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Vijay Prashad hails boycott of Israeli universities in the Washington Post

Justine Scattarelli31 January 2014

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Israeli leaders are finally taking the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seriously, according to a recent op-ed in the Washington Post written by Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

In the piece, Prashad argues that the harsh criticisms in the US of the American Studies Association’s (ASA) decision last month to officially join the boycott of Israeli universities gives evidence to the increasing power of the BDS movement.

Verso’s collection, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, which explores the topic in depth, includes an essay co-written by David Lloyd, who is a member of the ASA caucus that put forward the boycott resolution.  

The boycott, which was a response to a call for solidarity from a coalition of Palestinian organizations, has been heavily critiqued in the US media. Israeli leaders, Prashad says, may be taking the movement more seriously than Americans.

“The boycott movement is a caution to Israel that it must be less obdurate in its relations with the Palestinians — a position far removed from the toxic response to the ASA within the United States, where many groups long have opposed any discussion of the reality of Israel’s occupation.”

Prashad points out that although the environment in the US is especially tough for the BDS campaign, Americans have a special responsibility to take action.

“U.S. academics are not in the lead here. Matters are far more developed in Europe, where faculties have fought to divest and boycott Israel and where the European Union is moving toward labeling products from illegal Israeli settlements. But U.S. academics recognize a special mission: Israeli institutions that benefit from the occupation do so with impunity granted by U.S. financial, military and diplomatic support.”

The ASA’s decision is among other recent controversies surrounding the BDS movement in academia, such as the decision of Swarthmore College’s Hillel club to defy the organization’s ban on speakers who support sanctions against Israel demonstrates a changed perspective among students.    

Visit the Washington Post to read the article in full.