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BDS and Thuggery

3 Apr

I don’t think I’m alone in being appalled by the degree to which nasty behavior – up to and including intimidation and violence – has gone mainstream within the BDS “movement.”

Now anti-Israel activism has always had its ugly side that included vandalism, threats, and shouting down those with whom the boycotters disagree. I can recall the divestniks storming the podium when they lost the divestment vote they forced on the City of Somerville as far back as 2004, the same type of public tantrums we saw when the Methodist Church or Carleton College told them “No” more recently.

But in most of the cases just mentioned, BDS supporters were able to keep the Mr. Hyde portion of their personality in check, at least during what I call the “all smiles” period when they were trying to convince an uninformed audience that both they (and what they were requesting) were all perfectly reasonable.

But recent behavior in schools like Michigan, Vassar,  Northeastern and elsewhere seem to indicate that the boycotters no longer feel the need to be bound by civilized norms even during a period when it would be to their benefit to pretend to be something other than a bunch of single issue fanatics ready to do anything to get their way.

On the surface, this slide to uncouthness up through violence seems counter-productive.  Why resort to tactics that (1) make it less likely to convince anyone of anything; and (2) give your “movement” the reputation of being made up of mindless thugs (making it that much more difficult to win your next campaign)?

Some theories I’ve been toying with to explain this degeneration of behavior include:

1. Despite all its bombast, BDS is no closer to achieving a single one of its goals now than it was when it was birthed in sin at the 2001 Durban I conference. In fact, by any conceivable measure: growth in Israeli GDP and exports, partnerships between Israeli and international businesses and universities, numbers of tourists and celebrities visiting the Jewish state, (i.e., anything other than the boycotters own ability to make noise), BDS has been a flop.

Given that they have been reduced to trying to get school governments to pass toothless divestment resolutions that everyone knows will be ignored by school administrators, the student body and the media, why not use these campaigns primarily as a way to force others to watch your political id come to the surface?

2. The gravitational field surrounding radical politics generally tends to pull in the direction of further radicalization. I saw this in Somerville when the local divestment group that originally showed enough pragmatism to get their measure passed eventually drove away moderate members, leaving a fanatical core that was never able to accomplish anything again. And when faced with the kind of losses we’ve seen over the BDS decade and a half, it’s only natural that louder and more ruthless actors will be more effective at pinning failures onto lesser radicals (and drive them from the ranks) than vice versa.

3. Despite claims that divestment campaigns “foster dialog” about the Middle East, those that push these initiatives are willing to go to almost any length to ensure dialog on this subject cannot take place; from wallowing in pathos-driven arguments designed to make rational discourse impossible, to ignoring facts and opinions they don’t want to hear, to shouting down any speaker trying to bring those alternative facts and opinions to the attention of others.

This tactic has become more and more difficult to sustain as the “Arab Spring” turned to Winter, which meant that some of the facts that needed to be driven from the stage included the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Arabs (including thousands of those Palestinian Arabs the boycotters claim to be fighting for) in places like the killing fields of Syria. While the boycotters have been able to marginalize issues like gay rights in the Middle East (at least in their own minds) by invoking fake phenomena like “Pinkwashing,” erasing scores of dead Palestinians from the record (while simultaneously claiming to care about them deeply) has required them to shout ever louder and, most recently, resort to tactics that go beyond just verbal violence.

4. Sadly, those tasked with keeping the peace on college campuses (i.e., administrators) have shown far more patience for the excess of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) than they have or would ever show towards a group directing this same level of hostility towards any minority group other than Jews.

In many ways, this choice reflects the double standard directed at Israel which gets punished for the intransigence of its alleged Palestinian negotiating partners. But this also reflects the fact that college administrators are primarily concerned with keeping their own headaches to a minimum. And given that groups like SJP have made it clear that they stand ready to create living hell for anyone who makes them play by the rules, the easiest route for many college leaders is to carve out an exception that lets one group of students (Israel haters) say and do things they would never tolerate from anyone else.

