The Insurrection sites have been following the fallout from the anti-Israel academic boycott by the American Studies Association and discussions related to the boycott by the Modern Language Association (which blocked conservative media coverage of its events).

Sam Cohen, a junior at Yale University, has a scathing assessment of both groups:

…But the ASA is as meaningless as it is foolish; that is to say, it is a dying association making a final attempt at relevance that would do well to focus on internal issues rather than geopolitics.

Any group that is dumb enough to defend its choice of singling out Israel by saying “one has to start somewhere” — when states like North Korea, Russia, China, Egypt, Syria and Iran routinely imprison, beat and kill their professors — deserves to be ignored. To be honest, with that kind of stellar logic, I would hesitate before I took any classes offered by defenders of the ASA here at Yale. I would worry that their emotional dislike of Israel might get in the way of the truth.

More recently, the Modern Language Association’s delegate assembly (MLA — yes, the bibliography people) adopted a resolution that, if its 28,000 members approve it, would call on the U.S. State Department to “contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.” Of course, if the MLA cared about facts, ”it would see that in 2012, 142 Americans were refused entry into Israeli territory out of 626,000 (that’s 0.023%) — hardly widespread and arbitrary”. Furthermore, Israeli, American and Palestinian universities partner frequently on research ranging from environmental issues to international relations. The MLA is creating a problem where none exists.

When did modern language scholars become foreign policy experts? …

The ASA and MLA leadership should be ashamed. The MLA membership has a chance to correct the mistakes of their presumptuous governing body. No blow has been struck for academic freedom, no peace in the Middle East has been hastened, and no government policies — American or Israeli — have changed or will change because of these academic societies. I would prefer that the MLA get back to its core mission — making bibliography formats so complicated I need online generators to get it right. And perhaps the American Studies Association could avoid searching for nonexistent problems around the world and focus on Americans’ declining interest in humanities subjects like, say, American Studies.

President Salovey has, more mildly than his some of his counterparts, expressed disapproval of the ASA boycott, but he has not yet spoken out about the MLA resolution. Yale should be a leader in opposing academic boycotts. President Salovey should come out strongly against the MLA’s proposed resolution and be a leader in fighting for academic freedom in countries where freedom of speech, thought and expression are truly threatened.