Eight former presidents of the American Studies Association have signed a letter voicing their objections to a proposed resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel, which was recently endorsed by the scholarly group’s National Council and is the subject of a membership vote.
The eight scholars wrote that an academic boycott would set “a dangerous precedent by sponsoring an inequitable and discriminatory policy that would punish one nation’s universities and scholars.”
The former ASA presidents added that they were “deeply concerned” by how the council had put the matter before the the group’s membership, asserting that the vote was being undertaken in a one-sided manner.
“This can only damage the ASA and further deflect attention from the serious moral and political issues proponents seek to raise,” they wrote. “We believe there are far more effective and constructive ways than a hollow, divisive academic boycott for ASA to engage these important concerns.”
The council explained at the time of the vote that the boycott would focus on higher-education institutions and not individuals. The prospect of a boycott has set off considerable public debate, including criticism from the American Association of University Professors, which recently urged the ASA’s members to reject the resolution.