Roughly 70 members of the American Studies Association released a signed letter Tuesday taking issue with the statement on Gaza that the association’s executive committee put out last month.
While applauding the ASA’s “unwavering commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression without threat of censure or retaliation,” the letter noted “fundamental omissions and forms of doctrinaire thinking that we cannot accept and do not think should be made to speak for all our colleagues in ASA.”
Chief among them, the letter said the ASA’s protest against the doxing of campus community members who “express solidarity with Palestine and protest Israeli militarism and occupation should extend, as well, to Jewish students and faculty threatened and attacked on our campuses.” It urged the ASA to include antisemitism in its “historic opposition” to racism on campus.
The dissenting ASA members also criticized the executive statement for failing to mention the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians.
“And with this stunning omission, the Statement can conflate all Palestinians in Gaza and beyond with Hamas, a fundamentalist, patriarchal terrorist force ruling (only) Gaza and dedicated to the complete annihilation of Israel and Jews,” the letter read. “With this conflation, Palestinian ‘liberation’ can be presented as the sole issue; truly deplorable Israeli government policies can be embraced as sufficient to ‘explain’ and implicitly justify Hamas terrorism. This flattens a centuries-long historical conflict, in which there are many villains and few heroes on all sides, into a simplistic, ahistorical narrative.”
The signatories, affiliated with institutions all over the world, acknowledged their opposition “to appalling Israeli government policies that have contributed, well before this crisis, to the disaster that is Gaza. We join in the call for the immediate provision of humanitarian aid and the freeing of all hostages.” And they expressed sympathy for the Gazan Palestinians “caught up in a humanitarian catastrophe it was the strategic intent of the Hamas murders to provoke, fueling generations of hatred and worse on all sides.”
The letter concluded, “Can we—Palestinians and Israelis, and their supporters around the world and here in the ASA—reach beyond stark either/ors to meet on the common ground of a shared pain and suffering? Can we then, together, begin to imagine and forge a path to peace? For the American Studies Association, whose leadership many of us have shared in the past, this is a goal we urge our colleagues to embrace.”