Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer on Tuesday slammed the American Studies
Association (ASA ) decision a day earlier to boycott Israeli universities,
calling the move “a travesty” and hinting that it constituted
“The singling out of the Jewish state for boycott is no
different than the many attempts throughout history to single out Jews and hold
them to a different standard,” Dermer wrote on his Facebook page.
is a name for that phenomenon.
Perhaps one of the distinguished
professors of the ASA could teach his boycotting colleagues what it
The ambassador lamented that the ASA , rather than standing up for
academic freedom and human rights by boycotting countries where professors were
imprisoned for their views, chose to lash out against Israel, where “academics
are free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they
Dermer’s comments contrasted with a more restrained response in
Jerusalem, where diplomatic officials cautioned against “playing into the hands”
of boycott activists looking to stir up debate over Israel.
small, radical academic union votes to boycott Israel is not a state affair that
necessitates a formal response from the government,” one Foreign Ministry
official said. That the tough response came from Washington, not Jerusalem,
seemed designed to convey that message – that Israel views this as a localized
“The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement is not a
strategic threat to Israel,” the official added, noting that occasionally the
movement would have a success that garnered disproportionate media attention.
“Every once in a while they will have a celebrity, like [singer] Roger Waters or
[physicist] Stephen Hawking, who will speak up for them, but that doesn’t mean
this is a wave or a widespread phenomenon.”
The 5,000-member American
Studies Association (ASA ), which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and
largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture
and history,” announced on Monday it would participate in a boycott of Israeli
universities and academic institutions.
It is the second educational
group in the US to adopt the boycott. The Association for Asian American Studies
did so in April. Another academic group, the vastly larger and more influential
American Association of University Professors, recently reiterated its
opposition to such a boycott.
The Foreign Ministry official said that
while actions like these were an “annoyance,” they were blown out of
Just days before the ASA decision, Israel gained acceptance
as a full member of CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research), he pointed
out – an event that, unlike the ASA story, did not make The New York Times’
In an Israel Radio interview, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev
Elkin dismissed the ASA as a small, radical, leftist organization.
move did, however, have “declarative significance,” he admitted, and that was
something against which Israel must be on guard. He also said Israel had to be
vigilant to keep this from spreading to more influential academic groups, and
that Israel and American Jewish organizations were working among those “with
influence” inside those groups to keep that from happening.
one of their aims was to turn Israel from a consensus issue in American society
into a disputed one.
A panel on academic boycotts of Israel is scheduled
to take place in January at the annual Modern Language Association conference in
“Sometimes when we exaggerate in our reaction, we are playing
into the hands of the boycotters, which is what they want,” Elkin said. “We are
talking about a small minority that wants us to pay more attention to it and
cause a discussion that will expel Israel from the consensus. We need to ensure
that this does not spread beyond this small group, but on the other hand not
play into their hands and give them a feeling of victory that they are the ones
who will set the agenda.”