On the issue of boycotting Israeli academic institutions (On the Campus, Feb. 5), President Eisgruber ’83 condemned the decision of the American Studies Association and hoped that its “more thoughtful and reasonable members will eventually bring the organization to its senses.” His concern was that collaboration among scholars across boundaries would be impeded.
In fact, ASA’s resolution encourages scholar-to-scholar interaction across all borders, including U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian scholars in Israel, Palestine, and the United States. It proscribes only Israeli government-sponsored institutional collaborations, because that government openly and persistently has violated human rights, international law, and academic freedom in its suppression of Palestinians, including professors and students. For example, ASA’s website reports that “Palestinian universities have been bombed, schools have been closed, and scholars and students deported.”
The ASA’s boycott decision, endorsed by two-thirds of the record number of members voting, was the result not of a presidential or council edict, but of more than six years of committee work and democratic member forums including members working the Middle East. It is reminiscent of the 2008 member vote of American psychologists to reject the American Psychological Association council’s stand allowing member participation in U.S. military/CIA torture.
I hope that President Eisgruber will extend his thinking to the systemic basis for intellectual freedom for all, going beyond the energetic promptings of Israel advocates, perhaps by sponsoring a forum of Princeton faculty and students.