Dr. Curtis Marez and the Executive Committee of American Studies Association
American Studies Association
1120 19th St. NW
Washington DC 20003
Dear Dr. Marez and the Executive Committee of American Studies Association,
The Arab American Studies Association (AASA) wishes to thank the American Studies Association (ASA) for its endorsement of the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
As a scholarly organization committed to the study of Arabs in diaspora, including in the United States and North America, the AASA is committed to upholding freedom of expression and recognizes that the ASA‘s endorsement of a boycott of Israeli institutions does not –and should not– prevent individual Israelis from participating in academic collaborations with academics in the United States. Rather, it is a response to discriminatory practices against Palestinian and Arab students and academics by Israeli institutions. Thus, the AASA regards the American Studies Association’s endorsement as a commitment to expanding the possibilities of academic freedom and to breaking the silence in American academia on Israeli institutional violations of Palestinian and Arab rights to free movement, education, and expression through continued occupation, settler colonialism, and apartheid.
For decades, the field of Arab American Studies has interrogated the ways in which unqualified U.S. support for the Israeli state shapes the racialized and gendered treatment of Arabs and Arab Americans within the corporate media and everyday life. Yet all too often in the United States, when scholars critically address Israeli state practices and their impact on Arab and Arab American lives, those scholars are met with efforts to silence and limit critical dialogue. Many Arab American studies scholars have had course content scrutinized by university administrators or by student groups committed to closing down open discussion on Israeli human rights violations. Arab American Studies scholars have served as mentors to graduate and undergraduate students who have been denied entry to Israel based solely on their Arab heritage or unjustly targeted on their college campuses for expressing critiques of the Israeli state. Such efforts deeply impact academic careers and the possibility for open academic debate on campuses in the United States. For too long, these courageous scholars and students faced these challenges on their own. This is the historical significance of ASA’s breaking the silence.
As an association that is committed to the free and open debate of ideas about Arabs in the Middle East, the United States and the diaspora, the AASA welcomes the discussion that the ASA has opened up about the role that Israeli universities play in denying Palestinians and Arabs access to education, scholarship and teaching opportunities. The American Studies Association’s stance also coincides with the growing participation of Arab American Studies scholars in American Studies and we are enthusiastic about these new conversations and possibilities.
In all, we fully support the ASA Board and membership in its historic decision.
The Arab American Studies Association