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The ASA Westin Two-Step

20 Oct

Note: A recent bout of comment spam has caused me to turn my troublesome spam block back on.  If anyone is trying to post legitimate comment and is having trouble with the CAPTCHA code, send them to me and I’ll post them directly.

Well the doofuses who run the American Studies Association (ASA) have found themselves in a conundrum that even those of us without PhDs could have anticipated.

I won’t rehash the whole sordid tale whereby the leadership of that organization, hell-bent on passing an academic boycott resolution directed at one nation and one nation only (guess which one), won a “landslide” victory (consisting of 16% of the membership) after the most lopsided faux-debate in the history of academia.

Almost immediately, their action was condemned by (among others) the American Studies Association’s own largest branches, American Studies Departments across the country (many of whom left ASA in protest), hundreds of college and university Presidents, and the largest academic associations in the country.

Initial attempts to explain their position (notably the statement by former ASA Presidnt Curtis “One has to start somewhere” Marez) were so embarrassing that the group’s leaders decided to “go to ground” and stop giving interviews (strange given that the justification for their boycott was to “open up conversation”).

Now their disappearance was not total.  For instance, when current ASA Prez Lisa Duggan thought she was talking solely to fellow BDS activists, she squealed like a schoolgirl over the chance to spend a weekend with like-minded partisans.  But, other than that, her communication to the world seems to have consisted primarily in situations that don’t allow for cross-examination.

This includes occasional one-time posting in the comments section of various web sites.  For instance, she recently commented on this story, one which describes how the hotel where ASA is planning its upcoming convention is being asked to confirm that they are not hosting a meeting that is in violation of California’s anti-discrimination law.  Apparently, that state has some pretty strict guidelines about events that discriminate by (among other things) national origin.  And so the entire ASA leadership team has had to double down on its whole “we’re not discriminating against individuals (like Israelis, although just the Jewish ones), we’re just targeting institutions” gambit.

As my regular reader knows, using legislatures and courts to win BDS battles is not my strategy of choice, especially if it drags a third party (in this case, the Westin Hotel) in the middle of someone else’s conflict.  But now that someone who doesn’t share this philosophy has raised the stakes over ASA’s BDS vote, it’s intriguing to watch the increasingly frantic dance those boycotters are breaking into in order to avoid any consequences related to the choice they forced onto the organization.

According to the story linked above, the original description of ASA policy was amended in recent days to try to bolster the “we’re only discriminating against institutions, not actual people” storyline (although, like most last-minute broomers, they missed a few files and forgot about the existence of screen-grabs and Internet caches). Meanwhile, leaders of the organization have taken to the airwaves demanding that any other possible interpretation of their policy is a lie that must be retracted.

Why a policy whose description ASA itself has had to amend has only one possible interpretation is unclear to me.  And their claim that even the Israeli Prime Minister could attend their event (so long as he only did so as “Mr. Netenyahu”) seems to indicate that any Israeli scholar who insists on representing their institution of learning (or anyone or anything other than themselves) would be discriminated against (vs., say, a professor from Fudan or Birzeit universities attending as representatives of those institutions).

Given that no American Studies department in the entire country has actually implemented the ASA’s boycott policy, and (as mentioned earlier) the organization’s largest chapters had rejected it, there seems to be no possible place for Lisa Duggan and her colleagues to put into practice the policy they insisted be the law of the organization except at their own events and programs (including their annual conference).  But, at least from we’ve seen unfold in the last few days, it looks like those bold defenders of the BDS cause cannot bring themselves to even take action there (or even explain what implementation of their policy would look like).

In other words (and as many of us knew when the vote was first taken), it’s all pose and no action by a group of “leaders” who are BDS activists first, academics second, desperate to give their prime consistency (fellow BDSers, not American Studies professors) something to brag about.

In my own comment on one of these stories (a reply to Lisa Duggan, as it happens), I pointed out that if Westin Hotel does indeed refuse to host ASA’s annual event, that the people who would have attended this year’s conference are completely free to register at the hotel as individuals and the ASA leadership team is free to hold the meetings they planned at various libraries and restaurants in the area near the Westin.  Under this scenario, the hotel chain would be simply following the rules outlined by the American Studies Association itself and shunning ASA as an institution while welcoming them as individual human beings.

We’ll see if Professor Duggan is ready to apply such a distinction to the institution she runs vs. those she is so desperate to have others shun.

