TIME Israel

Academic Farcedom

The American Studies Association wants to boycott Israel…and us to pay for it.

I have a degree in American Studies–actually, it’s in American Civilization, which sounds far grander but really is the same thing. And so it has been rather painful for me to watch the members of the American Studies Association, the official mafia of my beloved major, taking vast, florescent positions on topics about which they have no expertise or authority. Namely Israel.

Regular readers know that my positions on my people’s Homeland haven’t always been politically correct. Indeed, I find the current Iran-sanctions-lobbying being done by AIPAC and their minions in the Congress to be nauseating, and shameless, in the extreme. It is, in fact, a blatant attempt to conflate a misguided sense of Israel’s national security interests with our own–a false equivalence if there ever was one. After the disastrous and naive bellicosity of the past decade, all Americans should be rooting for the nuclear negotiations to succeed–and for Iran to rejoin the community of nations after making a clear, veriable and irreversible commitment not to pursue a nuclear weapon. We do not need another war, certainly not another pre-emptive war.

Those feelings, however, do not stop me from being appalled by the American Studies Association’s empty “boycott” of Israel for its impositions on Palestinian lands. Again, the aggrandizement of Israeli settlements on the West Bank has been an illegal and foolish enterprise; but it is not impossible that we’re approaching the moment, thanks to patient work of Secretary John Kerry, when a new green line border–with equal land swaps–can be drawn. Conditions in the Palestinian territories are dreadful, but they have grown better in recent years, thanks to the economic and security efforts of prime minister Salam Fayyad, whom the Palestinians have sadly gotten rid of–and the raising of some security restrictions by Israel.

Certainly, Bibi Netanyahu remains a pest, involving himself in American politics–pro-Romney, anti-Kerry–in a way that no other American ally would (or could, for that matter). But in my mind, conditions on the West Bank do not rise to the depravity necessary for a boycott. And these sorts of gestures add gasoline to the ever-blazing delusion, among far too many academics, that the state of Israel, established by the United Nations, is not a legal entity.

The American Studies Association has a right to its opinion, no matter how stupid or venal. It even has the right to support a one-state Palestinian solution, if that’s the intent lurking in some of these professors’ minds. But as a New York state taxpayer, I do not want a nickel of my money to be spent on meetings of the ASA, travel to meetings, printing the results of such meetings or anything at all to do with such a feckless enterprise. So I support the effort of the New York State legislature to ban the allocation of funds to the American Studies Association. I hope it passes and is signed soon by Governor Cuomo. This is not a question of academic freedom, as the ACA argues. It is a question of the state funding partisan political organizations. You are free to yak, you are not free to have us pay for it.

Stick to American Studies, folks. It’s a lovely field. There’s plenty to do. Your huffy resolutions only undermine the public’s faith in your ability to render accurate judgments on the history, society and arts of our country. Israel is none of your official business.

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