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University of Haifa to Challenge ASA Israel Boycott

Eugene Kontorovich reported yesterday that the University of Haifa will be challenging the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of Israel by sending a professor to the ASA’s national meeting next month in Los Angeles.

Kontorovich cites the University’s announcement that it will be sending a representative to the meeting.

We expect that there will be no interference in our representative’s full participation in the ASA conference. Home to several prestigious programs in American Studies, including the Center for the Study of the United States and the Ruderman Program for the Study of American Jewry, the University of Haifa is considering expanding its presence in the field. Consequently, the Rector of the University, Professor David Faraggi, has appointed a representative to attend the ASA conference.

[Prof. Faraggi said:] “We are sure that our representative will return from the ASA conference with important new insights about American society and culture and new contacts that can serve as a basis for collaborations…”

Kontorovich then explains the challenge this presents to the ASA.

This puts the ASA on the spot. By their recent statements, there should be no problem with the Haifa academic attending. (Perhaps, depending on his position, his name tag will be left blank, but this will only further highlight the absurdity of the un-boycott.) If this is what all the allegedly path-breaking ASA action amounts to, it is a silly and neutered act.

On the other hand, the ASA may not be so happy to have the Israeli representative in attendance. For one, Haifa is one of the institutions whose supposed crimes the group invoked in justifying their boycott. Moreover, allowing representatives of Israeli schools to attend seems to contradict the boycott policy they adopted in February, before they recently “clarified” in response to lawsuit threats. But this means they are now implementing a policy that has not been approved by the membership. As one ASA member, UVA’s Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan wisecracked, “I don’t even know what I voted against now.”

Understanding the potential embarrassment the meeting might present, the ASA will not allow “journalists or news agencies focussed on Israel or Jewish affairs” to cover the meeting.

The ASA’s boycott of Israel was in the news recently when the hotel hosting the meeting was threatened with legal action under California’s anti-discrimination laws. With the threat of legal action possibly affecting its annual meeting the ASA backed off.

The University of Haifa recently concluded a cooperative agreement with Cleveland State University. In reporting the agreement The Times of Israel observed, “anti-Israel activity and especially boycott drives make considerable noise on university campuses, but the record shows that schools that ignore or reject the pressure can profit from relationships with Israeli institutions of higher learning — and not just academically.”

[Photo: Michael Privorotsky / WikiCommons ]