ASA conference draws criticism from pro-Israel groups


A conference, organized by the American Studies program at NYU, sparked controversy as it attempted to answer questions that arose after the Americans Studies Association endorsed a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. The title of their conference, held from Feb. 28 to March 1, was Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel and Palestine.

Andrew Ross, director of the NYU American Studies program, said the conference sought to explain the United States’ relationship with the region.

“The conference brought together scholars in American Studies and Middle Eastern Studies to discuss the history of geopolitical relations between the U.S., Israel and Palestine,” Ross said.

According to the conference’s program, various panels, lunch workshops and film screenings made up the event. Lisa Duggan, social and cultural analysis professor and president-elect of the ASA, was one of the panelists at the conference.


Several organizations, such as the AMCHA Initiative, perceived the conference to be anti-Israel and one-sided. The AMCHA Initiative is an organization that combats anti-Semitism on university campuses across America.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, said the ASA’s conference is not about scholarship but instead it is about political activism.

“The problem is that they’re using their university position and their university freedoms, the privileges that they have as faculty members and the resources that they have as faculty members, to promote their own personal political agenda directed against the Jewish state,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

NYU President John Sexton issued a statement condemning the boycott.

“Our provost and I have made our opposition to boycotts of Israeli academics and universities clear, both in response to the recent American Studies Association vote and in the past,” Sexton said. “Our rejection of these calls for boycotts stems from our belief that it contravenes a key principle of academic freedom: the right of scholars to freely associate.”

Sexton did not cancel the conference because he said he wanted to allow academics to pursue their scholarship, regardless of which ideas were being discussed.

CAS senior Avital Kaplan and CAS junior Kendra Meisler, the co-presidents of NYU’s Gesher Israel Club, said in an email that the conference was only about reiterating an opinion as opposed to having a dialogue about the issues.

“We are saddened and disappointed that NYU, whose administration formally denounced the ASA boycott, would sanction such hateful, close-minded rhetoric on university property,” they said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 3 print edition. Ann Schmidt and Kavish Harjai are news editors. Email them at [email protected]

*In an earlier article, the conference was wrongly identified as the ASA’s annual conference. WSN regrets this error.



  1. BDS supporters are “classical anti-Semites in modern garb”. “In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state.

    Today’s brown shirts in sheep’s clothing.

      • Mr. Brown Shirt,
        While Muslims in Syria kill women, children, elderly
        indiscriminately – up to 200,000 people and counting – we devote our anger on Israel for we are anti-Semites in sheep’s clothing. just as was done in Roman times.

        While Muslims have killed up to one million in Sudan, and counting, we devote our anger on Israel for we are really just anti-Semites pretending we are humanitarians just as was done during the Islamic conquest of Judea and Samaria.

        While Muslims in Mali have forced 500,000 (and counting)
        people into refugee status – as they have done in the past year – we devote our anger on Israel for we are anti-Semites pretending to be for social justice just as was done during the Crusades.

        While Muslims kill off what remains of the ancient Hindu population in-and-around Pakistan we devote our anger on Israel for we are like the Germans during the 1930s – people who needed a convenient scapegoat to escape their own feelings of frustration just as was done during the Spanish Inquisition.

        While Muslims have wiped out all the Buddhists from their
        ancient homeland in Afghanistan we devote our anger on Israel for it’s easy to pick on Jews and we are shameless hypocrites engaging in man’s oldest prejudice, anti-Semitism, while pretending to be holier-than-thou just as was done during the Nazi genocide.

        • Do you usually just ram your head against a keyboard and submit whatever comes out, or was that you actually attempting to cohere a relevant argument? For although I am very sympathetic towards Syrians fighting for their own self determination against both Muslim Extremist groups and the Assad regime, I am having trouble with how Syria, Mali, Pakistan and Afghani Muslims of states pasts have anything to do with activists deciding to hold Israel accountable for the ethnic cleansing and aggression that it directs towards Palestinians to the point into which Amnesty International is now calling for an arms embargo on Israel by the EU/UN. If anything I would find you supporting boycotts onto the institutions that profit off the suffering and destruction that those whom are oppressed, the Palestinians, face, for the close proximity to the situation Jews faced in Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th century due to the ethnic based oppression Palestinians face daily by the Israeli occupation. It appears if anything you are trying to change the subject away from the systematic oppression faced by Palestinians daily by Israel towards sins of past to paint the entire Palestinian solidarity movement as a movement that co-aligns with anti-Semitism where it rather is the most adamant with fighting anti-Semitism. As well it appears your conception of anti-Semitism is out of wack, where it appears that you think that anti-Semitism is some natural inclination of man rather than a product of the social-historical time period and of state structured practices.

