Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another HP Blogger Defends Boycotts of Israel

The Huffington Post has found yet another professor to defend the bigoted collective punishment commonly referred to as "BDS" (although he himself doesn't use that term). His piece is quite long, so we'll just do a quick overview of it with commentary. The professor writing the piece is David Palumbo-Liu, a Stanford professor of....Comparative Literature, and this is his only contribution to the Huffington Post.

David leads off with complaining that people are daring to disagree with the boycott and cites an example of a letter from the president of the University of Maryland. He then defends the boycott by saying it really doesn't collectively punish Israelis as much as it sounds:
"It is important to note that, contrary to how it has been depicted, under the resolution members of the ASA are indeed "free to study, do research, and participate in meetings with colleagues from around the globe." The resolution places no restrictions on its individual members from so doing; individuals are free to pursue any relations they wish with their Israeli counterparts, period...that decision was not binding in any way upon its members. They can individually do business with that vendor. Just so in our own universities we can invite Israeli scholars to speak, and go to speak at their campuses should we wish to. We can co-author papers, do research together. That is clear and plain."
OK, guys? We're not collectively punishing Israeli individuals, just all their institutions! So get off our freaking backs already, won't you?

David then engages in some remarkable cognitive dissonance and logical leaps:
"The letter-writers are correct in their assertion that the ASA is, as an institution itself, refusing to enter into formal academic activities with Israeli academic institutions. Boycotts of this nature are protected forms of free speech, and available to any organization wishing to engage in non-violent protest (the anti-boycott laws on the books have to do solely with issues of free trade). Academic institutions, it should be stressed, are not endowed with academic freedom rights. Finally, it has to be said once again that this is a boycott aimed at state practices of discrimination that deny academic freedom to others; it is decidedly not aimed at a people."
Confused? You should be.

David declares that the boycott is aimed against "Israeli academic institutions." This makes no distinction between public universities such as Tel Aviv University and private colleges such as the College for Academic Studies in Or Yehuda. The ASA refuses to work with ALL Israeli academic institutions, according to David. 

But at the same time, he declares the boycott is not aimed at "a people" but at "state practices of discrimination that deny academic freedom to others." Yet, he and the ASA boycott do not target state institutions, but all Israeli academic institutions, even ones that have nothing to do with or indeed actively oppose "state practices of discrimination!" You cannot have it both ways, Professor. You either boycott only Israeli state institutions that are actively discriminating against people, or you can admit you're going after the Israeli people, not merely their state. 

Lastly, how hilarious is it that he writes, apparently with a straight face, "Academic institutions, it should be stressed, are not endowed with academic freedom rights." Is this guy for real? 

Let's move on to why David and the ASA are boycotting Israeli academics, er, state practices:
"The basic principle that guided this measure is the belief that academic freedom is indivisible. The ASA refuses to engage with institutions it has deemed complicit with the denial of academic freedom to Palestinians. It refuses to place "our" academic freedoms above and apart from those of others. It refuses to go along with things as they are, which include increased and illegal building of settlements in the Occupied Territories, the bombing of Palestinian schools, the denial of the freedoms of speech and assembly to Palestinians. [he then goes on to complain about the poor suffering Palestinians]"
We've talked about why boycotting Israel for the treatment of the poor suffering Palestinians is BS in the past, no reason to talk about it again. But again I am amazed that David declares academic freedom is "indivisible" when he just finished talking about how Israeli academic institutions don't have academic freedom. His cognitive dissonance is astonishing.

If we apply his logic to the Palestinians, as in that if your state does bad things like kill people and deny freedom of speech, he should support Israel preventing Palestinian academic freedom because of all the bad things the Palestinian nation has done. That's what someone with consistent standards and a rational brain would do. The good professor here seems to have neither, as he engages in the classic mistake of "two wrongs making a right."

As always with these boycott types, he demands punishing Israeli academic institutions that, more likely than not, share his goals about ending the suffering of the innocent Palestinian victims. Once again, collectively punishing Israelis. Once again, harming peace.

David ends with once again reminding his readership that the boycott isn't as collectively punishing as it could be:
This was a decision made by an organization with regard to its own practices. That is its right, and it acted in the belief that this resolution was and is intended to increase, not diminish, academic freedom. The membership voted overwhelmingly and decisively to endorse the resolution. It has never and does not through this measure block or curtail the actions of its individual members, who are free to do whatever they so desire. That the resolution has been so condemned by some without an understanding of these basic facts, upon which supporters voted for it, is regrettable and only shows the more the power of the prejudices to which even very smart people might be susceptible.
 How ironic is that last sentence, eh?

If this is the best the boycotters could come up with, no wonder they are getting slammed on all sides.

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