5. On the plus side, the escalation of BDSer’s atrocious behavior reflects their genuine frustration with the countermeasures Israel’s supporters have been deploying more and more effectively in the last couple of years. No longer are Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends willing to stand idly by as the defamers have their say, and the fact that anti-divestment forces have been able to win the day even when outnumbered by SJPers 10:1 demonstrates (1) the strength of our arguments and (2) the readiness of fair-minded decision-makers to listen to them (which makes it all the more important for the furious boycotters to prevent those arguments from being presented or heard – by any means necessary).

As a final (and ironic) bright spot to all the BDS thuggery we’ve seen escalating over the last year, it comes from the way such behavior demonstrates to all the true face of a “movement” pretending to be the inheritor of Martin Luther King and Gandhi.  For having already shown that the boycotters are ready to say anything (up to and including manipulating others and lying over and over again) to get their way, every act of BDS misbehavior provides ammunition for those of us who want to show how the BDSers are now ready to do anything to get everyone else to bend to their will.  

Can ASA President Lisa Duggan Keep a Secret?

24 Feb

We interrupt whatever I was going to say next for one of those “What the hell were they thinking?” BDS moments, this one from Lisa Duggan, the incoming President of the American Studies Association.

When we last left the new leader of this once unknown, now infamous, academic organization she was celebrating the “dialog” triggered by the boycott she and others forced onto the organization by “going to ground” and refusing to give interviews (lest she end up on record turning herself into as big an embarrassment as her predecessor Curtis “One has to start somewhere” Marez).

She made a brief appearance in the comment section of a short-lived, thoughtful insider blog to accuse anyone critical of her and the organization she leads of homophobia.  And when challenged to defend this ludicrous accusation, she once again chose to make herself scarce by returning to the quiet of her ivy bunker at NYU.

But a strange thing happens whenever BDSers think they are only talking to each other.  For as any readers of the incomparable Elder of Ziyon blog know, Duggan recently made an online appearance (spotted by the equally incomparable Barbara of Stop BDS at Park Slope fame) where she squealed with glee at an upcoming Israel-is-wrong-about-everything event at NYU (scheduled – as usual – to start at sundown on Friday and finish by sundown Saturday).

The event is meant to build on what they call an “unprecedented wave of public dialog in response to the American Studies Association’s recent endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” (ignoring, of course, the fact that most of this response consists of the group being condemned by a galaxy of fellow academics).

And to celebrate such a “wave of public dialog,” the woman who leads that organization urged followers of her Facebook page to “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”

Where to start?

First off, you have another illustration of what “dialog” means to the average BDSer: an event where they have total control over every microphone, ensuring that even if a critic finds out about their event, decides to break the Sabbath and overcomes whatever other barriers they have erected to ensure homogeneity of thought, the most they can expect is to be given a minute to question a panel in lockstep agreement about everything and an audience ready to shout down those who ask anything too challenging.

Then you have someone who helped drag a once-respectable organization into the shitter, allegedly to “start a discussion,” urging her followers to keep their own conversations secret, lest they be overheard by those they clearly perceive as enemies (which includes the press and public).

Finally, there’s that weird “Are you drooling yet?” throwaway that makes the whole posting sound like something my eleven-year-old would impulsively cough up onto Facebook (“Meet me after school so you can drool over my Pokémon import cards, but don’t Joe Pimply-face or Fatso Mulligan.”)

While I got some heat back when I was asking whether ASA should still be considered an academic organization, I think a better question to ask is whether the group’s leaders are actually grown-ups.

No doubt, once the sun goes down this Shabbat Lisa Duggan and her like-minded allies will spend the next twenty-four hours congratulating themselves for their courage, wisdom and virtue, safe from the prying eyes of anyone who does not live on Planet BDS.  But one wonders how the rest of the members of the American Studies Association (especially the 80% or so who either voted against or didn’t vote at all to allow Marez, Dugan et al to speak in the name of their field) feel about being represented by people of such dubious adulthood.

Over the years, I’ve actually met a number of people who were or still are members of ASA.  Those who left did so because the group was starting to represent different definitions of the field as well as prioritizing politics over scholarship.  ASA supporters like to conflate these two issues, accusing anyone who disagrees with their politics as hostile to diversity.   But as the boycott and the behavior of Duggan, Marez, and other BDSers demonstrates, the greatest threat to the field comes not from dread Zionists overhearing what they’re saying, or critics of diversity, but from a group of incompetent radicals who are boycotters first, American Studies professors second, and grown-ups a distant third.

