BDS movement's Facebook page
BDS movement's Facebook pageScreenshot

An expose in the Wall Street Journal, written by Harvard Law School professor, Jesse M. Fried and Northwestern University Law School professor, Eugene Kontrovich, shows that emails pertaining to a federal lawsuit against the American Studies Association decision to boycott Israel reveal that the boycott vote "was orchestrated by a small cadre of academics who infiltrated the ASA's leadership to demonize the Jewish state."

In December 2013, ASA, which promotes itself as a scholarly association that "promotes the development and dissemination of interdisciplinary research on U.S. culture and history in a global context" endorsed an academic boycott of Israel. Two thirds of the members present, which turned out to be only a third of the members, voted for the boycott.

Four ASA members filed suit against the organization, which had also been rebuked immediately by the executive council of the Association of American Universities for its vote on an issue that is not part of its chartered purposes, let alone its negation of academic freedom. The ASA tried, but did not succeed, in having the suit thrown out of court.

But what is most shocking is the information revealed by emails cited by the plaintiffs. They appear to show that Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of women's and gender studies at Rutgers U., who joined ASA's nominating committee in 2010, used her position to add boycott backers to the membership.

One email revealed in the WSJ article, reads "Jasbir...suggests populating it with as many supporter as possible,"

Another, from Jasbir herself, says: “...I think we should prepare for the longer-term struggle by populating elected positions with as [many] supporters as possible.” And there are more. By 2013, Kontrovich and Fried, who serve as advisors for the plaintiffs, write, seven of the ASA’s 12 National Council members were public supporters of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement."

The writers show that there was an explicit agreement by some of the nominees for the ASA National Council to hide their anti-Israel agenda until after the vote, quoting several emails, among them one which read:

“I would definitely suggest not specifying BDS, but emphasizing support for academic freedom, etc,” wrote David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of California, Riverside.

Nikhil Singh, a nominee from NYU, cautioned the others against the subterfuge, but only one nominee publicized his pro-BDS opinions - and he lost, the article says.

"Those who hid their support [for BDS] won," write Fried and Kontrovich, reminding readers that "more recent Israel-boycott campaigns at larger academic organizations like the Modern Language Association have failed."

The emails show that ASA boycott supporters coordinated with Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement, who has no connection to the ASA.

The expose continues: "Once in control of the National Council, supporters pushed for a boycott resolution and then manipulated the voting process. ASA leaders refused to give opponents an equal opportunity to make their case in meetings and on the ASA’s website. The National Council froze the membership rolls for about a month, until the end of the voting period...

The writers warn other academic groups to take heed. Pressure for BDS does not appear to be "a vast popular movement," as is sometimes claimed, but "in fact, if the ASA case is representative, academic boycotts against Israel are driven by small groups of activists who pursue their pet cause at the expense of colleagues and the good of their organizations."