Denormalizing Denormalization

23 Sep

With the Gaza war behind us (for now), things seem to be unfurling on campuses about as expected.

While anti-Israel activity is usually more of a second-semester phenomenon, the BDSers have been trying to leverage momentum from last summer’s war (and associated anti-Israel hysteria) to get their propaganda program rolling early at colleges and universities, even as chapters of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are just raising recruits and getting off the ground.

Given the thuggish tactics these groups were trying on for size at the end of the last academic year, it’s no surprise that early tales of SJP on campus involve violence and intimidation as tactics of choice.  And given the amount of information coming out of Gaza that they need to suppress, we can expect the usual tactic of ignoring anything others have to say to be accompanied by ever-louder shout-downs of those who choose to mention little details like 4000+ rockets fired at Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian ones.

But a decade of manufactured anti-Israel hostility has also generated counter-measures in the form of bigger and better-organized pro-Israel campus groups that have proven their skill (and patience) again and again.  And following a dynamic I described nearly a decade ago, these groups have been given the leeway to take the lead on their own campuses, pulling in resources from the wider Jewish if and when they are needed.

Within this battlefield, Israel’s foes have some decided advantages.  To begin with, as the propaganda arm of a war movement, the BDSers – by definition – have militant goals which means they can be perpetually on the attack.  In contrast, Israel’s supporters are not interested in destroying anyone and thus do not have the incentive to spend semester after semester smearing Palestinians (or other Arabs) or even telling stark truths about what the Palestinians have done to bring so much misery upon themselves over the decades.

Similarly, the sociopathic nature of the boycotters mean they are free to pick the battlefield unhindered by worries over the damage they may cause to others.  Again, in contrast, pro-Israel groups are hesitant to drag the Middle East conflict into every civic space in the land and thus must wait until the Israel haters act before they can react to any situation (such as a BDS vote) that requires a fight.

Those advantages are somewhat mitigated by the fact that most college populations consist of roughly 5% of students hostile and 5% of students supportive of the Jewish state with the other 90% indifferent (above and beyond wondering why this particular political conflict must be in their face 24/7).  In theory, this vast majority can be swayed, possibly by propaganda (the BDSers preferred choice), possibly by reasoned argument.  But, in general, this large group tends to support dialog and are looking to see which groups seems most sincerely dedicated to working things out via genuine communication vs. screaming matches.

This makes the over-the-top nature of groups like SJP a liability, which makes an aspect of this year’s campaign – one having to do with “denormalization” all the more surprising.

If you recall, “normalization” means treating Israel like a normal country whose citizens have the right to participate in all of the activities allowed by citizens of any nation in the world.  Which means that “denormalization,” making normal life impossible for Israelis (and their friends), is at the heart and soul of the BDS project.

For instance, any scholar in the world is allowed to be part of the community of academic discourse – even if they come from nations rules by monstrous, murderous regimes that suppress academic freedom at home.  But an academic “denormalization” campaign seeks to make just one exception to this rule through attempts to bar Israelis (although just the Jewish ones) from the scholarly community.

Similarly, product boycotts and divestment campaigns are designed to make buying Israeli goods or investment in Israeli companies seem extraordinary, just as last year’s marches in Europe and elsewhere want to “normalize” the notion that just one country (the Jewish one) has no right to defend itself when enemies shower its cities with rocket fire.

But among anti-Israel campus groups, “normalization” would require treating interaction between pro- and anti-Israel student groups as a normal form of human discourse.  Which is why they reject it, insisting that any dialog can only begin once those that disagree with them accept every BDSer fact and opinion in advance.

While the term “de-normalization” tries to smooth over some rough edges, the proper description of this position would be “anti-dialog” and “anti-peace” which pretty much sums up the alpha and omega of the BDS “movement.”

Which means that it is worth it for pro-Israel groups on campus to continue extending a hand to their opponents and then communicate out every time it is slapped away, thus demonstrating that the only thing abnormal going on is what takes place in the minds and meetings of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.

Are the Presbyterians Really Peacemakers?

16 Sep

During this summer’s Gaza conflict, two organizations that made news earlier in the year when they passed boycott or divestment resolutions – the American Studies Association (ASA) and Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) – issued statements on the conflict.

Of the two, ASA’s call to immediately terminate all aid to Israel (taken this time without any pesky interference from the rank and file) simply demonstrated the organization’s true nature: as a membership group made up of scholars largely indifferent to ASA’s political posturing led by a cadre that is nevertheless happy to make politically charged statements in the name of those they purport to represent.

