National Security

134 Lawmakers Blast ASA Boycott of Israel

More than a third of the House condemns ‘morally dishonest’ boycott

Rep. Peter Roskam / AP

One-hundred-thirty-four House lawmakers signed onto a letter sent Tuesday to the American Studies Association (ASA), criticizing the academic organization for its recent boycott of Israeli universities and academic institutions.

A bipartisan coalition of 69 Democrats and 65 Republicans condemned the ASA for its "morally dishonest double standard" and "thinly-veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish State," according to a copy of the letter  obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that will be sent this afternoon to ASA president-elect Lisa Duggan.

"We write in strong opposition to the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent decision to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions," the lawmakers write.

"While ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government, we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom."

The ASA has come under fire in recent weeks from pro-Israel groups and Jewish leaders over its decision to boycott Israel, the only such nation to receive such treatment by the ASA.

Pro-Israel organizations have launched a counter boycott of the ASA, prompting many universities across the country to withdraw their support of the group.

The lawmakers accuse the ASA of stifling academic freedom and unfairly targeting the Middle East’s sole democracy.

The ASA claims that the boycott ‘is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians,’" the letter states. "We believe that this boycott accomplishes just the opposite."

"The university is an institution intended to foster, encourage, and inspire constructive dialogue and original thought," the lawmakers write. "However, this boycott undermines academic freedom by prohibiting educational and cultural exchanges with Israeli universities and academic institutions."

"Even more concerning is the singular targeting of Israel for boycott," the letter says. "Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly-veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish state."

"This morally dishonest double standard has already been rejected by well over 100 university presidents, with several member universities even withdrawing from the organization in protest," they write.

The lawmakers point out that even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the boycott.

"No, we do not support the boycott of Israel. … We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel," the letter quotes Abbas as saying.

The letter was organized by Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), the House’s chief deputy whip and co-chair of the Republican Israel Caucus.

It has garnered support from high-profile lawmakers on both sides of the isle, including Reps. Ted Deutch (D., Fla.), Ed Royce (R., Calif.), Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), Brad Sherman (D., Calif.), Peter King (R., N.Y.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.).