ASA and Oxfam – Another Thought Experiment

7 Feb

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Thought Experiments

Time for yet another thought experiment, this one designed to answer the question I ended my last piece with, namely, what makes the nature of BDS so unfathomable to those who (like ASA and Oxfam) become its willing victims?

To kick things off, think about a political issue you care passionately about.  Maybe it’s pollution or global warming, or perhaps you are outraged by the genocide the government of Sudan has practiced in Darfur or the behavior of China in Tibet.  This political passion might even have to do with the Middle East conflict.  For instance, I happen to hold beliefs no less passionately regarding who is right and who is wrong in that conflict as do the BDSers (although hopefully more informed by facts and reason).

OK, now think about the various institutions you belong to and possibly even lead: perhaps a church or synagogue, maybe a professional or civic organization.  And from this list, pick one that, if they endorsed your political beliefs, would help amplify your positions far beyond what you can do on your own.

But let’s say that after some consideration and talking with other members of the civic group you have chosen, you learn that others do not share your beliefs (or, going even further, hold beliefs opposite to yours with the same vehemence as do you).   And in addition to offending these members (who may, in fact, hold a minority view within the chosen group), you know with certainty that getting this organization to officially endorse your views will cause significant damage to its central mission.

So what do you do next?  Well, if you are a normal person, you might find other outlets for your political activity (such as joining or starting a different organization that has advocating for your beliefs as its primary purpose).  Or, if getting this or that civic group to participate in your chosen political activity is absolutely vital, you might spend time educating members in order to achieve consensus around both your beliefs and the need for the organization to act on them.  But even if you went down this controversial route, I would guess most of you would try to find some form such an endorsement could take that would minimize wider fallout.  And I suspect you would be willing to ultimately take “No” for an answer.

Now that you have thought through how a normal person (or political movement) might behave, think about how much this diverges from the behavior of those pushing boycott, divestment and sanctions directed against Israel.

To pick a couple of examples, when BDSers determined that their boycott program would offend many, many members of food coops around the country, they simply leveraged the loose rules those coops had in place regarding product boycotts (rules that never had to be air-tight since they were based on the assumption that coop members would take one-another’s needs into consideration) to force boycott votes (or simply implement a boycott behind the backs of the membership).

Or how about the Presbyterian Church which has official voted down anti-Israel divestment motions in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Again, a normal political movement would get the message and move on.  But, as we’ll see when the church meets this summer for their 2014 General Assembly, the BDSers are willing to force a vote again and again and again (possibly forever) until the organization “gets it right” by doing what they say.

This type of militant politics must seem strange to the typical groups targeted by BDS: progressive organizations with a concern for human rights (even if acting on that concern is not central to their mission) who presume that anyone bringing a political matter before them is sincere about their goals and acting in the normal fashion outlined in the thought experiment that started this piece.

The notion that a food coop, or the Presbyterian Church, or the American Studies Association or Oxfam are just a means to an end for the BDSers is what is unfathomable to these organizations.  For most people participating in a civic institution understand that members of that institution have different (often opposing) beliefs and needs – which makes harmony within such groups a marvelous thing since it means those individuals have put aside differences to work together for a common good.

In contrast, the BDSers perceive these groups as existing for one purpose and one purpose only: to pass their BDS resolutions.  And not just pass them, but do so in ways that will cause maximum damage to the institutions primary purpose.

I happen to sympathize with critics of ASA’s boycott policy that are equally hostile to some of the anti-boycott legislation being proposed at the state and national level.  But then why are statehouses and Congress even talking about ASA, except for the fact that the association decided to take a stance that has brought the wrath of the academy and others down on everyone’s heads? And rather than contemplate the role their own behavior played in creating these controversies, the very same ASA leaders who triggered a crisis are now demanding everyone in the field take sides in a debate that should never have gotten started (one over who gets to decide where and how much academic freedom can be limited based on political need).