The inability of ASA leaders to argue their positions or explain their behavior outside of like-minded audiences has exposed them as charlatans and cowards long ago, which may explain why their summer Gaza statement made no news beyond the usual BDS fever swamps.  But PCUSA’s public rhetoric that claims their various statements and motions (up to and including a decade of divestment votes) represent a desperate craving for peace makes their behavior regarding the Gaza war more worthy of scrutiny.

As I noted previously, a statement made early in the conflict by PCUSA’s Stated Clerk followed a familiar pattern of making Palestinian victims concrete and visceral while retreating to the passive voice when it came time to “condemn” violence directed towards Israelis.  And while there is no question who PCUSA considers to be the victimizer when it comes to Palestinian casualties, it’s not at all clear that they are ready to place responsibility for missile fire and tunnel terrorism (successful and thwarted) where it belongs.

But another statement, made in late July (in the name of the entire church membership), one which calls on President Obama to “press for an immediate ceasefire,” is far more telling when looked at in the context of the many ceasefires declared and then broken between July and the final cessation of hostilities in August.

If you recall, this round fighting in Gaza was marked by countless calls for a ceasefire (made by, among others, the US President to whom the Presbyterians appealed).  But, each and every time, those truces ended when Hamas finished using them as occasions to reload and redeploy, allowing them to start firing once again.

The second to last ceasefire (in August) was the most bizarre since everyone (including Israel) thought the fighting was over, only to see it start again when Hamas decided that rocket fire would continue until their demands were met.

During each of these ceasefires (especially the last one), the leadership of PCUSA never managed to deliver some of the “tough love” they routinely deliver to their Jewish “friends” to the Palestinians they have spent the last several decades cultivating by embracing their narrative and joining in their divestment calls.  In fact, the relationship they have built (at the cost of their relationship to the Jewish community) placed them in the ideal position to have their voices heard.  Yet, as far as I know, no such “tough love” emanated from Louisville explaining that PCUSA’s continued support was contingent on Palestinians doing what everyone else was begging them to do: stop firing rockets and thus restarting the war.

Remember that PCUSA could have made such a call without compromising its all-but-official positions on who is right and who is wrong in the Arab-Israeli conflict in any way.  For placing blame on Hamas for causing this particular war to continue when it could have stopped much earlier in the summer does not necessarily require condemning Hamas for the many other things you or I could list (diverting development supplies into tunnel and weapons manufacture, hiding and firing among civilians, etc.).  It just requires you to ask the party that seems to be doing things that are prolonging the war PCUSA claims to desperately want to end to stop doing those things.

Just imagine the headlines you would have seen if the church had put its divestment position on hold unless and until Hamas agreed to the same truce everyone else had.  And think about the impact such a bold move would have had in demonstrating to the world (including the Palestinians) that PCUSA’s commitment to peace took precedent over their seeming pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel partisanship.

No doubt there are hundreds of bureaucratic reasons that might make it difficult for the organization to move in such a direction (although such bureaucracy never seems to keep PCUSA from taking all kinds of actions directed at Israel, up to and including Zionism Unsettled).  But one would think that an organization that is truly dedicated to peace, one which really wanted a particular conflict (the Gaza war) to stop, would do anything in its power to turn that desire into reality – even if it meant temporarily condemning someone other than their usual target of criticism.

Given that the church remained silent when their voice might have helped, it seems that there is something more important than peace on PCUSA’s agenda.  Which means we should take their demands that we treat them as peacemakers with the same grain of salt we treat their claims of love and friendship.

Somerville Divestment Revisited – Reputation

23 Aug

This next set of essays were written during the second year of campaigning against BDS in Somerville, MA (2005) when divestment proponents tried to get a divestment measure they failed to get past the legislature onto the city-wide ballot.

A description of how that issue played out can be found here.

Few outside of British academic circles had ever heard of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), a UK-based union of university level instructors and professionals, until earlier this year when the organization voted to boycott two Israeli universities on a series of trumped up charges.

For veterans of divestment debates in the US and abroad, the details of the AUT debate will sound familiar.  An organization whose primary mission is support of its members through collective bargaining and other union services, the AUT also had a “social justice” constituency that was hijacked by a group of anti-Israel activists, led by Birmingham lecturer Sue Blackwell (an declared anti-fascist with a preference for Palestinian Flagwear who nevertheless links her Web site to various Nazi organizations).

