Michael Roth recently attacked the American Studies Association over its resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Roth called the resolution a "repugnant attack on academic freedom, declaring academic institutions off-limits because of their national affiliation."
However, academic freedom refers to safeguarding legitimate rights of faculty members. Roth appeared to miss the point that the ASA boycott refers specifically to Israeli academic institutions, not to individual faculty. If Roth were really concerned about academic freedom though, one would think his article would have challenged the decades of blatant Israeli violations of the academic freedom of Palestinians.
Thus Roth's article seems more like an attempt to divert attention from Israeli violations of human rights and international law than a true concern about academic freedom. A few examples of Israeli crimes include: building illegal colonies in the West Bank; destroying Palestinian homes; limiting Palestinian travel; deporting Palestinians; closing Palestinian schools for long periods; killing civilians; and bombing civilian targets such as sanitation and other utility plants, schools, mosques and hospitals.
Palestinians see the U.S. sponsored so-called peace negotiations as a cover for the continuing theft of their land and creating more illegal Israeli settlements. Therefore, Palestinians finally called for a BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — movement to help reach a nonviolent resolution of this grossly unequal conflict.
The Palestinian call and our enabling role in the ongoing Israeli crimes led to the ASA boycott resolution. Hopefully other associations will finally end their shameful silence about this oppressive occupation and join the BDS movement..
Some claim Israel is being unfairly singled out. However Israel is often singled out for special attention. For example, the U.S. abets and/or tolerates Israeli crimes. The U.S. also gives several billions of dollars annually to Israel as well as preventing any UN sanctions against Israel for its crimes.
Note that many critics of the ASA resolution are the ones really committing a repugnant attack on academic freedom. These people are trying to have funding withheld from the ASA and, through intimidation and threats, to silence these courageous academics who took a moral position.
In closing, some of these critics are also concerned that the BDS movement will successfully challenge Israel's legitimacy. They fail to see that Israeli violations of human rights and international law challenge its legitimacy.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.