The Post called the resolution by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israel’s universities “puzzling at best.” Puzzling, yes, but not surprising.
With slavery in Mauritania, ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Burma, more than 100,000 dead in Syria and anti-Christian pogroms in Egypt and Nigeria, the ASA obsesses about a small country where there is democracy, free speech and a high level of academic freedom. What drives these scholars?
Complex factors contribute to this prejudice. Israel is a celebrity among nations, and celebrities invariably attract adulation and detractors. Further, Israel has become caught up in the culture war between the Christian right and left. Additionally, Israel is sometimes viewed as a Western colonial enterprise. Academics of European extraction might not find Jewish Biblical claims compelling, but how do they justify their own presence in North America? This is not the first time in history that people have migrated.
Israel’s most pro-peace elements thrive at its universities. The peace process is slow but, as Churchill said, “To jaw-jaw always is better than to war-war.” What is needed is confidence-building, not punitive actions. Justice needs to be pursued, but it needs to be pursued justly and wisely.
Kenneth L. Cohen, Bethesda
The writer is executive director of the Vine and Fig Project, an interfaith organization dedicated to education about the Middle East conflict.