Through relentless parliamentary maneuvering within a bureaucratic organization, Blackwell and her allies managed to pass a resolution calling for British academics to break all ties with Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities.  World reaction to the move was swift.  Jewish groups scorned the decision while anti-Israel activists hailed it as another “victory.”  More importantly, academics worldwide condemned the AUT’s assault on intellectual freedom, and AUT members revolted against the usurpation of their name by a small group of fanatics, overturning the decision in an overwhelming vote that reversed the short-lived AUT boycott policy.

By then, the damage was done.  If AUT is known outside of UK and teaching circles today, it is known as an organization that was willing to sacrifice the one virtue upon which its reputation rested, the value of unimpeded academic freedom, upon the alter of anti-Israel activism.

Seen through the AUT prism, the Somerville divestment debate represents a similar attempt to “leverage” the reputation of an institution, in this case the city of Somerville, towards a narrow political end.  All of their talk of “fairness” and “evening the playing field” is simply a ruse to appeal to the better nature of Somerville’s leaders and citizens, the better nature that is the basis of the city’s reputation as a friend of human rights.  The goal (as boasted on various anti-Israel Web sites during last year’s divestment debate) is to “sign on” Somerville to their cause so that the city’s name, a name built on its reputation, can be used to maneuver other cities and towns to also join the boycott-Israel bandwagon.

I’ve thought a lot about reputation recently as more and more “mainline” Protestant churches have followed the lead of the Presbyterian Church which last year started the machinery that would lead to divestment of church assets in companies doing business with the Jewish state.  As bragged on the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project’s (SC-SDP’s) Web site, the New England Methodist Church and Anglican Church in the UK are ready to follow the Presbyterian’s down divestment’s blind alley.

As with the AUT, these churches have convinced themselves that an economic attack on a tiny Jewish state is a demonstration of the highest virtues of their faith: fairness, peace, human rights.  Yet one only need look at the spurious charges, the faux history, the absolute unwillingness to consider the other side that underlay each church’s resolution to understand that divestment is a gross example of little more than institutional bullying.

As we were all taught in Saturday morning cartoons from the 1970s, most bullies are actually cowards.  And these “mainline” churches certainly have a lot to fear.  Their flocks are diminishing rapidly, even as competing faiths like evangelical Christianity and Islam are expanding rapidly.  It’s been years since these churches had a major voice in a political or moral debate and when they have tried (as in their stand on the Iraq War or last year’s presidential election), they have found themselves on the losing side.

As their relevance declines as rapidly as their numbers, the leadership of the churches pushing divestment have found they can do something: they can bully one of the smallest states in the world, even as they fail to put their assets where their mouths are when confronting the rich and powerful.

Yet in taking these actions, these churches are mortgaging more than their own reputations.  Just as the AUT that was willing to wreak havoc on academic freedom under the guise of protecting it, these bullying mainline churches are using the voice of religious moral authority in general, the same voice that proved so important during the desegregation, anti-Vietnam War and anti-Apartheid movements (movements supported in partnership with American Jews) to support narrow and partisan ends pushed by a small but highly vocal minority.

If it’s been hard to take the voice of the Church of England or the Presbyterians seriously during serious moral and political debates in recent years, how much harder will it be to listen to any religious authority in the future when the public realizes that this authority is susceptible to hijacking and moral blackmail by the rich and powerful against the small and vulnerable?

Even worse, these churches are also mortgaging assets they do not own: the ethical power of social investment, the economic power of the boycott, responsibly wielded as it was during the anti-Apartheid era, in order to float a morally bankrupt Israel divestment policy.  One can imagine a time in the near future when a corporation or nation that truly deserves censure can point to the actions of the churches as a demonstration of how legitimate boycotts directed at them are just another example of partisan politics wrapped in ill-fitting moral garments.

Just as Somerville’s aldermen (and, one hopes, its citizens) realize that the reputation of the city was not theirs to give away, one hopes that leaders and followers in cities, churches, schools around the world will reject the cynical lures of divestment, refusing to sell their reputations, and the reputations of what they represent, to those most willing to ruthlessly exploit the language of virtue.

Modern Language Association Israel Vote – No, Non, Nyet

10 Jun

First off, apologies for yesterday’s outage.  Apparently, an over-eager shoe and pants salesman tried to sell their wares in the site’s comment section to the tune of tens of thousands of messages, all of which were snagged by an alert spam blocker.  But an equally alert web host decided to shut things down to give me time to see what the hell was going on.

