Photo by Keisha James WCAS ’14
By Hazim Abdullah
President Schapiro and Provost Linzer,
As members of the Northwestern University community, we believe your denunciation of the American Studies Association’s (ASA) academic boycott of Israeli institutions in your recent statement is a narrow and unfitting generalization of the values and opinions of the diverse faculty, staff and students of Northwestern University. As advocates for human rights and solidarity with all people facing systemic racism, we respectfully disagree with your statement. We disagree on the grounds that it does not speak for the varying viewpoints within the University community and silences the voices of Palestinians and those in solidarity with their struggle for freedom and human rights. We believe the academic boycott of Israeli universities is a viable, productive form of bringing to light the human rights violations Israel has and continues to commit.
We commend the ASA for justly responding to the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli universities. With almost two thirds of ASA members in favor of the resolution, this is both a symbolic and practical victory for human rights. The ASA resolution signals solidarity with Palestinians as their boycott, divestment and sanctions movement peacefully works towards human rights and equality for all. The ASA refuses to be complicit in normalizing Israel’s human rights violations. Israeli universities cooperate with the Israeli military and the Israeli government and are thus deeply implicated in maintaining the oppression of Palestinians. Professor John Carlos Rowe of the University of Southern California clarifies that the ASA boycott “is not directed at individual citizens and academics in Israel, but at academic institutions that have been demonstrated time and again their complicity with state policies intended to discriminate against the Palestinian people.”
Although you claim in your statement that the academic boycott is contrary to the “values of academic freedom”, we find this to be a narrow, flawed, and biased interpretation that privileges the freedom of Israeli academic institutions. This loses sight of the fact that Palestinians are denied basic rights, including academic freedom, due to Israel’s military occupation. For example, the illegal Israeli separation wall divides the Abu Dis campus of Al Quds University in Jerusalem which leaves 6,000 students on the “wrong side” of the wall; a clear obstacle to academic freedom. In his recent article, Alex Lubin states, “Those of us who value academic freedom must always struggle to ensure that the world surrounding academia provides the basic human rights that enable academic life.” In addition, your opinion on academic freedom places greater importance on the freedom to maintain partnerships with Israeli institutions over basic freedoms and human rights such as the freedoms of movement, access to clean water, and fair living conditions, which Palestinians are denied.
The ASA resolution is an example of advancement of global equality and human rights activism worthy of adequate analysis and discussion. We are disappointed that President Schapiro and Provost Linzer have disregarded the diversity of opinion within the Northwestern community and that they have closed the door for any discussion or analysis of the boycott. We urge you to clarify that your statement on the academic boycott of Israel is not representative of the diverse set of values regarding human rights and academic freedom that make up Northwestern University. We ask that in the spirit of academic freedom and respect for difference, those who disagree with the President and Provost’s position be given an opportunity to voice their concerns.
Hazim Abdullah, Students for Justice in Palestine
Alexa Klein-Mayer, Students for Justice in Palestine
Dalia Fuleihan, Students for Justice in Palestine
Kathryn Prescott, Peace Project
Moira Geary, International Socialist Organization
Cory Behroozi, Social Justice Coalition
Maroua Sallami, Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights
Hinasahar Muneeruddin, President – Muslim-cultural Student Association
Serene Darwish, ASG Senator – Muslim-cultural Student Association
Cinthya Rodriguez, Activism Coordinator – Alianza
Heather Menefee, Co-President – Native American Indigenous Student Alliance
Arshad Haque, WCAS 2014
Amrit Trewn, WCAS 2014
Lucero Segundo, WCAS 2015
Ellyn Peña, SESP 2015
Atif Cheema, McCormick 2014
Sara Fadlallah, SoC 2015
Marion Hill, SoC 2016
Please note that Peace Project is the parent organization of The Protest Magazine. However, the beliefs and opinions in this letter reflect the beliefs of the writer and the cosigners above only.