For the last month I’ve been responding to critiques and challenges of BDS. Now I have a question for its opponents and critics. What do you propose as an alternative strategy?
I am not sure I am entitled to answer since I have not written any critique of the ASA resolution, but I think you have to ask a prior question. If you are an American academic association and you want the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank to end, what tactics are most likely to work? (No guarantees; history obviously shows coercion can work for a very long time.)
In others words, what is more effective, the ASA endorsing “a boycott of Israeli academic institutions” or the ASA doing something else? I pick something else.
If I were counseling the ASA, I would suggest the following:
1. You are, I imagine, mostly* residents of the United States. If that is the case, the best thing you can do is lobby the US government to change its policy toward Israel-Palestine. However limited, you have access to US halls of power that a Palestinian in Nablus does not. Change your own government. So pass a resolution condemning current US policy. Write. Call. Visit. Donate. Form a PAC. Organize. Vote.
2. Focus on the denial of academic freedom to Palestinian academics and universities. Work to break it down. Hold conferences and workshops with Palestinian professors. Engage in joint projects. Given the difficult travel policies they face, allocate funds to bring them for scholarly exchanges. I do not know what the MLA will ultimately do, but a draft text I saw went more in this direction. A related variant: formally support Israeli academics who oppose the occupation.
3. Publicize and support on-the-ground Palestinian efforts based on non-violent change. People should know about movements in Bil’in and Budrus and Nabi Salih and Sheik Jarrakh and the like.
Make that list the operative part of the resolution, and the ASA will still get a lot of pushback. But the ASA will also have a better chance of effecting meaningful change.
(For the sake of discussion, I set aside the Middlebury objection. That’s a prior issue the ASA has to address.)
* Please correct me if “mostly” is inaccurate.