Moving onto Oxfam, this is an organization dedicated to doing good in the world (they are one of the most important groups helping victims of Syria’s civil war, for example).  And, no doubt, having Scarlett Johansson as one of their ambassadors has also done some good in terms of raising their profile and funds.

But rather than allowing the organization to express disappointment and agree to disagree over the film star’s decision to endorse a soda manufacturer, members of an alleged “international human rights community” who are BDSers first, Oxfamers second, required – once again – that everyone choose a side.

One of the dilema’s Oxfam finds itself in has to do with ambiguity.  For, from my perspective anyway, the role of the SodaStream (a company that is consciously trying to build bridges to peace through economic activity) and its location (on a piece of disputed territory likely to end up as part of Israel in any peace agreement) is complicated.  And while Oxfam is free to claim that this situation is, in fact, crystal clear, that leaves them limited room to claim ambiguity as a defense when it comes time to explain why a branch of the organization giving money to organizations central to BDS are doing so for purposes other than promoting BDS.

One of those organizations happens to be called “Who Profits?,” and to end this piece (finally), I’d like to ask the question of who profits when an organization is attacked, lets down friends and allies or is torn apart in order to ensure Omar Barghouti has something to boast about on the pages of The New York Times? Not ASA (or its members).  Not Oxfam (or the people it is trying to help).  No, the only people profiting from the manufactured BDS controversies over the last few months are the boycotters themselves, which makes the real question why other people are willing to pay such a high price for someone else’s political bragging rights.

American Studies Association Boycott – Human Sacrifice

31 Jan

When you are in the thick of defending the Jewish state from the endless propaganda assault of its enemies, it’s easy to lose track of how marginal movements like BDS really are.  For outside of the specific communities BDS seeks to infiltrate (mostly progressive institutions such as colleges and universities, liberal churches and unions), the opinion that Israel alone in the world deserves to be treated like Apartheid South Africa would barely register a blip of public agreement.

Which makes it all the more extraordinary that when the boycotters do find a community open to their message, the first thing they ask of such a group is that it sacrifice everything most dear to participate in the BDS cause.

For example, in 2007 the leadership of Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) passed a resolution urging a union boycott of Israeli products.  While on the surface, this would be classified as a product boycott, in reality it represented the organization throwing away the most sacred principle of journalism – editorial independence – to take part in a political campaign.

The membership (which revolted against a decision taken in their name which most of them were not aware was even being discussed) understood the stakes, insisting that officially condemning one nation – as journalists – meant officially taking sides in a conflict many of them were also being asked to cover impartially.  As one NUJ member put it, this would translate to “colleagues reporting from the Middle East while carrying two cards – a BBC ID which said you were impartial, and an NUJ card which said you were a biased reporter.”

Anyone familiar with UK media coverage of the Middle East will understand that the successful journalists’ reversal of the NUJ boycott was not the result of a devotion to the Zionist cause.  Rather, it represented a profession’s unwillingness to sell its soul to take part in someone else’s political campaign.

You can see something similar with the Mainline Churches which are endlessly lobbied to pass divestment resolutions, not in the name of political principle but for the sake of “Christian Witness.”  In other words, in order to participate in BDS the boycotters are insisting church members accept their political position as the word of God.

So what has the leadership of ASA thrown away in order to become part of what they perceive as a higher cause?

To begin with, the attempt of one group of academics to boycott another for political reasons cannot be seen as anything other than an attack on academic freedom.

ASA leaders have tried to obfuscate this fact by insisting that they are only boycotting institutions (not individuals) and that their boycott is in response to Israel’s alleged limitation of Palestinian academic freedom.  And while this piece does a better job than I could in in confronting the argument regarding institutions vs. individuals, if you turn ASA’s argument regarding boycotting as a legitimate response to Israeli behavior into a generalizable principle, that would mean any academic group that decides another set of scholars live in a society where academic freedom is limited are justified in instituting their own boycott against those scholars.  In other words, ASA’s behavior turned into a precedent would ultimately make decisions over who can be expelled from the community of discourse dependent on the beliefs (or aggressiveness) of partisans within any group considering a boycott.

