American Studies Assoc. president defends groups' boycott of Israel

Historians in the News
tags: Israel boycott

Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, is president of the American Studies Assn.

This past weekend, American Studies Assn. members held our annual conference in Los Angeles, with the theme "The Fun and the Fury." Those familiar with the ASA mainly because of news about our year-old academic boycott of Israel might be surprised by our sessions ranging from "Vanguardist Jazz in the Seventies" to "Selfie Nation" -- all engaging topics that are intrinsic to the field of American studies.

The conference, drawing 2,300 scholars, was the first to follow our resolution last December supporting the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The boycott is a form of nonviolent resistance that proved its value during the successful fight against South African apartheid.

Writing in The Times last week, Brandeis University American studies chairman Thomas Doherty charged that the ASA "ventured outside its natural borders" and wondered why Israel should be considered "singularly toxic."

But if Israel's horrific F-16 fighter jet attacks on Gaza Strip civilians this summer don't make the boycott seem sufficiently urgent, consider Israel's escalating destruction of Palestinian culture: settlement expansion, night raids, detentions without charges, home demolitions, forced Bedouin resettlement and the "explicitly jingoistic and racist elements" that the New Yorker's David Remnick warns now "operate closer to the center of Israeli political life." Naftali Bennett, Israel's economy minister and a key coalition partner, just outlined in the New York Times a program for permanent occupation that easily meets the legal definition of apartheid.

To condemn violence against Israel while opposing a nonviolent boycott is to say that the Palestinians, under endless occupation, should not resist at all....

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