How ASA Became RASA (Racist American Studies Association)

The final segment in a series of guest posts on the ASA boycott motion by Jon from DivestThis!

In contrast to communities like the Presbyterians or Food Coop world which I never knew much about before helping them fight off the BDS infection, I actually have friends and family members who have a connection to the field of American Studies, some of whom are or were ASA members.  Most of them left years ago when the organization started practicing the kind of politicized scholarship that ultimately led to the victory of politics over scholarship which culminated in this week’s boycott abomination.

As with any BDS debate, many questions regarding why a boycott was being directed at one country and one country only were met with well-rehearsed answers that never got to the real reason why the ASA was ready to abandon the principles of academic freedom in order to punish Israel and Israel alone.

And that reason is that there is a worldwide propaganda campaign directed at the Jewish state by dozens of wealthy and powerful countries who have corrupted organizations such as the UN in order to ensure global censure is directed against their enemy while the human rights spotlight never highlights the fact that Israel’s accusers represent the worst human rights abusers on the planet.

So the global campaign against the Jewish state (which uses the vocabulary of human rights as a weapon system – demolishing its effectiveness for any other purpose in the process) is simply one more example of the rich and powerful getting what they want.  But what does this have to do with a marginal academic organization like ASA?

Well here is where the unique nature of the BDS branch of this global propaganda campaign comes in.  For in order to make it sound as though their “Israel = Apartheid” message is coming from someone other than a marginal group of partisans, it is vital that these words be forced to emerge from the mouth of someone else.  And in an era when major institutions such as colleges and universities, churches and unions have been kicking the BDSers down the stairs for over a decade, the boycotters are now ready to do whatever it takes to speak in the name of even a group as marginal as the American Studies Association.

ASA President Marez told the New York Times that Israel was chosen to be the group’s human rights pariah because “you have to start somewhere.”  But the chances that the organization will continue from this starting point to act on human rights issues regarding other countries is nil since, as noted above, the ASA’s leaders are not human rights activists but anti-Israeli partisans first and last.  And given that they have forced the organization to throw academic freedom on the pyre in the name of their cause, I think it’s fair to say they should no longer even be considered scholars.

Anyway, as night follows day the script will play out.  Anger and recrimination by the 75% of members who didn’t vote on the issue (possibly because they – like a friend of mine who is in the organization – didn’t get the postcard voter reminder from the ASA leadership until a day after the vote had closed) will escalate once people realize that a group of people they have never met with no connection to the field is now speaking in their name.  Resignations will both shrink the organization while concentrating the radicals within it.  Real scholars (like those of AAUP) will continue to pour their scorn on the group which the BDSers will ignore as they travel the globe trying to find the next academic organization to corrupt in the name of ASA.

So what are we supposed to do about it?

Well first of all, we need to stop referring to this organization as the ASA.  For those who have destroyed the organization on Sunday should not have carte blanche to trade on its name and reputation on Monday.  I have chosen to refer to them from now on simply as RASA with the “R” standing for either “Rump” or “Racist” (take your pick based on your level of generosity).

And the RASA leaders who have done everything in their power to make this the law of the organization should be required to live with this decision.  They have published this handy guide to explain to college administrators why they should keep checks flowing to their organization despite the boycott vote, but I suggest those administrators calmly reiterate what many of them said in 2007: that for purposes of any boycott their schools also be considered Israeli institutions and boycotted.  And since, as RASA leaders never tires of telling us, this is an institutional boycott, they should then be required to take the steps necessary to separate ASA from these “Israeli” schools, including most of the schools the leadership draws a paycheck from.  Absent that, they should be branded scabs to their own boycott, too cowardly to do anything for “human rights” that might impact their own comfort.

But we can do more than that.  Real American Studies scholars who decide to remain in the organization should quadruple down on their relationship with real Israeli scholars and demand the RASA reject joint papers and joint presentations at conferences and publish the organizations communications on the subject for all to see.  They should show up to next year’s conference wearing a yellow star with a Z in the middle of it, or all manner of paraphernalia from every boycotted Israeli college and university they can find.  And maybe someone can publish a scholarly American Studies paper on the corruption of civic organizations within the US using ASA as their case study.

And most importantly, the misery the RASA leadership has visited upon the organization – the rancor, recriminations, resignations and condemnations by genuine scholars – should be held up to every other academic organization in the land as an example of what happens when a scholarly groups decides to stop being scholars to participate in a BDS program that demands self-immolation as an entrance fee.

There is precedent for the corruption of one organization to create the antibodies needed to minimize the spread of the BDS infection.  In 2010, members of a food coop in Olympia Washington woke up to discover that the store they had helped build and contributed to for years had joined the BDS movement behind their backs and was busily spreading the boycott gospel to other coops throughout the country.  But the misery they caused within their own community demonstrated to all the ugliness that must be imported when the Middle East conflict is dragged into a civic organization.  And recognition of this reality helped ensure no other coop in the country ever followed Olympia’s lead.

So let us make sure that the same ugliness the RASA leadership’s actions have caused do not get swept under the carpet when they show up all smiles to the next academic group insisting that everyone follow their example.  For RASA must now become the poster child for how an academic organization destroys itself when it decides to place their own hypocritical, fanatical partisanship above the needs of everyone else.

