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Editorial | Tufts response to ASA boycott appropriate

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 08:01

On Dec. 4, 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA), an organization that focuses on interdisciplinary studies relating to the United States, announced a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. On Dec. 23, Tufts University joined a growing list of over 100 schools that have denounced the ASA’s boycott. President Anthony Monaco should be commended for standing in opposition to the boycott, as well as for protecting individuals in the Tufts community who make use of the ASA’s scholarly materials. Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex issue that divides many, the ASA’s boycott is misguided, and Tufts’ reaction is correct and justified in this situation.

The ASA’s boycott is targeted at Israeli institutions and “scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions.” Unfortunately, it makes no distinction between institutions working to further the peace process and those it deems as complicit in violations of international law. Looking to shed light on the plight of Palestinian scholars in Gaza and the West Bank, the boycott indiscriminately affects Israeli institutions that may be working for the same goal. While certainly effective in garnering controversy, the boycott has catalyzed opposition, prompted congressional letters against the ASA and inspired debate over the academic freedoms of Israeli academics and not their Palestinian colleagues.

The reason that the ASA’s boycott is backfiring can be explained by looking at the statements made by President Monaco and many other presidents of academic institutions across the nation: boycotting academic institutions over government policies confuses the issues at hand and targets the innocent and complicit alike. 

Collective punishment, even with the goal of bringing attention to greater evils, should not necessarily be condoned. Institutions, like people, should be judged by their actions and not by their associations. Monaco’s statement reflects that sentiment by saying that, although Tufts is not a member of the ASA, individuals reserve the right to continue to use ASA materials, and retain their membership.

Although the ASA boycott aims to help alleviate the incredible difficulties faced by Palestinian scholars and students, Tufts made the right decision by understanding that academics and institutions should be used as solutions, not targets.

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