Tuesday, 23 April 2013

In historic decision, AAAS votes to support boycott of Israeli academic institutions

by Annie Robbins

Big news out of Seattle this weekend. At the Annual Conference of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) members voted for a resolution endorsed by 800 academics in support of boycotting Israeli academic institutions in solidarity with the world-wide movement responding to the call from Palestinian civil society.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(PACBI) reports "AAAS is the FIRST academic organization in the U.S. to boycott Israeli institutions."

Association for Asian American Studies Annual Conference April 2013 Resolution Proposed: Support Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

The Association for Asian American Studies isan organization dedicated to the preservationand support of academic freedom and of theright to education for students and scholars inthe U.S. and globally. This year’s conferencetheme, “The Afterlife of Empire,” demonstratesAAAS commitment to a critique of U.S. empire.We urge the General Membership to vote for theresolution in support of the boycott of IsraeliAcademic Institutions. The call to boycottIsraeli universities is in protest of the illegaloccupation of Palestine, the infringements of theright to education of Palestinian students, and the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and studentsin the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. This resolution links AAAS to a world-wide movement behind the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
AAAS participation in this boycott is an act of solidarity with Arab (West Asian) and Muslim American communities, students, andscholars who have been subjected to profiling, surveillance, and civil rights violations that havecircumscribed their freedom of political expression, particularly in relation to the issue of human rights inPalestine-Israel.Israeli academic institutions are deeply complicit in Israel's violations of international law andhuman rights and in its denial of the right to education and academic freedom to Palestinians, in additionto their basic rights as guaranteed by international law. As an organization that supports research andopen discussion about these issues without censorship, intimidation, or harassment, and seeks to promoteacademic exchange, collaboration and opportunities for students and scholars everywhere, AAAS must join in the global movement to protest the rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage inresearch and public speaking about Israel-Palestine.
We urge the general membership to attend the general meeting on Saturday, April 20th, 4:30 p.m.St. Helens, Westin Hotel. Vote to pass this resolution!
Leslie Bow, Lucy Burns, KeithCamacho, Mark Chiang, David Eng,  CandaceFujikane,  Anna Guevarra, Sora Han, Helen Jun, LauraKang, Jodi Kim, Richard Kim, Kevin Kumashiro,James Lee, Karen Leong, Lisa Lowe, Anita Mannur,Glen Mimura, Susette Min,Gary Okihiro, JunaidRana, Eric Reyes,Robyn Rodriguez, Cathy Schlund-Vials, Malini Johar Schueller, Sarita See, Nikhil PalSingh, Rajini Srikanth, Dorothy Wang
Other academics and/or Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies scholars who have endorsed/and or are involved in the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(USACBI); this list is a very small subset, as there are 800 endorsers:
Sarika Chandra, Shefali Chandra, Iyko Day, Vicente M.Diaz, Diane Fujino, J. Noelani Goodyear-Ka’opua, Inderpal Grewal, Christine Hong, Adria Imada, Jane Iwamura, J. KÄ“haulani Kauanui, Elaine Kim, Sunaina Maira, Yong Soon Min, Chandra Talpade Mohanty,Rupal Oza, Vijay Prashad, Jasbir Puar, R. Radhakrishnan, Chandan Reddy, Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, SetsuShigematsu, Noenoe Silva, Neferti Tadiar.
Three reasons why Asian American Scholars should support an academic boycott of Israeli institutions is an open letter by a South Asian American grad student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that was written to encourage AAAS members to vote for the resolution:
1. The extent of racist exclusion practiced by Israeli academic institutions and the people that comprise them is shocking to anyone who scratches the surface. If a university practiced the same level of racial discrimination in the US it would be boycotted without question. Imagine for a moment that UCLA closed an academic department because too many black students enrolled, or that a university implemented rules that resulted in white students being given preferential access to the dormitories. An American university engaged in such practices would be boycotted and protested without question. These are just examples of how Palestinians are treated by Israeli universities (see example 1 and2).

2. The degree to which these institutions serve parts of the state which openly violate international law has only grown in recent years. Ariel University, for example, is built on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank and was recently upgraded from college to university status by the Israeli government (see here for coverage).

3. These universities continue to serve as the research centers for war-making devices and new theories of warfare that openly flaunt international law. One example of the academy’s technical support for violences is Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. Technion has developed some of the military equipment that has proved to be most damaging to Palestinians and most instrumental in human rights violations (see here for a review of Technion’s military contributions). An example of the academy’s ideological support for violations of international law is the Dahiya doctrine. this doctrine was developed at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (see here for more). It calls for the wholesale flattening of a neighborhood as a “message” to the other side (see coverage of the effects of this policy). 
Thus to freely engage with these institutions is to give them a normalcy and endorsement they do not deserve, and moreover sends the message that there is no price, even symbolic, to pay for their racism and support for violations of human rights and international law. To have any credibility in the area of human rights and equality, or even academic freedom, AAAS must boycott Israeli academic institutions. 

This would mean, for example, not holding joint programs with Israeli universities, but would not mean banning individual Israeli professors from speaking and visiting as individuals. The distinction between individuals and institutions is very important, and reiterated in the boycott’s guidelines

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