42 replies »

  1. In the R-ASA FAQ they say they are picking on Israel because the Palestinians asked them to. (Unsaid is that pro-Israelis don’t seem to ask for boycotts in such matters. Perhaps they should.)

    7) Does the boycott resolution unfairly single out Israel? After all there are many unjust states in the world. The boycott resolution responds to a request from the Palestinian people, including Palestinian academics and students, to act in solidarity.

    President Marez seems to have a different answer here, one that indicates that the ASA after 65 years of existence, is embarking on a new venture – country criticism.

    In another html document on their website:
    7) What is required for an Israeli university to no longer be subject to the boycott?
    This is a difficult question to answer. …… (they don’t really answer it).

    The whole thing lacks principle and violates academic procedure.

  2. I’ve not been following this, but did find the following:

    Salim Vally, spokesperson of the Palestine Solidarity Committee in South Africa, told The Electronic Intifada that Abbas’ comments were “shocking” and represented an “attack on the global solidarity movement.”

    Unbelievable! Telling the Palestinians themselves what their approach should be.

  3. ” the global campaign against the Jewish state (which uses the vocabulary of human rights as a weapon system ”

    If we could see ourselves as others see us. The mention of the word “vocabulary” suggests the writer feels that the exact meaning of words is important . However the use of the emotive , combatative and in this instance, entirely unhelpful term ” the Jewish State ” is an example of the blindness needed to support the argument. Yes many want it to be a Jewish State but many want this just so every criticism can then safely be labelled anti semitic.

    Both sides abuse language . And this writer is not immune from the accusation either.

    • This is absurd. I’ve never heard anyone complaining about the Arabs calling one of their countries the United Arab Emirates, for example, or the Iranians the Islamic Republic of Iran, but somehow it’s a huge deal if the Jews want to designate Israel as a Jewish state.

      There is no doubt that a large percentage of the Israel bashers bash Israel because it is the Jewish state and not out of concern for the Palestinians or human rights. If they really were so concerned they would bash Arab countries that keep Palestinians in ghettos and deny them citizenship and access to many professions. And they would have something to say about the appalling lack of human rights in general in Arab countries.

      The fact that they choose to concentrate on Israel rather than the real rogue nations that surround that embattled country speaks volumes about their true intentions.

    • Sure, Website, let’s forget the UN partition plan recommending to specifically create a Jewish State and an Arab State (not a “Palestinian” state, by the way), the League of Nations Mandate to create that Jewish State, the winning of that state’s independence and acceptance for membership in the UN; the efforts to annihilate Israel and replace it with an unhelpfully termed Arab State undertaken by other unhelpfully termed Arab States of the unhelpfully termed Arab League. In fact let’s just forget the history altogether, so we may all better accommodate your unhinged lunacy.
      Jewish State is an unhelpful term? For Website and the Guardianistas what is “helpful” is a no Jews allowed state for Arabs built on land that’s the cradle of Jewish civilization.

    • Except, of course, that Israel is not an apartheid state.

      Anyone who has anything resembling a moral compass would turn to the Arab states, not Israel, for evidence of apartheid – except that they have done such a thorough job of ethnically cleansing their minorities that there are few people left who are victims of apartheid and in many Arab states none at all.

      Now that they have got rid of almost all the Jews, they are stepping up the pressure on their Christian communities, which have been the victims of discrimination and killing for a very long time. Lebanon, for example, used to be a majority-Christian country. Look at it now. Thousands of Christians have fled the Muslim-on-Christian slaughter in Iraq, Egypt periodically slaughters dozens of Coptic Christians and if the “rebels” ever prevail in Syria they will expel and slaughter Syrian Christians until the community is utterly destroyed.

      When the Arabs have finally succeeded in completely eradicating all traces of other ethnic and religious communities from within their midst, they’ll be able to concentrate exclusively on seeing who will be the victors in the Sunni-Shia competition to murder as many as possible of the other side in their markets and holy places.

      Apartheid? The Arabs have gone way beyond separation of the races. Racist South Africa was never as bad.

      But do concentrate on Israel, if it makes you feel better.

    • Israel will outlive that, it is used to boycott of Antisemites like you.
      There is the boycott of the OIC, of the OAPEC, and so on and so forth, so what?

    • Thanks for sharing your wet dream, wadi. Israel has survived the combined military efforts of the Arab world’s attempts to wipe her out, the organised and brutal terrorist campaings organised by the PLO and others throughout the latter decades of the 20th century including the intifadas, the persistent rain of rockets from North and South (not forgetting the scuds from the East that Saddam so generously sent over) that have threatened the lives of a large proportion of its people and the persistent sniping of the UN with its ridiculous obsession with one of the world’s smallest problems.

      Israel has survived all this, but never fear – trumped in thewadi and his plucky band of self-righteous, Jew-hating hypocrites wil take up the baton!

    • “This boycott is just the beginning.”
      68 years is quite a long beginning. Another difference: the boycott against SA was waged to actually fight racism, whereas this one is being waged by racists.
      It’s what you get when you allow bigots to play with matches.

