In a statement last week, University President Drew G. Faust joined a growing group of American academic leaders to oppose the boycott of Israeli academic institutions called for recently by the American Studies Association, an organization dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.
“Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars,” Faust, herself a historian of the American Civil War period and of the American South, wrote in the Dec. 20 statement. “The recent resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities represents a direct threat to these ideals, ideals which universities and scholarly associations should be dedicated to defend.”
The ASA includes approximately 5,000 individual scholars and 2,200 institutional and library subscribers. In a vote this month, 66 percent of the over 1,250 electoral participants approved the boycott.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin told The Crimson earlier this month that Faust is not a member of the ASA.
According to a statement from the association’s national council, the ASA sanctioned the boycott “in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.” Other motivations taken into account, according to the statement, were in “the context of U.S. military and other support for Israel, Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions, the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students, [and] the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.”
Former University President Larry Summers, who during his tenure attacked a campus movement to divest from Israel and other anti-Israel initiatives as “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent,” echoed that claim in an interview with The Crimson earlier this month about the ASA boycott.
“I think this academic boycott is especially abhorrent because [it singles out] Israel as the only country worthy of being boycotted,” Summers said, adding that numerous other countries, in addition to Israel, would seem to be in violation of the ASA’s standards but have not been boycotted.
“For [Israel] to be singled out is, I believe, anti-Semitic in its effect, though I would not pass judgment and not necessarily be prepared to say whether it is anti-Semitic in intent,” Summers said.
Academic leaders from schools around the country including Yale, Cornell, Princeton, and Boston University, have also voiced criticism of the boycott.
At least four institutions of higher learning—Kenyon College, Indiana University, Brandeis University, and Penn State University at Harrisburg—have withdrawn their membership from the ASA in protest.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.