The lawmakers accuse the academic organization of “thinly-veiled bigotry” for its recent decision to boycott Israeli universities and other academic institutions in protest of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
“Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly-veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish state,” the lawmakers wrote to ASA President-elect Lisa Duggan.
“This morally dishonest double standard has already been rejected by well over 100 university presidents, with several member universities even withdrawing from the organization in protest.”
Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) spearheaded the letter, which was signed by 134 members — 69 Republicans and 65 Democrats.
The ASA has come under heavy criticism since its mid-December boycott vote. It says its boycott doesn't threaten academic freedom because it's aimed at Israeli institutions, not individual scholars or students, who will still be able to participate in exchanges organized by the organization.
The ASA's boycott is part of a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel launched by Palestinians in 2005. The campaign has been gaining traction recently, with the European Union denying EU funding to Israeli institutions and programs that operate in the Palestinian territories.
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