    • Yup. Just the beginning. I think that was the Arab motto in 1956.

      And killer bees have been coming from Argentina and into Texas for the past 35 years.

      What is sadder about your pathetic internet lifestyle (hate and fear mongering about Israel, and whining about Jews and Zionists) is your one-track idiocy. Sorry, you don’t get to play with the words based on the definitions only your ilk applies.

  4. Now the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has unanimously decided to boycott Israeli universities, saying in its decision that Palestinians are the indigenous people of the Occupied Territories and Israel.
    I suppose they know all about foreign settlers taking over their land.

    • “I suppose they know all about foreign settlers taking over their land”
      Why do you suppose that?

      Please don’t tell me it is because they have a ‘title’ such as, “Native American and Indigenous Studies Association”. What are their bona fides? What qualifications do you need to become a member?

      After all another research association with a prestigious title is the
      ‘Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association’ and for all we know they might know as much about the Middle East as the Association you mention.

        • No Wadi, they are not Native Americans at all, but descendants of the colonizers.
          Let me introduce you one of their “professor” representatives who apart from falsely claiming Indian ancestry is a hate monger and has been fired by his uni due to research misconduct. Being boycotted by his type of “scholars” makes me proud.

        • “They are Native Americans so they know about what foreign colonials can do.”

          When it comes to that, they’ve got nothing on the Jews, who were robbed of their land long before Native Americans ever saw a European. You can call the land of Israel Palestine to your heart’s content, Snotwad, but the Arabs are not the indigenous people of that land. They are deeply aware of this and it explains why they expend so much time and energy pounding the poison of hate into the heads of their children in an attempt to negate Jewish history and its irrefutable connection to the land.
          So to my Native American friends, no offense, but don’t tell us, we’ll tell you.

          P.S. Native Americans once constituted a whole host of nations, whereas the Palestinians have never constituted one. It’s a recent invention and tactic in the Arab war on the Jewish independence. Sorry I had to ruin your day.

          • Since 135 ce there has not been a jewish nation; it’s a zionist invention born out of 19th century European nationalism.
            Jews are members of a religion. To become jewish you have to have a jewish mother or be converted to the religion through a religious process.
            Sorry to ruin your day, arsewipe

            • Jews are members of a religion.
              This is the most common attribute of antisemites – to determine who is a Jew and who is not. Or in your world Jews have no right to self determination? Of course not.
              For your information – about half of the world Jewry are atheists.
              Sorry to ruin your day,
              Little trumpet you couldn’t ruin a glass of beer with a ten pound hammer dear…

              • So are you saying that the chareidi parties in israel are antisemitic? They’ve been fighting for years to determine who is a Jew.
                All nations have a right to self determination. But Jews are not a nation; they’re members of a faith group.

                • So are you saying that the chareidi parties in israel are antisemitic? They’ve been fighting for years to determine who is a Jew.
                  Yes – there are haredi Jews too and they participate in the discussion among Jews how to determine themselves. So what?
                  All nations have a right to self determination. But Jews are not a nation
                  I see now your logic… Every human has human rights, but I’ll determine who must be considered human…BTW trumpie every people has the right to self determination not only nations – naturally you as a proud warrior for human rights have not a clue about the subject of your fight…Don’t worry it is completely natural, everybody knows that the human rights issue is only veil to hide your hate of the Jews – you shouldn’t be ashamed you have many comrades and Parteigenossen.
                  BTW Jews are a religion… Certainly all Jewish victims of the Holocaust were strictly religious…
                  You must be an extremely lucky fellow trump that ignorance, stupidity and malevolence don’t cause physical pain…

            • “Jews are members of a religion.”
              Do you have the entire PLO memorized or just certain parts?

              By the way, I do have a jewish mother. Just how does that make me religiously anything? Looking forward to your answer.

                • Christian atheists??? You couldn’t make this up…Maybe I’m mistaken and you are not a real Jew-hater only a caricature of a totally dumb bigot?

                • Do you honestly believe that there aren’t people who were born Christian or Jewish who do not believe in God.
                  According to you there are Jewish atheists – meaning Jewishness is not determined by a person’s religion. BTW Haven’t you even heard of Jewish Catholics? Jews for Jesus? Jews who were born in atheist families? Someone whose ancestors three generations before were Christians must be considered today a Christian?
                  And you are speaking about thickness? Trumpie, trumpie, go back posting on the Guardian CIF, the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss or your home the Aryan Nations maybe the comrades there wouldn’t get laughing attacks reading your crap, even they may take you seriously -some of their dumbest are on your intellectual level…

            • “Since 135 ce there has not been a jewish nation; it’s a zionist invention born out of 19th century European nationalism.”
              There’s actually nothing wrong with that. You just don’t like it.

        • Native Americans who argue with blood and purity,
          The tribe’s spokesperson, Lisa Stopp, stated the tribe enrolls only members with certified one-quarter American Indian blood. The website statement further clarified that Churchill “was not eligible for tribal membership due to the fact that he does not possess a ‘Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)”, and the associate membership did not entitle an individual to voting rights or enrollment in the tribe