Does American Studies Association have guts to boycott Cornell too?

December 11, 2013 0 Comments

Cornell Techion Campus Drawing
Cornell Techion Campus Drawing

Being anti-Israel is the easiest thing to be in academia these days.

An example is the recommendation by the National Council of the American Studies Association for a boycott of Israeli academic organizations. The vote of the membership is pending, with voting closing on December 15.

I detailed yesterday how one ASA member, Professor Claire Potter, came out forcefully and repeatedly against the boycott even though she is a harsh critic of Israel, on the ground that academic freedom and freedom of speech are “not something you give away — for yourself, or on behalf of another nation’s scholars.”

Potter then did just that, changing her mind after BDS supporters attacked her in social media, saying she wanted to give the academic boycott “a chance.”

Where does the boycott stop? ASA carefully tried to narrow the boycott to Israeli academic institutions, although it is hard to see how one can boycott an institution without also boycotting its faculty and researchers.

If ASA is going to be consistent and intellectually honest, it will have to boycott Cornell University, as well.

Cornell has formed a partnership with Israel’s Technion to develop a technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, as Bloomberg News reported in 2011:

Cornell University and Technion- Israel Institute of Technology won a New York City contest to build an engineering campus with a grant of land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million for infrastructure improvements.

The NYCTech Campus is intended to bolster job creation in the city and may generate 600 spinoff companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference today.

Cornell, based in Ithaca, New York, and Haifa-based Technion beat out six competing bids, including one from Stanford University. Cornell announced an anonymous $350 million gift Dec. 16 to support its bid, hours after Stanford said it was withdrawing from the contest.

“Of all the applications we received, Cornell and Technion’s was the boldest and most ambitious,” Bloomberg said. “In a word, this project will be transformative.”

The massive campus will include the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. Although the campus will be a decade in the making, the joint venture already is accepting students on a limited basis.

The campus received New York City Council and New York City Planning Board approval last Spring, and groundbreaking is expected next year.

BDS supporters tried to stop Cornell from entering into the joint venture, as we documented almost two years ago:

Technion, home to multiple Nobel prize winners in the sciences, is a prime target of BDS because, like most major U.S. universities, its research has connections to military applications. 

The BDS movement still is trying to stop the project, Stop Technion/Cornell Collaboration!:

USACBI, working with BRICUP and other organizations, is working to build a campaign to stop the recently-announced massive joint project between Cornell University and the Technion, the Israeli technical university, on New York’s Roosevelt Island, a project that will involve over $100 million of public money.

New York activists have recently launched New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT.) Contact NYACT by emailing

There are campaigns about Technion at other universities as well, including McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal, and documents from those campaigns are collected below, and joint action encouraged.

Which leads me back to the ASA boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Regardless of any alleged military involvement, Technion would be covered by the ASA boycott resolution.

To be consistent and intellectually honest, if the ASA boycott resolution passes the membership, must ASA not also boycott the Cornell-Technion joint campus?  And since the joint campus will draw resources, faculty, staff and students from Cornell’s Ithaca campus, wouldn’t the boycott of necessity have to include the greater Cornell University?

Picking on Israel is easy for tenured radicals.  It comes at no professional cost, particularly for organizations and academics not in the sciences.

But taking the boycott to the necessary level of boycotting those who enter into collaboration with Israeli academic institutions to form joint campuses and joint academic projects will be more difficult.  I doubt the ASA has the guts.

Perhaps it’s time also for academics to make the choice for ASA and the other anti-Israel boycotters.  Perhaps it’s time for those who truly stand for academic freedom to demand to be boycotted too. 

I can even conceive of “Boycott Me Too” badges to be worn by those academic institutions and academics who, whether they agree with every Israeli policy or not, stand against the academic boycott of Israel.


Time for a "Boycott me, too" movement? Not unprecedented.

— Jonathan Marks (@marksjo1) December 11, 2013

(Featured image source: Cornell Tech website, credit Kilograph)


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