When I was a kid, my mother used to tell a story I found so very curious at the time.
It was a story about my father and by extension, America. My mother had enormous respect for my father (and she thought highly of almost no one - very few at most). It was well deserved. My father was a smart, self made man -- a tough guy who came up the hard way (but that for another day). He was deeply thoughtful and considered -- when he said something, it meant something.
Anyway, she would tell the story of how they were driving down the road chatting about this and that and Papa said something to the effect, "well, nothing is forever" and my mother said, "America is forever" and he said "not even America".
It was such an outrageous, impossible thought at the time for her and for me in the re-telling. I never even considered it. Didn't seem possible. The good guys won. We were post-historical.
That story haunts me. And has for the last few years. "Not even America".
There is something strangely perverse in this idea -- schools of learning boycotting the finest minds on the planet. But when you think of it, it's organic and logical, if the barbarians have seized the helm of education and culture. 25 years ago such an idea would have seemed outside the realm of conceivable thought. It would have been cast along aside the relics of Nazi past.
For first time, U.S. professors call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel Haaretz (hat tip Stuart)
In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, a group of American university professors has for the first time launched a national campaign calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
While Israeli academics have grown used to such news from Great Britain, where anti-Israel groups several times attempted to establish academic boycotts, the formation of the United States movement marks the first time that a national academic boycott movement has come out of America. Israeli professors are not sure yet how big of an impact the one-week-old movement will have, but started discussing the significance of and possible counteractions against the campaign.
"As educators of conscience, we have been unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel's indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions," the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel stated in its inaugural press release last Thursday. Speaking in its mission statement of the "censorship and silencing of the Palestine question in U.S. universities, as well as U.S. society at large," the group follows the usual pattern of such boycotts, calling for "non-violent punitive measures" against Israel, such as the implementation of divestment initiatives, "similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era."
The campaign was founded by a group of 15 academics, mostly from California, but is, "currently expanding to create a network that embraces the United States as a whole," according to David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of Southern California who responded on behalf of the group to a Haaretz query. "The initiative was in the first place impelled by Israel's latest brutal assault on Gaza and by our determination to say enough is enough."
"The response has been remarkable given the extraordinary hold that lobbying organizations like AIPAC exert over U.S. politics and over the U.S. media, and in particular given the campaign of intimidation that has been leveled at academics who dare to criticize Israel's policies," Lloyd wrote in an e-mail to Haaretz Monday. "Within a short weekend since the posting of the press release, more than 80 academics from all over the country have endorsed the action and the numbers continue to grow."
Asked if the group would accept the endorsement of Hamas supporters, Lloyd said, "We have no a priori policy with regard to the membership or affiliation of supporters of the boycott so long as they are in accord with the main aims stated in the press release."
He argued that, "on several occasions Hamas has sought direct negotiations with Israel, a pursuit that constitutes de facto recognition of Israel, and has openly discussed abandoning its call for the destruction of the state of Israel conditional on reciprocal guarantees from Israel."
Lloyd wrote that to the best of his knowledge, all supporters of the anti-Israel boycott were also opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Asked if logic wouldn't dictate that he and his colleagues boycott themselves, he responded, "Self-boycott is a difficult concept to realize. But speaking for myself, I would have supported and honored such a boycott had it been proposed by my colleagues overseas."
Durban bred, British approved
The idea of an academic boycott against Israel originated in 2001 at the "World Conference Against Racism" in Durban, South Africa. A first attempt to implement a boycott was undertaken by British professors in the wake of Israel's 2002 Operation Defensive Shield and the Jenin massacre claim. Since then, British academics tried several times to establish boycotts, with the latest such effort failing because legal advisers a few months ago pointed out that academic boycotts are discriminatory and thus illegal. Yet, analysts say that another British boycott campaign is to be expected in the follow up of Cast Lead.
In the U.S., on the other hand, only a few professors have supported the idea of an academic boycott. In 2006, the American Association of University Professors declared its objection to the British boycott, saying members, "especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test."
In 2007, nearly 300 university presidents across the United States signed a statement denouncing the boycott, under the motto "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!"