December 27, 2013

Regarding the Dec. 23 editorial “Scholars with blinders”:

As a member of the American Studies Association (ASA), I have supported the organization’s effort to pave new paths in the global movement for justice by endorsing the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Palestinians and Israelis are farther than ever from a solution to their conflict, and Israel’s settler expansion into the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza have killed the two-state solution. Today, Israel administers a one-state reality in which it distinguishes between Jews and non-Jews irrespective of territorial boundaries and wherein it privileges its Jewish population and abridges the education, movement, health, social cohesion and self-determination of its Christian and Muslim Palestinian population.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is not a panacea to this condition, but it is a call from Palestinians to international solidarity. By heeding it, the ASA did not single out Israel; it listened to Palestinians who demand equality.

Noura Erakat, Washington

The writer is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

Although Israel is a democracy, the Palestinians of the West Bank are struggling to survive under occupation. Moreover, while even more oppressive situations exist on this planet, the United States is not pouring some $3 billion a year into those regimes, as it does for Israel.

The symbolic cultural boycott by the American Studies Association will not harm Israel as long as Congress keeps its (that is, our) wallet open. Let the scholars express their sympathy with the sufferings of the Palestinians.

Carole C. Burnett, Silver Spring

The writer serves on the leadership council of Sabeel DC Metro, which advocates for peace in the Middle East.

In its consequences, if not always its intent, the American Studies Association’s boycott is an act of anti-Semitism. As members of the faculty of the University of Maryland at College Park, we are proud to say that our president, Wallace D. Loh, and provost, Mary Ann Rankin, issued a public statement opposing the boycott, joining more than 50 presidents of major U.S. universities in rejecting this attack on our Israeli colleagues and on academic freedom in the United States.

Jeffrey Herf and Sonya Michel, Silver Spring

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.