanize academics across the United States as well as in other countries to issue similar calls for the boycott of the Israeli academy and its complicit institutions.  As in South Africa during apartheid, only by isolating these institutions can there be any chance of ending their complicity in Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people.







Posted on 06-12-2013

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