“One has to start somewhere.” That’s how the president of the American Studies Association justified the ASA’s vote to boycott Israel when he was asked why the organization had ignored the vast number of human rights abusing states that pepper the planet. He might have added, where else do we get equivalent PR bang for the buck? Would the Wall Street Journal devote an editorial and an op-ed piece (on one day!) to our radical left pint-sized under-the-radar association if we had condemned the Sudan? And if the Wall Street Journal doesn’t appreciate us, our academic peers will.
Nowhere has the long march through the institutions recommended by Antonio Gramsci as the road to power been more successful than in our colleges and universities (with the Democratic Party a strong runner-up). In all too many cases, the liberal arts divisions are occupied territory of the left.
Ethnic and gender studies are especially prone to being taken over by the wackiest elements of our species. These radical activists take over the National Councils (and more important, the executive committees) of the Associations composed of those teaching in these fields (like American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Asian Studies, Native American Studies, Women’s Studies etc.). They rightly see that by controlling these outfits, they will have megaphones to broadcast their junk morality on to a broader scene, never mind that these forays into “progressive” politics have nothing to do with the purposes or supposed sphere of competence of the group of which they are a part. The upshot is that these so-called scholarly associations increasingly come to resemble the UN Human Rights Council, absurdly obsessing about Israel (a human rights paragon, as these things go) as the greatest, if not only, human rights abuser on this earth.
In the case of the American Studies Association, following the annual meeting, its National Council voted unanimously to endorse the Israel boycott. Jonathan Marks (a professor of politics at Ursinus College) notes in the Wall Street Journal that the Council’s executive committee (whence such resolutions spring) has six members, five of them anti-Israel activists who had previously endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Four of them had signed a 2009 letter to Obama describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “one of the most massive ethnocidal atrocities of modern times” and declared a one-state solution “almost certainly” the only road to peace. In other words the only way Israel could satisfy these human rights mavens would be to abolish itself.
Boasting of its democratic openness, the Council then opened the resolution to