          • Ethnic cleansing? Really Fanon?
            Then why are there more Palestinians living in Israel today than lived there in 1948?

          • Did you honestly just murmur that? It’s the same reason why Israeli’s refer to Palestinians as a demographic threat, because demographics have increased since 1948. It also explains why there are up to 5-6 million Palestinian refugees world wide, because people since 1948 have reproduced. As for your ethnic cleansing comment, yes really.

            In 1931-1945 the Jewish Population was set at 174,000 where the Palestinian/Arab population was set at 608,000 led campaigns across Arab villages to kill and intimidate to remove Arab communities off of Arable land that is necessary to develop a state. 1/3 of this population (Jewish Settlers) during 1947-1948 than led an explicit campaign in the words of Ben Gurion according to Ytzhak Rabin, was to “Drive them out” or Judah L. Magnes, President of Hebrew University in Jerusalem during 1947 stated that: “A Jewish state can only be obtained, if it ever is, through war… and that is because by definition, a Jewish State means that the Jews will govern other people, other people living in a Jewish State. Jabatinksy knew that long ago.” This 1/3 of the population, in an undemocratic manner was able than to be awarded by the UN after systematic campaigns led by the Haganah and Unit 101 in villages such as Deir Yassin, where 254 men, women, and children where massacred for intimidation purposes. The issue than arises amongst the intimidation and ethnic cleansing that appeared, was the fact that many Zionists during this time period where adamant about the re-appropriation of land such as Mosh Dayan in 1969 spoke that “we came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building a Hebrew, Jewish state. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages were established … there is not a single [jewish] settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village.” This replacement does not imply peaceful succession of the land to settlers, but actual violent and cleansing acts done on the behalf the settlers to cleanse any Arabs from the land. This is something you do not put into an ahistorical vacuum because these actions still carry on today with Israel’s adamant position against Palestinian right of return, the rise of serious racism that occurs within Knesset with referring to ‘migrants’ as infiltrators and advise for their detention, and the fact that all Palestinians in occupied territories are tried in military court, including those under the age of 13.

            So yes, it was ethnic cleansing, and it’s no secret to those involved that it was either Zionist or Palestinian, the only people fooling themselves are those abroad supporting the further colonization of Palestine.

          • Fanon,
            You’re right. The Palestinians are thpecial, if for no other reason than that their never-ending refugee status was in part caused by Jews. Isn’t that right my brown shirt friend?
            There are two UN refugee agencies in the world: First is the United Nations Relief and Works Administrations (UNRWA) for 5 million Palestinian refugees (which includes the descendants of the original 500,000 Palestinian refugees from the Israeli War of Independence) which employs 30,000 workers. The UNRWA has resettled no Palestinians.

            The second refugee agency is the United Nations High
            Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which assists every other refugee in the world–including 100 million displaced people during the last 50 years–and employs 7,000 people. The UNHCR has resettled tens of millions of refugees.

            Looking at these numbers, one would think that the cause of the Palestinians is somehow morally superior to that of all other war refugees. After all, why have so many more workers been assisting a dramatically smaller group of people? But if the Palestinians are unique it is only because of their moral inferiority, as they are the only group of refugees that regularly commit acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.

            Another obvious question: why hasn’t the UNRWA resettled any of the Palestinian refugees? The answer, of course, is that the surrounding Arab states would rather have these refugees remain a thorn in Israel’s side, than help them start a new life. The UNRWA is happy to oblige.

          • Fanon,
            You can selectively choose quotes from Israeli leaders all you want to make your case while ignoring the body of their work if that is your wont but it does not make your logic right. It makes it a prejudice, a meme.
            No doubt Jewish leaders have said many things and out of both sides of their mouths for this is what leaders do (other than Churchill and his ilk).
            If you want the king of this sort of bullsh*t listen to what Palestinian leaders say and do. Better still listen to what Islam’s prophet (Mo) said about honoring treaties with non-Muslims.
            Are you so naïve as to think that politicians always say what they mean? If so, then, I’d guess you voted for My Hope & Change – another king of double-talk and master of BS.

          • Fanon,
            You’re a funny guy. You mention Israelis stealing the riches agricultural regions yet ignore the fact that Islamic agriculture is (without Israeli technology) the joke of the Middle East.
            In fact, and I’m guessing you consider them your dear friends, when Hamas took over the abandoned Israeli settlements in Gaza they (Hamas) destroyed the state-of-the-art Israeli greenhouses. Now that’s what I call Islamic agriculture at its fines! Lol.

