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Should we boycott all Israeli goods, products, services, and people, or should we exempt academics?

neurodoc:
I expect that the leader of the Volokh Conspiracy, EV, has nothing good to say about efforts to organize boycotts of Israel, especially of Israeli academics, but as I understand what he said in a post last month about "scholar activists," he does not see this sort of undertaking by "scholars" as undeserving of the protections of "academic freedom." (If I am wrong in this understanding of his position on the bounds of "academic freedom," I hope he will correct me and make clear to what non-scholarly activities/"activism" those protections should extend.) I believe that efforts to organize academic boycotts are fundamentally inconsistent with what it is that "academic freedom" should protect. Thus, in my view, it would not be improper for schools to tell these "scholars" to quit their anti-scholarly activities or be sacked, just as schools can discipline faculty who have sexual relations with their students; perpetrate scientific fraud; plagiarize; and otherwise breach standards of conduct.

Interesting, isn't it, that Joe Stork, who chairs MESA's Committee on Academic Freedom, is also deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East &North Africa division, thinks MESA should "oppose subordination of academic freedom" to the pursuit of other human rights. I expect he means those who would organize academic boycotts of Israeli boycotts ought to enjoy all the usual protections of "academic freedom" notwithstanding the anti-scholarly nature of such boycotts, but it is not entirely clear to me what he sees as trump over what in this. (Does he mean the opposite of what I understood him to mean?) I think this says a great deal about both MESA and HRW, and how little (no) respect their views on Israel deserve.
3.27.2007 11:51pm
neurodoc:
BTW, are there any major academic organizations that are more politicized and corrupt than MESA? (I don't think MLA comes close, since from the little I know of that organization, it may have an obvious tilt to the Left, but it isn't committed to an agenda anything like that of MESA, or at least what seems to be that of MESA's leadership, e.g., Joel Beinin, Juan Cole, etc., and a very substantial portion of its membership. (I don't recognize any dissenters among those pictured in the linked SPME squib.)
3.28.2007 12:01am
davidbernstein (mail):
ND, I agree with your general sentiments, but I think Stork was actually trying to say he opposed academic boycotts.
3.28.2007 12:30am
neurodoc:
DB, you could be right about Stork's intended meaning, but I am not sure. You think that he sees academic boycotts as inconsistent with the foundational values on which "academic freedom" rests? ("Academic freedom" doesn't flow from the Constitution or any other source of binding law, so it is a matter of shared values, isn't it?)

Now can you say what EV's position is on "academic freedom" where academic boycotts are concerned? Since he skipped past Romirowski's case against some types of "scholar activism" and made a case for "academic freedom" as effectively equivalent to "free speech" protections under the First Amendment, I concluded that EV might disapprove of such activities, but he thinks they do not themselves amount to breaches of "academic freedom."

DB, you say you agree with my "general" sentiments. How about the specifics, anything you see differently? Ought academics indulge themselves in whatever sort of "activism" they wish, secure that they are protected against any reprecussions by "academic freedom"? Do you think "academic freedom" ought to protect them when they seek to infringe upon what could be seen as the "academic freedom" of others? OK to turn one's classroom into a bully pulpit for persuading students of one's own political views, arousing them to "activism" of the sort the teacher favors, lead them in "activism," etc.? OK to act out of ideologic/ political motivation to block the advancement of other academics, try to deny them tenure, keep them from getting published, etc.? I would be interested in hearing your views about such "scholar activists" and those of your fellow Conspirators, especially EV's. The discussion need not be entirely in terms of hypotheticals either, since MESA offers many illustrative examples.
3.28.2007 1:56am