Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is ASA

tags: Israel, divestment, American Studies Association



Alan Luxenberg is president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The vote by the 5,000-member American Studies Association to support the academic boycott of Israel, reportedly by a 2-1 margin, has evoked many responses, but none so far has identified the irony at the core of the matter.  To show that irony, and the deeper problem it illustrates, you need to know that a couple of weeks before the ASA vote, the ASA’s 20-member National Council, which administers the ASA and is elected by the ASA membership, pre-voted in favor of the Israel boycott—and did so unanimously.

Can you imagine twenty serious scholars in any discipline voting unanimously on any controversial issue? I can’t, so I thought it worthwhile to examine the composition of the ASA’s National Council and to peruse its members’ academic profiles, as described on the webpages of their home institutions. This simple exercise reveals a stunning lack of diversity of intellectual interests and perspectives in a sector of American society, the university, that explicitly places a very high premium on “diversity.” The apparent obsession with gender, gay and race studies (or of U.S. imperialism) among the members of ASA’s National Council seems to come at the expense of scholarship on just about everything else....

If this isn’t one of the most disingenuous statements uttered recently, it is certainly one of most ironic (or perhaps hypocritical or bizarre). Given that gender and gay studies is a special area of interest for this group of academics, it is notable that the Council chose to single out the only country in the region where homosexuals can live freely and without inordinate fear, and can practice their professions unfettered by boycotts of another sort. (For some details on attitudes toward gays in the Middle East, take a look at the recent Pew Research Center study, The Global Divide on Homosexuality.)




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