Anyway, all is well although I added a new Captcha facility to the commenting section that should prevent non-humans from spamming the site again.  And, in hope that this will be enough to keep away the robots, I also put the name and e-mail requirement for commenters on hold in hope we can attract a few of those Anonymous critics who have kind of made themselves scarce since Divest This was updated a while back.  We’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep you posted on any other comment-related policy changes.

Back to business, during last week’s Alinsky-fest, I wasn’t able to keep up with some of the latest BDS news which I’d like to cover between now and when the Presbyterians gather in Detroit at the end of the week.

Topping off the list was the failure of BDS advocates to get the Modern Language Association (MLA) to condemn the Jewish state over Israel’s “crime” of failing to get BDS advocates to stop spamming civic organizations in order to try to speak in other people’s names.

Even if you’re not familiar with how things worked out at the Modern Language Association Israel debate this year, the details will sound all-to-familiar to long-time BDSwatchers.

As usual, the 30,000 person academic organization took up the issue because a noisy minority within their ranks insisted that they do so back in January.  And, following a playbook written by other BDSers posing as academics who lead the American Studies Association, the boycotters within MLA ranks decided to hold a panel discussion on a resolution to criticize Israel for this or that imagined crime that consisted solely of proponents for the measure.

While Israel-dislikers (including the decidedly non-MLA members like Omar Barghouti) were given all the seats on this panel, critics of the proposal – deciding to do more than accept scraps from the table (i.e., sitting in the audience while their opponents controlled all the microphones) – held their own “unofficial” panel after MLA leaders refused to allow their voices to be included in any official program.  And once a watered-down version of the measure was sent to members (after a disgraceful and embarrassing committee vote described here), critics of the vote organized their own communication system to provide members factual rebuttals after those same MLA leaders refused to allow any official communication on the matter that didn’t measure up to the “scholarly” standards of Electronic Intifada.

Now the rules for the organization required 10% of the membership to vote “Yes” in order for the condemnation of Israel to become official policy  And when all the votes were tallied, the total  number of “Yes” and “No” votes did not meet this threshold and so the attempted hijacking of MLA failed due to lack of interest.

Needless to say, spin has been in the air since the vote with pro-BDS voices declaring victory since about 500 more people voted “Yes” than “No,” with anti-boycott proponents highlighting the fact that 94% of the organization either said “No” or expressed indifference or hostility to the whole sordid affair by avoiding the vote altogether.

Generally, I’m of a mind to say that a win is a win and a loss is a loss based on the reigning rules of an organization.  So while I might be appalled that only 16% of the membership of ASA can implement a boycott policy for the entire association, I would not claim that such a vote was inherently illegitimate since rules are rules.  Thus, given the 10% threshold MLA required for victory, categorizing last week’s vote as a #BDSFail is equally legitimate.

That said, I’ve always been troubled by votes made up of a majority of a minority on measures that claim to speak on behalf of an organization as a whole.

For example, the ASA boycott was presented to the world as not just the policy of an academic organization voted in by 16% of the membership, but as the “landslide” official position of the American Studies Association taken up in the name of the every ASA member (if not the entire field of American Studies).  But, as we’ve seen since that vote was taken (with not one American Studies department in the country signing on to the policy and many departments – as well as ASA’s largest chapter organizations – vocally opposing it), the policy does not represent the view of a most of the members in whose name the boycott was instituted.

Now we live in an age of representative (vs. Athenian) democracy, so I understand that decisions will invariably be made by less than 100% of citizens/members/participants/voters in most institutions.

I suppose that fail-safes (like the 10% threshold used for the Modern Language Association Israel vote) can prevent minorities from hijacking an organization and forcing it to say things that either a large minority or even a majority find offensive.  But I think the reason we don’t run into ASA/MLA-style problems on each and every controversial issue of the day is that partisan who believe strongly in most political causes understand that they have outlets for their political activism that do not require dragging their professional colleagues (or fellow members of another civic organization such as a food co-op) into a fight that will undoubtedly cause harm to innocents.

But as has been made all too clear over the last decade, the BDSers have no such respect for others, and no concern for groups like MLA and ASA beyond their usefulness (i.e., their serving as mere means to an end) in a propaganda war most people want no part of.

ASA Boycott – Not Defending the Undefendable

7 May

I’ve said my piece (really more than my piece) regarding the academic boycott voted in by the American Studies Association last year.  But now that we’re closing in on the six month mark since a boycott against the Jewish state was made policy by an (admittedly marginal) academic group, it’s worth taking a step back to see what the consequences have been for Israel vs. the ASA.