Looking at a hypothetical, if the American colleges and universities whose Presidents have condemned ASA’s decision instead instituted a community-wide boycott of the organization (due to their belief that ASA was guilty of assaulting academic freedom), ASA would have thrown away the only principle they could use to defend themselves (and would thus be reduced to special pleading that only they were allowed to decide which academics were guilty and deserved the boycott treatment).

The weightlessness of such an argument gets us to a second asset the ASA boycotters have had to jettison: academic integrity.

Most of us are familiar with instances in which students were flunked for plagiarism or academics denied awards or fired for knowingly introducing inaccurate data or fake quotations into their work.  And the basis for these harsh punishments is an understanding that open-mindedness and a commitment to finding and following facts wherever they lead are what make the scholarly enterprise uniquely valuable.

But during the run up to the boycott, ASA leaders decided to turn this principle into a weapon aimed only at their opponents.  Which is why they become hyper-fastidious when “fact checking” the material of critics (such as their fellow AAUP academics) while never applying the slightest scrutiny to truth-challenged tirades from non-academic anti-Israel propaganda sites they put on direct feed to the membership. And let’s not even talk about the intellectual problems associated with determining official truth (in this case, the truth of who is guilty and who is innocent in the complex and contentious Middle East conflict) by putting the matter to a member vote.

And speaking of intellectual problems, this gets us to the final sacrificial victim we’ve seen resulting from the ASA boycott: intelligence.

For keep in mind that, despite attempts by some to belittle ASA members, the organization and even the entire field of American Studies as lightweight, no one who earns a PhD is a moron.  Which makes the moronic statements coming from Curtis “One has to start somewhere” Marez (the last President of ASA), or his successor’s lame attempt to paint opponents as homophobic all the more striking.

The only possible explanation is not that stupid people earned PhDs, write books and rise to the top of a (once-) respected academic association, but that these people’s decision to embrace the BDS agenda at all cost made them stupid (or, more specifically, demanded such an enormous commitment to biasing one set of facts and opinion over another that, on this particular subject, their doltish behavior is a result of having turned themselves into dolts).

I’ve noted before the practical value of BDS insisting its political allies sacrifice all to join their “movement.”  For someone making a political decision can always change his or her mind.  But once you have placed your most sacred possessions (such as independence, Witness, freedom, integrity and intelligence) on the pyre, it makes it that much harder to ever pull back.  And thus, like an angry Moloch, BDS continues to demand its allies (which now includes ASA) demonstrate their commitment by submitting to human sacrifice without end.

American Studies Association Boycott – The Response

30 Jan

One of the great pleasures in battling BDS is that rare opportunity to watch the boycotters try to defend their indefensible actions and behavior.

I say “rare” because, for the most part, any reversal, defeat or excess experienced by the BDS “movement” is routinely ignored, or spun into just another form of victory (just like “No” is actually “Yes” to a different question).  But with the backlash against the American Studies Association boycott so huge, so diverse, so colorful and complete, supporters of the ASA have had no choice other than to respond.

Perhaps “respond” is too strong a word, since their activities in no way, shape or form resemble anything like those of someone interested in engaging with the substance of what critics have to say.  Rather, they are simply rolling out the same sad set of rhetorical tricks that only work well within the BDS bubble.

First, there’s an attempt to minimize the significance of things like hundreds of college Presidents lining up to condemn the boycott for being what it, in fact, is: an assault on academic freedom.  My favorite practitioner of this technique is one of the few defenders of ASA on the Facebook page the organizations set up to foster “dialog” who (in between howling about AIPAC’s control of America and questioning the official “narrative” of 9/11) sneers that 200 Presidents condemning them represents less than 5% of the total and thus should be seen as a BDS win.

Where to start?  First, you’ve got a fallacy the Greeks ridiculed 2500 years ago that assumes failure to condemn translates into active support.  I suppose I could similarly argue that the thousands of academic organizations that have not instituted a boycott must now be considered full-throated friends of Zion (if doing so wouldn’t cause me both logical and rhetorical embarrassment).

