On the American Association of University Professors’ opposition to academic boycotts

David Lloyd writes: On 10 May 2013, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a “Statement on Academic Boycotts” which states, not for the first time, its “opposition to academic boycotts as a matter of principle.” The statement was issued in response to two recent victories for the movement for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel: physicist Stephen Hawking’s recent announcement that he would not attend a major conference in Israel, and the Association for Asian American Studies’ (AAAS) adoption of a resolution at their national conference in April to endorse the academic boycott. As the momentum for the academic boycott of Israel builds globally, the AAUP seems to be desperately trying to stem the tide. Of course, the AAUP’s statement is nothing new and shows the organization to be as incoherent and ill-informed on the academic and cultural boycott of Israel as it has proven to be since 2006. In that year, it succumbed to outside pressure and withdrew support for an AAUP-sponsored conference on academic boycott at the Rockefeller Conference Center in Bellagio—thus effectively engaging in censorship.

In the first place, the recent AAUP statement is factually misleading. The academic boycott is not merely being “advocated by some pro-Palestinian groups,” nor did Stephen Hawking make his decision based on the call of “pro-Palestinian groups.” He did so, according to his own statement, in response to the appeal of Palestinian scholars— just as the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has responded to the call of over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations that have endorsed the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. What the AAUP seeks to disguise by its framing of the issue is that the academic boycott has never been the work of some small pressure groups in the United States, but represents a global movement that is seeking a non-violent means to end the systematic dispossession of and discrimination against the Palestinian people. In this respect, it resembles the boycott movement against South Africa’s apartheid regime, which the AAUP in fact supported, with the difference that whereas that movement did call for individual boycotts of South African scholars, cultural workers, and sports persons, PACBI’s call is specifically and exclusively institutional. [Continue reading…]

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