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October 21, 2014
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American Studies Association Responds to False Accusations of Discrimination at Upcoming Conference
In recent days, several erroneous reports have circulated claiming that the American Studies Association (ASA), the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, will bar Israeli academics from participating at our upcoming annual conference in Los Angeles, November 6-9. This allegation is false. There will not be discrimination of any sort against anyone. We welcome Israeli academics to attend, and in fact several are already scheduled to participate in the conference program (see here for more information on the program).
Subsequent reports also stated, erroneously, that the ASA had changed our policy regarding support for the academic boycott. We have not. Last year, after careful consideration by its membership, the ASA overwhelmingly endorsed an academic boycott to call attention to the violations of academic freedoms and human rights of Palestinian scholars and students by Israel. This limited action means simply that the ASA on an institutional level will not engage in collaborative projects with Israeli research institutions, and will not speak at Israeli academic institutions.
The ASA has a longstanding commitment to social justice and believes in the power of nonviolent strategies, such as boycotts and divestment movements, as a tool to effect political, social and economic change. The United States Supreme Court has upheld boycotts against human rights violations to be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.
“We recognize that the boycott issue has been controversial, even among our own members, and in the spirit of openness and transparency, we have scheduled a panel discussion on precisely this topic,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan. “However, the ASA annual conference is a broad and inclusive event. It’s an opportunity to explore and celebrate the diversity of issues, views and scholarship that falls under the umbrella of American Studies. We look forward to the upcoming participation of our members, invited guests and registered attendees in Los Angeles.”
1.Hank Reichman of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) comments on ACLJ’s unsupported claim: “California’s Unruh Act does indeed bar discrimination in hotel accommodations and does permit an institution to be considered a “person” suffering discrimination and hence eligible to bring a lawsuit. But such a legal claim requires actual incidents of discrimination, and apparently the ACLJ has as yet identified neither an individual nor an institution that can be said to have been a victim of the alleged discriminatory behavior.” He adds, “Moreover, ACLJ’s claim that the ASA boycott is anti-Semitic rings hollow, since not all Jews—indeed, not all Israelis—support the policies the boycott purports to resist.”
2. For more information about the American Center for Law and Justice, read this piece from the Electronic Intifada which explains that, “Founded by the far-right Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson in 1990, ACLJ’s docket has been dominated by opposing same-sex marriage, outlawing abortion and evangelizing its anti-homosexual agenda in Africa.”
3. In January 2013, Shurat HaDin - The Israel Law Center sent the ASA a “cease and desist” letter threatening a lawsuit against it if it did not immediately end its academic boycott.Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and the Center for Constitutional Rights responded to Shurat HaDin’s threat. The following excerpt from the statement can also be applied to the latest false claim, this time from the ACLJ.
ASA’s boycott resolution could not be considered discrimination, let alone discrimination based on animus toward the religion, race or national origin of any individual or institution; ASA’s actions are undertaken because of the policies of politically-accountable leaders in the Israeli government. Moreover, boycott and divestment strategies and the ASA position are grounded in the same anti-discrimination principles as other historical divestment and boycott strategies used to protest repressive state practices, including those employed against the South Africa apartheid regime and racial segregation in the United States. It is precisely these kinds of boycott, which aim to effect “political, social and economic change,” that the United States Supreme Court has held to be constitutionally protected speech activities.
Posted on 21-10-2014