As far as Israeli academics are concerned, I’m not aware of a single American Studies professor from a single university taking a single step to target an Israeli academic or institution in compliance with the boycott policy.  Perhaps someone can provide us an instance of the boycott actually being enacted, but as far as I can tell the leadership of the ASA has proven itself willing to put its organization, its members and the entire discipline of American Studies at risk for the sake of a policy they do not have the guts to actually implement.

Supporters of the ASA boycott point out that the action was primarily symbolic – a means to demonstrate that the organization (claiming to represent the ideals of academic inquiry and discourse) had become so sickened by Israeli policy that they were willing to use the blunt instrument of a boycott to express their disapproval.  But for this symbolism to hold, it must be demonstrated that the boycott actually represents some kind of consensus within the field, especially for a vote passed by a “majority” of just 16% of the organization’s members.

The best way to demonstrate that a “landslide” of 16% represents membership consensus would be to provide examples  of how the American Studies Association boycott call has been taken up by the academics and academic departments in whose name the ASA claims to speak.

Again, perhaps someone can tell me otherwise but as far as I can tell the boycott has yet to receive backing from a single American Studies department in the country.  Yes, I know that some individual academics support the ASA decision and some departments have defended the organization against attacks (especially legal and legislative ones) made in response to the boycott.  But as far as I can tell, the only responses by American Studies Departments to the boycott itself have involved schools and departments ending their relationship with ASA, or insisting that they no longer be listed (inaccurately) as institutional members (which caused the group to drop mention of institutional membership entirely from the latest edition of their journal).

Not only that, but two of the biggest regional ASA organizations (in California and the Northeast – those two hotbeds of reactionary academia) have specifically disassociated themselves from the boycott policy, essentially telling the national leadership that they want no part of a partisan vendetta that brings nothing to the field except shame.

And speaking of shame, if you consider the academy as a whole (not just the sliver of it that represents the field of American Studies), it looks as though the ASA boycott has cemented a consensus that says boycotts are a threat to the entire academic project.  And given that the moral utility of the boycott rests on the assumption that being condemned by an academic organization makes the target condemnable, the fact that much larger and more broad-based academic groups like AAUP and ACE have roundly lashed out against an academic boycott of Israel means – by the boycotters own standards – it is the ASA that has lost all moral standing.

One final argument that ASA leaders make to justify their decision (which, if history is any guide, they will go to any length to prevent being reversed) is that the boycott was meant to open up dialog on the Middle East (a dialog they claim is lacking and for which they desperately thirst).

Which makes it all the more strange that after a few embarrassing appearances in the media, this same leadership has largely “gone to ground,” avoiding discussing the matter in any forum where they cannot count on being surrounded entirely by partisan supporters.

Professor William Jacobson of Cornell Law School, who runs the web site Legal Insurrection (LI), reported that these same ASA leaders have urged members to not talk to him, which has not prevented LI from breaking most of the major news stories regarding the subject (including decisions by California and New England to defy the national organization’s boycott policy).

But probably the most telling example of how desperately the boycotters don’t want to engage in the conversation they claim to crave was this week’s appearance by Jacobson at Vassar College, a school where 39 professors attacked the college’s President’s when she joined over two-hundred other college and university presidents to condemn the ASA’s action (correctly) as an attack on academic freedom.

Jacobson originally presented his talk as a challenge to any or all of those 39 professors to debate him on the topic of the boycott (or BDS in general).  In other words, this single Cornell professor offered to be the lone voice willing to stand up to as many as 39 other scholars, all of whom back a policy they allegedly (1) believe in deeply; and (2) is meant to foster a conversation on the Middle East.

But given the chance to take to the field and defend their positions (with odds offered of nearly 40:1), every one of these professors declined, leaving Jacobson happily providing a lecture (which was fortunately not interrupted by the usual SJP heckling) to a packed audience.

I suggest you watch the whole thing since Jacobson’s Vassar talk lays bare the breathtaking cowardice and hypocrisy behind every claim made by the BDSers.  Yes, they are more than willing to hijack a membership organization in order to speak in the name of those who have shown no interest in enacting a policy that supposedly represents a moral imperative.  But not only are they unwilling to take any steps that would turn that policy into concrete action, they are also unwilling to step into the ring to defend their indefensible positions, even when given 39 seats to their opponent’s one.