          • It’s both sad and cute that you are having such a racist tantrum right now on a college newspaper. First, I am no fan of the UN due to their lack of support for refugees in general, much like the support of the Eritrean and Sudanese refugees in Israel whom are currently being abused and barred from having full civil rights as refugees in Israel being detained in the Nagev desert. However, is it the fault of a proxy of the Western World, the UN, or is it the fault of a colonial settler project set forth by a subset and a minority of Jewish communities at the time? My take is that those whom colonize are the ones at fault. It appears the main roadblock to Palestinian refugees being resettled is the fact that Israel refuses to allow Palestinians their right to return under the laws set forth by the Geneva convention. As well I am not just selecting what Jewish leaders ideology was, but as well pointing out the CURRENT crimes the so-called state of Israel does upon the Palestinian population, Leftists Solidarity members in Israel proper, and African refugees which calls for international pressure to stop these acts of aggression. Your solution to this is simply ignoring it and digging for racist diatribes from your favorite bookmarked Pamela Geller articles.

          • Also you fucking asshat, if it wasn’t for the indigenous population teaching settlers how to farm in the first Aliya, the Zionist settlers wouldn’t last a day without them. Most barely made it to the second Aliya by throwing in the towel and moving to Western countries because the manual labor was too grueling for their young Zionist colonists.

          • Well, well, well…it didn’t take long for your true colors to come out, Fanon, my dear friend.
            Who taught you big words like “fucking asshat”? Lol!!!

          • Fanon,
            It’s good to know it is I and not you that is “having such a racist tantrum right now on a college newspaper”.
            How do you get so delusional? Is it a family trait or do you come about it naturally?

            Judge not, me dear little boy, for it says more about you than it does about anyone else.
            You know, my dear boy, they make pills for angry people like you.

          • Fanon writes (and I assume he means this) “…the only people fooling themselves are those abroad supporting the further colonization of Palestine.”
            Pretty funny, again. In a pathetic sort of way.
            Fanon, if Jews wanted to colonize the Palestinians why did they forcibly remove the Gaza settlements? And why did Israel give back the entire Sinai Peninsula for that matter if they are such evil colonizers? Lol.
            Fanon, you might not believe this but Israel was legally created. Israel has had to defend her tiny nation many times against Muslims who see Israel as part of their caliphate.
            Israel also has the internationally recognized right to keep land it conquered in a defensive war (like the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank).
            Now you may not like this but what you want doesn’t make a bit of difference when it comes to international law.
            Now Israel seems to think they need to keep the higher elevations for their citizens safety. This means the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank. Check out the topography, you moron, if you do not believe me on this.
            Now you might not like this either, but Israelis probably care more about protecting their citizens against a people who have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they would happily strap explosives to their bellies and walk into markets filled with Jewish women and children and blow themselves up rather than listen to what liberal idiots like you think or want.
            Fanon, you have no idea what you are talking about. You’ve read books and taken courses by people who do not know what they are talking or writing about. You think what you’ve read and heard is true, but that does NOT mean it is so.
            You are trapped in a meme and cannot see outside of it. You can feel as strongly about this sh*t as you want, but it does not mean your view is correct.
            You are like the Muslims who are brainwashed into thinking Jews are the most evil creatures in the world. You, Fanon, are brainwashed just like them; and like them you’ll fight to the finish, ignore all the facts that do not support your perverted opinions before admitting you are simply wrong.
            In short, Fanon, your testosterone is doing your thinking not your brain.

          • Arafat, if it’s anyone who is having the tantrum, it appears to be you and your obsession with spouting racist lines and propaganda tools on each and every article that speaks of Palestinian solidarity.

            “Fanon, if Jews wanted to colonize the Palestinians why did they forcibly remove the Gaza settlements? And why did Israel give back the entire Sinai Peninsula for that matter if they are such evil colonizers? Lol.”

            — This is moronic and ahistorical even for the most ardent Zionist, for the struggle of Palestinians for liberation had pushed Israel to pack off settlements due to resistance on the part of both Palestinians and those in solidarity with them in the international community. As well, as I said before, Israel led campaigns without even trying to petition to become a state with the UN and led terrorist campaigns leading up to it to push the British out. So you self selecting Muslims as the only terrorists that has ever existed completely leaves out the Death Squads in Serbia that where of Christian Background, the Christian Terrorists of the United States South, The Zionists terrorist settlers that continuously terrorize occupied Palestinian communities, and apoloticial ones. So really you are just outing yourself as a racist who cannot simply fathom that Muslims in their entirety are not a reactionary or evil group of people. As well Jews as an entirety are not terrible and evil oppressors, but those whom are complicit with the occupation of Palestine are mistaken of their ideology which is repressive to a population that they barely interact with.
            As well, it’s nothing new to tell that Israel is has some of the largest human rights abuses uncontested amongst the UN and they still are welcomed in the international community where as Palestinians are barred from ever having their cause heard without backlash. If you are going to loose an argument Arafat, at least try to do it elegantly and not out yourself as a racist moron.

