This is a little convoluted, but bear with me: A little more than a month ago, the relatively obscure American Studies Association passed a resolution in favor of an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions, as a move of protest against Israel and, paradoxically, as a symbolic show in favor of academic freedom for all, including Palestinians. The response to the boycott was swift and often critical. Now the Maryland state legislature is weighing a bill that would effectively boycott the boycott.
The Maryland bill would keep state funds from going to academic organizations that enact an anti-Israel boycott. (The ASA isn’t the only one; the Association for Asian American Studies has a similar resolution in place, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association plans to go pro-boycott after its annual convention in May.)
“While it is the position of the [American Association of University Professors] that academic boycotts contravene the principles of academic freedom, the Association has nevertheless asserted that it is ‘the right of individual faculty members or groups of academics not to cooperate with other individual faculty members or academic institutions with whom or with which they disagree,’ ” the AAUP said in a statement. If all those double negatives are confusing you, here’s my translation: The AAUP is anti-anti-boycott, because (as they say later in their statement) passing laws that infringe on academics’ freedom of speech is worse than academic boycotts.
There are plenty of good ironies here, most interestingly how often people invested in a boycott (or a boycott of a boycott) rely on the word “freedom” to justify their actions. In any case, a similar bill being weighed in New York was withdrawn from consideration on Monday. Will the same happen to the Maryland bill, or will there be an entirely new movement to boycott those who boycott the boycott? Stay tuned…
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