NEW YORK – Sixty-nine Democrats and 65 Republicans in the US House of Representatives signed a letter on Friday denouncing the American Studies Association’s recent decision to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions.
The effort was spearheaded by Representatives Peter Roksam (R-Illinois), Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Doug Collins (R-Georgia) and Brad Schneider (D-Illinois).
Signatories on the letter include Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and Sander Levin (D-Michigan).
Roksam called the ASA ’s boycott “bigoted and an affront to academic freedom.”
“This boycott doesn’t advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but only reinforces dangerous stereotypes that limit mutual understanding and cooperation – two things that should be at the very heart of our academic endeavors,” the signatories said in a joint statement.
“We therefore cannot tolerate these ignorant smear campaigns to isolate Israel and deteriorate the historic US-Israel relationship.”
The letter, addressed to ASA president Curtis Marez and president-elect Lisa Duggan, states: “[The] ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government, [however] we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom.
“... Even more concerning is the singular targeting of Israel for boycott. Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish state.”
The letter calls this a “morally dishonest double standard.”
“Academic cooperation can be an important tool to help foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but you have chosen the unproductive path of isolation,” it reads.
More than 200 American universities and six major US academic organizations have announced their opposition to the boycott. On January 10, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced a bill that would effectively bar any public university in New York from accepting state funds if it joined the boycott.