          • Perhaps the best way to solve the strife between Israelis and Palestinians is to acknowledge that they both need a sanctuary from persecution. Unfortuneately, that position isn’t supported by the extremists in Hamas because their charter calls for “flying the flag of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” In addition, some Hamas leaders have called for the expulsion of all Jews & Christians from Israel/Palestine. But we should always avoid any anti-Jewish or Islamophoibic remarks. As Pres Bush always emphasized, Islam is religion of peace & it’s the extremists in Hamas, al-Qaeda & Islamic Jihad who distort the true nature of Islam..

          • JFF,
            Thank you for your thoughtful response. That said your knowledge of Islam is quite poor. Hamas, if anything, is practicing fairly normal Islamic behavior.
            Within 300 years of Mohammed’s birth Islamic hordes had violently conquered most of North Africa, most of the Middle East, huge sections of southern and central Asia, Spain and smaller regions in Europe.
            If one studies Islam’s core texts one discovers Islam IS a supremacist, aggressive religion and Mohammed’s life supports this perspective.
            Islamophobia’s true definition is fear of a group of people who want to do harm to us. It’s not a phobia it is common sense.

          • There have always been individiuals in every religion or non-religious ideology that will use their beliefs as an excuse to conquer other people. This happened under Torquemada in the Spanish Inquisition & under Cromwell in his conquering of Ireland & under Lenin, Stalin, Khrushev, Brezhnev & Mao under their seizure of power. That’s why we must always differentiate between fanatical Muslims & moderate Muslims.

          • No denying your points, but there is an important difference.

            When Christians violate the Golden Rule they are sinning, no?

            (As an aside I think it unreasonable to characterize Lenin, Stalin, Khrushev, Brezhnev & Mao as religious men.)
            Your understanding of Islam is typical of Westerners who get their information from the news. What you believe is a meme.
            Islam’s prophet, the Quran, Hadith and Sunna all make clear that Islam IS a violent, supremacist religion.
            I would encourage you to read books by authors like Robert Spencer and his ilk if you are interested in a ‘real’ understanding of Islam and its values.

          • Dear Arafat: I wasn’t referring to Lenin, Stalin, Khrushev, Mao & Brezhnev as “religious men.” I was pointing out that you can use either a religious or non-religious ideologies as
            an excuse to grab power. Torquemada & Cromwell both used their religions as an excuse to demonize people whom they wanted to oppress & Lenin, Stalin, Khrushev, Brezhnev used the non-religious ideology of Marxism to grab power. When it comes to Islamic texts, we must remember that alot of them were rewritten by Wahhabist fanatics who wanted to justify their oppression of anyone they called infidels.

          • The texts I refer to define Islam and describe Mohammed’s life. They are Islam’s defining texts.
            They were not rewritten by Wahhabi fanatics they were written by Mohammed’s peers.

  2. In order to clarify my concerns, let’s take a look back in history to 1933 when Hitler rose to power and became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis won a large number of seats in the German parliament.

    What followed was the notorious nationwide Nazi boycott targeting Jewish businesses and professionals directed by Nazi stormtroopers posting signs everywhere saying
    “Do not buy from Jews!” Widespread anti-Semitism mounted with the Nuremberg
    Laws in 1935 depriving Jews of their basic rights as citizens and banning them
    from all professional jobs in education, politics, academia and industry which
    escalated in severity ultimately concluding in the “Final Solution.”

    • “On the foundation of the new state, where has established the principles of race, we wish to fit our community into the total structures so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the fatherland is possible … for its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved but are real problems whose solution interests all peoples, and at that, German People.” – World Zionist Organization memo appealing for imperialist assistance with colonizing mandated Palestine breaking the boycott with Nazi Germany in the early 1930’s joining Prescott Bush’s Banks lead of avoiding the boycott on Germany.

