December 26, 2013
On December 4, 2013, the American Studies Association, a small but well-regarded and influential force on many university campuses voted to boycott Israeli universities.  The Washington Post described their actions as follows,
THE AMERICAN STUDIES Association, a group of about 5,000 scholars devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history, has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions…as a way to protest Israeli “state policies that violate human rights” of Palestinians, including academic freedom for scholars and students. The resolution drew support of two-thirds of the 1,252 association members who voted. The boycott is largely symbolic; it’s also terribly misguided.
The measure, recommended by the Association’s Board of Directors, approved the action and the full group of scholars voted to affirm the Board’s decision.
Their decision has now been condemned by a number of schools and both Brandeis and The University of Pennsylvania have dropped their membership in the association.
According to a report in Tablet magazine,
Harvard and Yale, along with a host of other universities, public officials, and journalistic outlets, have condemned and rejected the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel.
Further, the report claims,
In total, 26 schools have thus far rejected the ASA boycott in the days following its passage.
This latest measure against Israel may be viewed as “flowing in the same stream” as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement which responded to the Israel/Palestinian crisis by advocating an array of economic and political actions designed to arouse the sympathies of the global community for the Palestinian cause by tarring Israel with the same brush as the now defunct Apartheid regime of South Africa.
This is just another effort among many by those who are anti-Israel and pro- Palestinian, but it comes this time from a group that does not usually take a position on political and social issues in other countries.
Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers said on the Charlie Rose show,
My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool. 
As a Messianic Jew and an Evangelical, I am deeply concerned as well about the actions of the ASA.
The boycott is politically driven and naïve as the abuses of human rights and restriction of academic freedom in other countries are far more heinous. In fact, Israel’s state of academic freedom was noted as “great” by the ASA’s.
As the Washington Post writes,
Have the scholars overlooked the cries for help from Cuban dissidents bravely standing up to the Castro brothers, demanding freedoms — and suffering beatings and arrest almost every week? Do they condone the decision of a judge in Saudi Arabia who has just sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy?
Perhaps the following statement from the ASA resolution will make it clear that they are playing partisan politics and not seeking the academic good of the institutions they serve.
It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
This is intensified in the following statements, which the ASA wrote to the leaders of their member academic institutions regarding the resolution:
The resolution understands the boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.
The proposed resolution expressly DOES NOT endorse a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication. U.S. scholars are not discouraged under the terms of the boycott from traveling to Israel for academic purposes, provided they are not engaged in a formal partnership with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is not designed to curtail dialogue. Rather, it emerges from the recognition that these forms of ordinary academic exchange are often impossible for Palestinian academics due to Israeli policies.
After reading the above, it is evident that the ASA has taken it upon itself to act as both judge and jury. They have overstepped their mandate and used their academic organization as a political weapon rather than as an instrument designed for the greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding.
This is further revealed in a quick review of their statement of purpose found in the by laws of the ASA.
ARTICLE I: Name and Object
Sec. 1. The name of this society shall be the American Studies Association
Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.
Again, the ASA has stepped beyond their stated mission to advance American Studies. Perhaps the question to ask of the ASA is why? To what end? And whose agenda is really driving the actions of the ASA?
It is my hope that our Evangelical Christian community will take a public stand against these measures by the ASA. Evangelical Christian schools have participated in conferences and programs organized by the ASA and should follow suit with those secular academic institutions by protesting this resolution and taking a stand for academic freedom, authentic justice, and fair play.
I like the statement by the editorial board of the Washington Post and I believe this is the type of attitude we should foster, especially as Jesus’ peacemakers:
The American Studies Association would have more impact by finding a way to engage deeply with Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps with scholarly conferences and exchanges, rather than by punishing Israel with a boycott.
I am hoping that our Evangelical Christian schools will follow suit and join with the growing number of US schools that believe the ASA has crossed a line and that it’s actions will lead to an increase in conflict rather than peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9