The full membership of the American Studies Association (ASA) has voted by a two-to-one margin to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, it was announced today.
The referendum was called after the National Council, the ASA’s governing body, endorsed the boycott itself on 4 December.
The vote is likely to be seen as an historic milestone in the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), particularly in the United States, where university administrations have forcefully opposed student and faculty initiatives of this kind.
The ASA describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”
It has 5,000 individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.
Here’s the ASA’s full statement:
ASA Members Vote To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel
The members of the American Studies Association have endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The election was a response to the ASA National Council’s announcement on December 4 that it supported the academic boycott and, in an unprecedented action to ensure a democratic process, asked its membership for their approval. Please see the ASA website for a collection of supporting documents.
One year ago the ASA Executive Committee was asked to consider a resolution from the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the Association. The EC then forwarded the resolution to the National Council and, following a lengthy period of careful deliberations, the Council unanimously voted to draft a revised resolution and to recommend members endorse it.
The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians. The ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members.
The National Council engaged and addressed questions and concerns of the membership throughout the process. During the open discussion at the recent convention, members asked us to draft a resolution that was relevant to the ASA in particular and so the Council’s final resolution acknowledged that the US plays a significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Members asked for clarification about how the resolution would affect the ability of ASA members to engage with colleagues in Israel, and the Council developed guidelines specifying that collaboration on research and publications between individual scholars does not fall under the ASA boycott. Members asked us to deliberate carefully and consider diverse opinions and the Council thus deliberated for 8 days. Members asked that we create spaces for discussion and the Council established a lively Facebook page. Finally, members asked the National Council to put the resolution to a vote and the Council listened. The ASA National Council thanks all who took seriously the task of debating and discussing the resolution. As the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, the Association’s mission includes the ongoing study and discussion of pressing issues faced by the US and the world. As part of that process and in keeping with the ASA’s commitment to academic freedom, we are thus pleased to announce plans to bring Israeli and Palestinian academics to the 2014 national convention in Los Angeles. At the same time we look forward to continuing the Association’s other work such as further supporting graduate student travel to the conference. Most important, we are making plans to add a regular DuPont Circle-based staffer who will organize a joint task force with the members of the Departments, Programs and Centers Committee to provide support for programs under review or experiencing other challenges.
The ASA National Council
The statement on the ASA’s website is followed by a list of statements endorsing the decision by eminent academics in the field.