But also keep in mind that the BDSers would be masturbating themselves into unconsciousness if just one of these college Presidents came out in support of their polluted program (not to mention spending every waking moment insisting we all accept such hypothetical support as unquestioned proof of their impending moral and political victory). Yet when hundreds of the very college leaders they have been lobbying for over a decade to embrace their project instead come out swinging against it, suddenly the men and women leading America’s colleges and universities are transformed into “The Man.”

This fits in with another frequent counter-backlash argument that characterizes college presidents as part of “The Establishment” coupled with implications that their condemnations were made at the behest of donors and other powerful interests. (Gee, who do you think they’re talking about?)  While such a strategy is based primarily on defining principled resistance to BDS out of existence, this focus on college leaders also allows the boycotters to ignore that other members of the academy I mentioned yesterday (notably academic associations and American Studies departments) that have either refused to support, or outright condemned, the American Studies Association boycott.

But when it comes to sheer rhetorical hubris coupled with ineptitude, nothing beats the boycotters’ attempts to put their opponents on the defensive.  My second favorite of these attempts is BDS Love Letters, a web site set up by someone with access to e-mail sent to members of the ASA leadership team which posts only those missive containing stupid, ugly or potty-mouth invective.

The goal of such a site is to give the impression that such nastiness represents the Alpha and Omega of the response that has been generated by the American Studies Association boycott (rather than a carefully culled set of letters selected by someone looking for swear words and hitting the Delete button whenever they encounter a well-worded, competent argument).  But given how much thoughtful disagreement has been published on the ASA affair to date, BDS Love Letters is just one more demonstration of how boycott supporters are ready to do anything to avoid engaging with their opponents.

You are no doubt curious about my favorite attempt at BDS jui-jitsu, and that award would have to go to the new President of the organization, Lisa Duggan who, in the comment section of this piece, tried to claim that reference to her scholarship on gay issues was actually a coded homophobic attack (with the implication that boycott opponents are not just potty-mouthed paid shills but also bigots).

In a way, this form of attack is the compliment vice pays to virtue.  For Duggan would only attempt to put her opponents on the spot through such a move if she assumed them to be sensitive to the anti-Other bigotry that is part of all of us.  The interesting thing, of course, is that such sensitivity is purely a one way street.  Which is why any attempt to prick the boycotters’ conscience by pointing out the plight of gays in Gaza, for example, is met with shouted accusations of “Pinkwashing” screamed primary to block out things the shouter doesn’t want to hear.

Now most of these techniques (fallacious math, attempts to define and “freeze” the opposition, selective or fanciful use of evidence to put opponents on the defensive) are ones I see all the time from Students for Justice in Palestine type groups made up of college undergraduates.  So the only thing really unique about the ASA counterattack is that the people using these tools are PhDs at the steering wheel of a madhouse who can’t even pull off the rhetoric tricks taught to them by the eighteen year olds they are supposedly paid to teach.

Next up: Human Sacrifice

American Studies Association Boycott: The Backlash

29 Jan

Other web sites, notably Legal Insurrection (which has taken such a leadership role in responding to the American Studies Association boycott) have kept running commentaries of hostile responses to the decision of ASA to shun their Israeli colleagues (but just the Jewish ones) that came in the wake of the organization’s boycott vote earlier this month.

Since I can’t add much to the details others have been compiling and communicating, I shall instead try to put the substantial BDS backlash into a broader context, given my experience watching other boycott and divestment attempts (and the associated backlashes against them) play out at colleges and universities for over a decade.

Whenever a civil society group (in this case, an academic organization) is hijacked to serve as the mouthpiece for the political statements of anti-Israel partisans, the most effective voices countering ensuing boycott or divestment activity comes from the same branch of civil society.  Which is why, in the case of ASA, the voices that have done the most to shove BDS to the other side of the Pale have emerged from academia.

The highest profile response has come from college presidents, with over two-hundred of them (and counting) having expressed in no uncertain terms that the boycott represented what it indeed was: an assault on academic freedom.

Contrary to claims that these leaders have been reading from the same script, their condemnation of the ASA’s boycott have been diverse and colorful (my favorite comment coming from President John Garvey of Catholic University – the 100th school to sign onto the backlash – who said of ASA: “It has decided to pour gas not on the source of the fire but on bystanders, some of whom are trying to extinguish the flames”).

