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Harvard and Yale Slam American Studies Association Over Israel Boycott

Lead growing chorus condemning the boycott

Yair Rosenberg
December 23, 2013
Harvard Yard (Wikipedia)
Harvard Yard (Wikipedia)

Harvard and Yale, along with a host of other universities, public officials, and journalistic outlets, has condemned and rejected the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel. “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,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said in a 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.” Yale President Peter Salovey echoed these sentiments: “Any attempt to close off discussion or dialogue among scholars is antithetical to the fundamental values of scholarship and academic freedom. I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”

Joining Harvard and Yale in condemning the boycott is a growing chorus of universities, including Princeton, Brown, Cornell, University of Chicago, Northwestern University and New York University. In total, 45 schools have thus far rejected the ASA boycott in the days following its passage. Additionally, four universities–Brandeis, Penn State Harrisburg, Kenyon College, and Indiana University–have cancelled their institutional membership in the organization, while others–Northwestern, Brown, Tufts, University of Alabama, University of Southern California, Trinity College, Temple, Willamette and Hamilton–say they are not members, despite being listed as such by the ASA. Combined, these withdrawals reduce the ASA’s institutional membership from 83 universities to 70. (Several college presidents, while condemning the boycott, have emphasized that the decision to withdraw from the ASA is the prerogative of their American Studies department.)

America’s ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, has also weighed in against the boycott, saying that “The United States rejects all attempts to boycott or delegitimize Israel. I’m pleased to see many of our leading universities sharing this stance.” And in today’s paper, the Washington Post editorial board calls the ASA’s action “terribly misguided” and “fundamentally wrong.”

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.