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December 18, 2013 10:03 pm

Boycott of Israel a ‘Big Mistake,’ Says Former American Studies Association President

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Former American Studies Association president Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin. Photo: Stanford University. Former American Studies Association (ASA) president and Stanford University Professor of English Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin said she believes the ASA’s boycott of Israeli universities is a “big mistake.”

“As a scholar, I deeply value the free exchange of ideas,” Fishkin told “Academic boycotts make the free exchange of ideas impossible. For that reason, I think the ASA’s endorsement of the boycott was a big mistake.”

Fishkin, who served as ASA president from 2004-2005, was part of a group of eight former ASA presidents who sent an open letter to ASA members—66 percent of whom endorsed the boycott of Israel in a Dec. 15 vote—opposing the move on the grounds that it is “antithetical to the mission of free and open inquiry for which a scholarly organization stands.”

The boycott is counterproductive because it is targeting some of Israel’s most open-minded institutions, Fishkin told

“Israeli universities are often at the forefront of fostering dialogue between Arabs and Jews, of educating the future leaders of Arab universities, and of providing the next generation with the tools of critical thinking that can allow them to construct a society more equitable and just than that of their parents,” she said.

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