Fifty-five higher learning institutions in the US have come out against a recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations commended the schools who have made public statements opposing the measure passed in a vote earlier this month.
“This remarkable response is a clear declaration that American academia will not be party to the efforts to promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” said Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations chairman Robert G. Sugarman and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein in a statement.
The Conference of Presidents had reportedly written to each of the institutional members of the ASA outlining why the boycott call was unjustifiable and blatantly discriminatory.
“The response is very encouraging and we are grateful that so many took the time during a holiday week to respond. We continue to urge the rest of the members to speak out against the action and to disassociate from supporting the ASA,” the leaders said.
On Monday, the president of the American Council on Education added her voice to those calling to reconsider the motion. Molly Corbett Broad called the ASA boycott “misguided” and damaging to academic freedom, calling on ACE’s 1,800 member institutions who support sanctions to reconsider their actions.
“Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures,” Corbett Broad said.
The decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions was made unanimously by the ASA's 20-member national council on December 5 and ratified by two thirds of the member institutions.
According to the ASA website, the boycott will not ban collaboration with individual Israeli academics.
"The ASA understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law," the ASA website said.
"We are expressly not endorsing a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication," it said.
Israel's University Presidents Association released a statement in response saying: "We call on our colleagues, members of the academy from across the world, to condemn these boycotts."
The boycott is part of a larger movement, BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The Association for Asian American Studies already voted in Spring 2013 to support this boycott.
ASA's statement said the organization believes that the decision to honor the call for the Academic Boycott of Israeli institutions is "an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians."
According to its' website, the American Studies Association has 5,000 individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers