In case anyone is interested in seeing exactly what the leadership of the American Studies Association means when they talk about a “debate” on the issue of their academic boycott of Israel, yesterday the President of the association sent a note to the membership, alerting them that the ten days they had been given to make a decision on the matter (in contrast to the months the leadership gave themselves to achieve consensus on the issue – months that didn’t overlap finals time, by the way) “was designed not only to give everyone a fair chance to vote, but also to promote discussion and healthy debate.”
So far, these leaders have contributed to this “debate” by only providing information supportive of one side (guess which one). But no worries. For according to the ASA President: “A simple Google search will also turn up scores of relevant links to commentary on the ASA resolution and on the issue of the academic boycott of Israel in general.” And a specific resource he linked to was the ASA Facebook page.
Now I stopped by that page which, as it turns out, had only been created on December 3rd (and announced to the membership, as noted above, on December 11, or just four days before voting on the boycott will end). The page has been set up so that only certain people (guess who) are allowed to start threads, and – in keeping with the theme of all ASA communication on the issue – nearly every thread featured some argument supportive of a boycott.
Now comments were open and filled with the same type of “Why don’t you boycott China” vs. “Why doesn’t Israel stop dropping white phosphorous on school children” arguments you see in any boycott-related online message board, with comments apparently coming both from member and non-members. And so I posted a challenging couple of inquiries – mostly regarding the way this whole debate was being conducted.
Now this comment was not hostile (certainly not as hostile as the accusations of racism and genocide that already dotted the site). But within an hour, not only had my comment been deleted, but the entire thread to which it was a response had also been “disappeared.” And when I added a comment to another thread asking why the site’s history seemed to be being rewritten before our eyes, that whole thread also vanished within minutes.
Having seen this type of thing happen before, I decided to take a screen shot of the site after posting my last comment, so you can how much debate the ASA was not willing to tolerate.
If you visit the site today (at least as of this morning) you will see that it has been cleansed of every posting relevant to the boycott posted yesterday (December 11).
Under normal circumstances, I’d take solace in the notion of hypocrisy being the complement vice pays to virtue. But what are we to make of an organization that, in attempting to shut down inquiry with their Israeli colleagues is ready to first shut it down among its own members while simultaneously sending out e-mails urging people to participate in “discussion and healthy debate”?
I expect comments on this site to stick around for a while, so any ASA members out there should feel free to tell me if I’m missing something.