That said, these leaders have been careful to not take sides in the Middle East conflict when responding to the controversy, but instead focused on the issue most vital to the academy as a whole: the ability of scholars to enjoy freedom of inquiry without demands that they bow down to a particular set of partisan principles. For these Presidents recognize what the ASA boycotters have been trying to obscure: that once you establish precedent that says academic freedom must take a back seat to political interest, then there is no stopping any group of scholars from shunning any other in the name of whatever “higher principle” suits their fancy.

As important as these Presidents’ statements have been, an even more significant group to come out against ASA’s decision has been other academic organizations: including the American Association of University Professors (whose membership list is more than an order of magnitude larger than ASAs) and the American Council on Education (which represents over 1800 colleges and universities).

It was actually the boycotters who imbued decisions by AAUP, ACE, and similar groups with their enormous political significance since the message underlying BDS claims that the ASA vote has political meaning is that being condemned by an academic organization automatically makes one guilty and worthy of loathing.  This could help to explain why the ASA’s leadership refused to share with members the critical statements AAUP made before the vote (due to those statements allegedly containing “inaccuracies”) in favor of filling their communication pipeline exclusively with unverified and unedited bilge provided by BDS propaganda sites.

Ironically, the most significant academic condemnation of the boycott comes not from college leaders or major organizations, but from fellow members of the American Studies discipline whose opinions ASA claims to represent.  For right after the vote, six of the organization’s institutional members terminated their relationship with the group, and many more claimed to be inaccurately represented on the ASA web site as institutional partners and demanded their names be removed immediately.

Decisions to terminate relations with the American Studies Association have largely been left to American Studies departments within a school, which makes it supremely telling that in the month since the vote was taken not a single such department has come out in favor of the ASA’s decision.  Some have decided to stay in the organization despite the vote (with Middlebury College choosing to use their institutional membership to press for explanations and reforms). But nothing could say more about how much ASA does not represent the views the field it was established to support than the total lack of support they have received from that field.

Once you leave the academy, other backlash activity has been important, but less surprising.  Naturally, organizations that have fought against anti-Jewish hatred and other forms of bigotry for decades, such as the ADL, AJC and the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations, have continued the tradition of insisting BDS has no place either inside the Jewish “Big Tent” or within civil society as a whole.  Over 138 members of the US Congress issued a statement deploring the ASA’s boycott, and outside the Iranian and Saudi press (not to mention the fever swamps of BDS web sites) news and editorial surrounding the boycott has gone almost entirely against ASA.

Probably the most controversial backlash activity has been legal: including two lawsuits (or threatened lawsuits) against the organization and legislation filed in New York to force state colleges to break ties with ASA.

Long-time readers know that I’m not a major fan of turning to state power (either through government or the courts) to win a BDS battle.  For even though, when asked, I’ve provided eyewitness or expert testimony in two of the four BDS-related cases that have gone to court, I don’t think it’s an accident that in every one of those cases (three brought by BDSers, one by BDS opponents) those who initiated the suit have lost big.

Also, unlike political losses that can be reversed by later wins, failing in court establishes legal precedent that is much harder to later reverse.  And given how successful we’ve been beating BDS politically over the last decade and a half, I’m not sure if courts or legislatures are needed to show the boycotters the door.

All that said, it’s important to sum up by pointing out that the backlash against ASA has the exact form of what the BDSers dream about when they go to bed each night.  For what is the shunning of ASA by the rest of the academy if not a form of boycott (at least against the principle ASA now stands for)?  And what are American Studies Departments pulling out the organization doing but divesting themselves from the organization?

And regardless of what you think about the efficacy of government proposed punishments (vs. legislators using their free speech rights to condemn BDS), the only way to describe what’s been going on in State Houses and Congress is as a form of sanction against the organization.

In other words, in the last month we’ve seen BDS in full flower.  And unlike the anti-Israel variant which has taken close to fifteen years to achieve nothing, this successful BDS campaign has reached critical mass in mere weeks.

Pity, then, for Omar Barghouti and the “movement” he leads, given that the first successful BDS campaign they have triggered is one that has them as its target.

Next up: The Response