      “If I knew it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half them went to Israel, then I would op for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only lives of these children but also of the lives of Israel.” -Ben Gurion on the Holocaust

      Don’t start moralizing about Boycotting Israeli institutions for complicity with war crimes when Zionists DURING THE HOLOCAUST, including lead statesmen such as Ben Gurion and the organizations such as the World Zionist Organization where ambivalent towards the Holocaust unless it motivated migrants to Palestine to assist in colonizing. If you wanna talk about boycotts though, let’s talk about the Histradrut’s policy of boycotting hiring any Palestinian Arabs and insisting on ‘Jewish Land, Jewish Labor, Jewish Economy’, which caused agitation towards the riots in 1936 surrounding the lack of economic opportunities offered to Arabs with the British and Jews locking them out of the economy indefinitely.

  3. Fanon, Riddle me this…


    Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any
    Muslims or any liberals like you?

    But if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims and Liberals and their ilk will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated. And, of course liberals simply cannot think rationally.

    For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

    Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to the Buddhists?

    Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical.

    And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to Islam.

    And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern section of that country to Muslims since Islam deserves all lands.

    Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions
    have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan
    while Islamists steal the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess.

    And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years – something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it? Muslim logic, I guess.

    And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam too. Did you know that? It’s true. Just ask a Muslim or a liberal if you prefer. Even though it’s no bigger than
    a small pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will
    fight to the death to prove their point.

    Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it does. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

    • Arafat if you would just admit that you are a white supremacist it would make this argument end a whole lot quicker, because that diatribe was rift with Orientalist fervor. All of what you just said has nothing to do with the Occupation of Palestine and is relentlessly trying to change the subject to a matter of something that is not occurring presently or is just a mythology. Of course other religious groups can breed reactionary cells that begin to conquer and kill in sectarian methods, but that is the nature of the economic and socio-political system of capitalism that still pits these ethnicities and religions against each other for ploys in imperialism and competition towards resources. However, what you continue to do is try to paint the struggle of Palestine as a religious one, where it simply a matter that Israel is a colonial settler state that has lasted for now 67 years without both a constitution or a right to kick Palestinians off their land to create a theocratic ethnocracy that privileges specific demographics over others. Your moronic understanding of Islam sounds like the same arguments used against the left during the red scare, constantly trying to make a boogey man out of unrelated struggles and strifes that where both unjust but unrelated. As well, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and racist opportunists such as yourself do not even consider Palestinian rights, where but the left, anti-racist groups, and Palestinian solidarity groups for years have fights for the liberation of the oppressed whether who it be. Unless you get that through your dense head you are going to continue to keep your head in the sand on these matters and preach the good word of Islamaphobia.

  4. Fanon has gone a tad bit overboard. I receive his comments via email but they are deleted by the editors here thanks to his inability to control himself.

    In one of his deleted emails he accuses me of being an Islamophobe (among other things). Let me use this opportunity to quote a Muslim who has written eloquently about “Islamophobes” not that I believe Fanon has the character or maturity to be open to information that contradicts his knee-jerk, irrational memes.
    The following are the words of a Muslim. Even though they are obviously true I am confident Fanon’s knee-jerk reaction will be to deny reality even when shoved down his throat. You can lead an ass to water but you cannot make him drink.


    “I am convinced that the regressive, extremist interpretation of Islam has
    turned us into a backward, perverse society. We repress our dark urges but they
    find their outlet in frustration, jealousy, hatred, terrorism and the desire to
    destroy the West. While the Islamic Paradise is sexual and permissive, it
    cannot be attained through normal means because it is conditioned on death and
    on killing innocent victims. The truth is that Paradise really does exist, but
    only in the West. This is evident to any shepherd in the Middle East who has
    access to a generator, a television set and a satellite dish.

    The culture gap is frustrating and leads to a strong desire to copy the West
    and even belong to it; but it also leads to a destructive envy of the West by
    the radical Islamic ideologues, who hate music, dancing, democracy, Western
    society, pluralism and the pleasures of this world.

    It is hard to judge what goes on in the mind of a Muslim who, every Friday,
    listens to the nonsense propounded by the Imam about jahiliyya and the
    West. I am certain that the conflict leads every observant Muslim like myself
    to feel a deep envy leading him to hate himself and the West, its progress and
    achievements. The knowledge that, apart from the Holy Qur’an, we have not
    contributed anything to the progress of mankind, beyond a collection of wars
    and terrorist attacks, frustrates and depresses many of us. An internal
    conflict grows as we realize that we are more than one billion strong, and that
    we possess an enormous amount of the geography of the world, its fresh water,
    its oil and its riches, but that to the world at large, we represent
    backwardness and violence, and that the excuses of our leaders are couched in
    empty, anachronistic terms such as “Western imperialism and colonialism.”

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