NYU Prof to Head ASA, Supports Israel Boycott; NY Lawmakers Threaten to Withdraw State Aid
by Joshua Levitt
While New York University’s president and provost have condemned a boycott of Israeli academics by the American Studies Association, NYU Social and Cultural Analysis Professor Lisa Duggan, set to become the next president of the ASA, told the New York Post that she supports the boycott.
The disagreement at NYU comes as New York State Senate Co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) and Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation this week to withdraw state funding from any New York college that boycotts Israel, according to the New York Daily News.
In an e-mail to the Post, Prof. Duggan said she is “fully supportive of the [ASA] boycott of Israeli academic institutions. We are not boycotting individuals, but only institutions… [to protest] the discriminatory treatment of Palestinians by Israeli academic institutions that aid and support the illegal occupation.”
ASA membership is decided at the department level, not by the university, the Post said, noting that the director of NYU’s American Studies program, Andrew Ross, has yet to comment on the issue.
At the time, NYU praised Prof. Duggan’s election to the ASA leadership as a memorable faculty award of 2013, describing the ASA as “the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”
In state capital Albany, Reps Klein and Hikind blasted the boycott as “targeted discrimination against Israel that betrays the values of academic freedom that we hold dear” and something that could be in violation of the state Human Rights Law, the Daily News said.
“Our state is under no obligation to support institutionalized discrimination — against Israel or anyone else,” Klein told the Daily News.
Although the bill was applauded for taking a stand on the issue, critics of the bill, including NYU’s Prof. Duggan and NYU spokesman John Beckman, questioned its approach as an assault on freedoms. Beckman told the Daily News that while the university opposes the boycott, it views the Klein-Hikind bill as a potential attack on academic freedom, the newspaper reported.
Another university professor decided to tackle the issue online. On Wednesday, McGill University American History professor Gil Troy’s counter-boycott, called “Troycott,” had garnered more than 1,100 “likes” in three days, topping the 827 votes for the ASA boycott.
Last month, the ASA polled its 5,000 academic members, and, of the quarter who responded, the majority voted to boycott Israeli academics, sparking the controversy.