Academic Letter of Support for the American Studies Association

We, the undersigned, voice our strong support as academics across multiple disciples for the American Studies Association, and its 2014 resolution upholding the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

We condemn the distracting and meritless lawsuit being brought against them, which claims the boycott resolution violates the ASA’s “stated mission and purpose.”

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Among other mischaracterizations, the lawsuit falsely claims that the boycott resolution was the result of a “small group” of ASA officers who “subverted” the ASA, “converting it into a political advocacy organization,” further claiming that “social change” is not one of the ASA’s educational objectives.

First, the ASA boycott resolution was democratically voted for by ASA membership and won in a landslide victory, with 66.05 percent of voters endorsing the resolution, 30.5 percent disapproving, and 3.43 percent abstaining. All in all, over a thousand members participated in the largest ASA vote in history. The results came after more than three years of discussion, debate, education, and outreach within the association.

Second, the authors and organizers of this resolution were by no means a “small group” of insiders within ASA. Rather, the boycott resolution was drafted by a number of distinguished professors within the discipline, and organizing and educational support work for it was carried out by innumerable faculty and graduate students from across the ASA. It is noteworthy that the ASA has thrived in the period following the resolution’s adoption, with over 800 individual members joining the year after the resolution. In addition, the number of attendees at the annual ASA convention has nearly doubled.

Finally, the ASA itself has a decisive focus on “social change” not only as a professional association but also as an organization of scholars and educators. Social justice work is a crucial part of scholarship and education and in no way outside either the mission or the purpose of American Studies. This is evident by the dramatic vote in favor of the resolution; ASA members clearly felt it crucial that their work take place from within a position of non-cooperation with, and boycott of, institutions complicit in occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism. To not endorse academic boycott, we wish to remind the purveyors of this lawsuit, is also a position of “political advocacy.”

We the undersigned denounce this lawsuit as a clear attempt to undermine democratic processes within the ASA, and to intimidate other academic professional associations interested in pursuing the principled academic boycott of Israel. Even more importantly, we condemn this lawsuit as yet another attempt to suppress the vibrant and growing movement for Palestinian liberation in the US academy.

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