Monday, February 06, 2017


As everyone on the planet knows by now, an executive order by the new US administration regarding immigration has triggered tsunamis of controversy across the globe. Given that we’ve been chest deep in commentary regarding that decision since it was made, I’ll forgo talking about debate over that policy in order to focus on one specific reaction to it.
Over the last week, more than 4000 academics have signed a petition calling on scholars to boycott academic conferences in the US until the immigration ban is lifted. As far as I know, that boycott does not extend to refusing Americans access to conferences outside the US, nor have I yet heard calls for international academics to shun their US colleagues by, for example, refusing to review or publish their research, or rejecting graduate students or grants applications based on nationality.
Still, this measured approach is grounded in the assumption that punishing American academics for actions taken by the US government is an appropriate choice of action. I’ve not yet heard that this assumption is based on alleged culpability of American academics (or academic institutions) for US policy. We’ve heard people make that case in other academic boycott debates by applying a principle that says any college or university taking government money or performing research that contributes to government decision-making is automatically complicit in the actions of that government. So far, however, the only direct criticisms I’ve heard are complaints that some academic associations have not taken official stands protesting Trump’s controversial immigration policy quickly enough.
Absent the assignment of blame, it might be that international academics – lacking other ways to protest US immigration policy – are doing what they can, regardless of whether it will have any impact on those setting that policy. In which case, American scholars are being asked to serve as “mere means” towards the protestor’s political ends.
Regardless of motivation, a principled stance against any academic boycott of any kind says that research, scholarship, and the free flow of ideas should transcend politics. Cary Nelson – former leader of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) – sums up this argument [behind a paywall, unfortunately], which should be read alongside his masterful work which provides the historic backstory to our society’s choice to grant one profession – academia – special privileges which fall under the category of “Academic Freedom.”
Given that it is academics who benefit most directly from special considerations granted to no other profession, one wonders why some of those academics seem so trigger-happy to act in ways that undermine this global societal compact by trying to punish or exclude one another on political grounds. As ever, the dynamite that has been laid which undermines an important principle of civil society is labeled BDS.
Recall that the only significant academic boycott over the last decade is the one directed at the Jewish state. And in this debate, none of the aforementioned cautions or qualifications are in place. One can argue whether a French academic refusing to attend a conference in Chicago is punishing someone else, or just making a personal choice. The same argument cannot be made, however, by those pushing academic institutions, associations and individuals to shun their Israeli colleagues in every possible way.
So if a conference boycott does take hold targeting American academic meetings, the gate is already wide open to escalate it to include all the things the BDSers want done to Israeli scholars (refusal to cooperate, rejection of papers, etc.). And as the construct of academic freedom unravels, what will keep others (including supporters of the current President) from calling for boycotts of other academic institutions or associations based on a different set of political gripes?
While we’re on the subject of BDS talking points, what about the argument that the proposed sweeping academic boycotts only target Israeli institutions and thus in no way should be seen as an attempt to punish individual scholars? Well academic conferences and the organizations that run them are also institutions, yet it’s hard to imagine that one can harm an institution that consists solely of people talking to each other without harming the participants in those conversations. This case study that describes the personal suffering caused by an “institutional boycott” of University of Illinois also provides an empirical nail for the coffin of the “intuitional-boycotts-don’t-harm-individuals argument.
Finally, one of the reasons I described that argument made by AAUP’s Cary Nelson argument against all academic boycotts as “principled” is that it is universal, which allows him to consistently fight against academic boycotts of Israel and the US, Trumps immigration ban, and other issues that stand in the way of scholarly discourse.
In contrast, look at how much the boycotters must tie themselves into knots trying to jibe their claims to stand for universal principle (like human rights and academic freedom) with the narrowness of their target list (currently standing at one, maybe two, with the greatest abusers of scholars, students and free inquiry permanently off their agenda).
As noted previously, academic freedom is not a natural phenomenon like gravity or even a natural corollary of the Rights of Man, but remains a relatively recent social invention that benefits scholars by preventing the vagaries of politics from impacting their work. To throw all that away in the name of “Israel Must Go” seems a pretty big sacrifice for such ugly and immoral ends.



We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

search eoz

comments

Speaking

follow me

Follow by Email

translate

Share on Whatsapp


E-Book

For $18 donation








Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts Ever

Hasbys!

Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

Donate!

Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options


One time donation:

subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!

Tweets

Advertisement

Compliments

The Jerusalem Report:"A seemingly indefatigable one-man operation, armed only with a computer, chutzpa and stamina."

Algemeiner: "Fiercely intelligent and erudite"

Omri: "Elder is one of the best established and most respected members of the jblogosphere..."
Atheist Jew:"Elder of Ziyon probably had the greatest impression on me..."
Soccer Dad: "He undertakes the important task of making sure that his readers learn from history."
AbbaGav: "A truly exceptional blog..."
Judeopundit: "[A] venerable blog-pioneer and beloved patriarchal figure...his blog is indispensable."
Oleh Musings: "The most comprehensive Zionist blog I have seen."
Carl in Jerusalem: "...probably the most under-recognized blog in the JBlogsphere as far as I am concerned."
Aussie Dave: "King of the auto-translation."
The Israel Situation:The Elder manages to write so many great, investigative posts that I am often looking to him for important news on the PalArab (his term for Palestinian Arab) side of things."
Tikun Olam: "Either you are carelessly ignorant or a willful liar and distorter of the truth. Either way, it makes you one mean SOB."
Mondoweiss commenter: "For virulent pro-Zionism (and plain straightforward lies of course) there is nothing much to beat it."
Didi Remez: "Leading wingnut"

Interesting Blogs

Categories

Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria American Jews Amnesty analysis anti-semitism apartheid arab refugees Arafat archaeology art ASHREI B'tselem bahrain bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz book review breaking the silence Cardozo Chanukah Christians conspiracy theories Cyprus Daled Amos Daphne Anson Davis report DCI-P Divest This double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada EoZNews eoztv Erekat EU Euro-Mid Observer Fake Civilians 2014 Fatah featured Features fisking flotilla Forest Rain Forward free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian gunness Haaretz hamas Hamas war crimes hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor Hypocrisy ICRC Ilan Pappe impossible peace incitement Indonesia international law intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Juan Cole Judaism Judea-Samaria Kairos Karl Vick ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Lebanon leftists Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Malaysia max blumenthal McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Miftah Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco music Muslim Brotherhood Nakba Natural gas Nazi News nftp NGO NIF norpac NYT Occupation offbeat Omar Barghouti Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peter Beinart Petra MB poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist purimshpiel Qaradawi Qassam calendar Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals reference Richard Falk rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shujaiyeh Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Speech stamps Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman Tunisia Turkey UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc UNICEF United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks work accident X-washing Yemen YMikarov zahran zionist attack zoo Zvi

Blog Archive