The Israel boycott is endorsed by the American Studies Association and Corey Robin

by on December 20, 2013 at 7:33 am in Current Affairs, Education, Law | Permalink

By a 2-1 margin, “An association of American professors with almost 5,000 members has voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israeli colleges and universities…”  My earlier criticism of the boycott was here.  A good Michael Kazin critique is here.  Corey Robin defends the proposed boycott here.  Robin’s argument is that change has to start somewhere, and we cannot boycott everything, so we might as well start with some boycotts that could work, even if that means singling out some targets unfairly.

I would start by applying a different standard.  I would focus on the demands of the boycotters, and ask what is the chance that meeting those demands would work out well.  The demands of the boycotters, in this case, include having Israel grant the “right of return” to Palestinians to the current state of Israel.

Now I understand the justice-based case for such a right, but what about the practicalities of such a change?  The most striking feature of Robin’s boycott defense is that he doesn’t bother to argue this point.

In my untutored view, the chances that granting such rights would lead to outright civil war is at least p = 0.1, possibly much more, and the chances that such a change leads to a better outcome, in the Benthamite sense, are below p = 0.5.  I readily grant these estimates may be wrong, but I don’t think they are absurdly wrong or implausible and in fact they represent a deliberate attempt on my part to eschew extreme predictions.  An educated person or even a specialist might arrive at similar estimates or even more pessimistic ones.  I would be curious to read Robin’s assessment.

By the way, you might think that the potential for bad outcomes is “the fault of the Israelis,” but that bears on the justice question, not on the Benthamite question.  Don’t use “emotional allocation of the blame” to distract your attention from the positive questions at hand.

Why don’t we look at the world of science, where academic collaboration is actually um…useful?:

In science, however, the boycott movement has so far made comparatively few inroads.

“For us, it’s meaningless,” said Yair Rotstein, the executive director of the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), which was established in 1972 with an endowment funded by both countries. The boycott, he said, is something blown up in the media: for all practical purposes, “there really is no boycott.” Rotstein said that of about 7,000 requests to prospective external reviewers it sends each year, the foundation gets just one response on average from a scientist declining for political reasons.

Meanwhile, the BSF grants about $16 million in awards each year to American and Israeli scientists working on joint projects, having funded over the years, according to Rotstein, 42 Nobel Laureates. And since 2012, the BSF has partnered with the National Science Foundation to support collaborative research in biologychemistrycomputational neuroscience and computer science (The BSF gets an additional $3 million a year from the Israeli government to support these joint BSF-NSF projects.)

I still say this is not a boycott worth supporting.  If we are going to do boycotts, and if we need to do boycotts, let’s do boycotts whose terms have a clearly positive Benthamite value with a minimum of extreme downside risk.  There are plenty of those, and remember, we’ve been told that we need to be selective.

We’re back again to this whole thing being a lot of posturing.  Note that the Palestinian government does not itself support boycotts of Israel.  How about a small amount of solidarity with them?

1 Chip December 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

Another day and another reason not to submit my three children to university.

Paging Peter Thiel.

2 cowen_reader December 20, 2013 at 7:52 am

Good analysis. One weak point is the conflation of “right of return” and “return.” Cowen is probably in the right ballpark for consequences of a mass (re)-migration of Palestinians to pre-1948 lands. An acknowledgment of a “theoretical right of return” together with compensations is unlikely to have the same consequences.

3 Michael December 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

The bigger point is where else is the “Right of Return” recognized and enforced? Exactly nowhere, and international law and tradition, outside of the singular case of Israel, points in pretty much the opposite direction.

4 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

While you’re on the subject of international law and tradition, please show me the sections on land-stealing, occupation, and checkpoints.

5 TMC December 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

VERY well established in tradition. Also the UN and League of Nations were founded on splitting up Germany.

6 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

Yeah, despite your certainty, I’m awaiting some citations on accepted practices.

Since you mention the UN but have no earthly clue what the reality of the situation is, have a read:

7 Michael December 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

How about the UNHCR? I’m sorry, but most of the Palestinian “Refugees” don’t meet the UNHCR’s definition of refugee.

Some background here:

8 aaron December 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I think that was largely based on removing bits that Germany had absorbed in the preceding decades.

The major purpose of the UN in fact is the opposite, land games are a really bad idea. The idea of winning land led to centuries of conflict in Europe. I think the original partition of Israel was a bad idea because it was another land game made without agreement from the people who would be living there.

If you look at all the tension Israel’s occupations and attempted annexations has caused it becomes even more clear, land games are a very bad idea.

As for the right of return, there are precedents. Germany actually had it after the USSR broke up (though very different circumstances). I don’t think a full Right of Return is necessary or even good idea for peace in the middle east, but there was a legitimate injustice that Israel has to acknowledge and try to make right.

9 Michael December 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

All I am saying is that the UN uses one definition of “Refugee” for Palestinians, and a different definition of Refugee absolutely everywhere else.

Seriously, you don’t want to open that can of worms about who attacked who and when and whatnot. The Arabs are hardly passive victims, and this whole thing is a Gordian knot. There’s a reason that the UNHCR uses different rules in every other case.

10 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 11:48 am

I’m not delving into the history of war in Israel.

My point is that Israel is currently not at war yet it is gradually annexing land that doesn’t belong to it.

11 Michael December 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Then I’m pretty sure that you didn’t get my original post. My point is that Israel is being judged by an enormous double standard.

I’m sorry, but building a couple of multi-family homes on some disputed territory pretty much fails to rise to my standard of “high crimes” compared what goes on every year in pretty much every single one of its neighbors. (To their own citizens even more-so that what they do to Jews)

12 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm

That’s nice. Let me know your address so I can start building a condo in your back yard.

How’s that sound?

13 Michael December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

That depends, do I get judged by normal law, or are we going to only blindly focus on the actions of one of the two parties?

14 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm

According to you it’s no big deal – excuse me, no high crime – to come into someone’s back yard and start building there.

You’re totally unjustified to retaliate. Your best course of action is peaceful protest. While I continue to ignore you and build my second unit, my third unit, you’re supposed to sit there in silence and stage a hunger strike or something.

The minute you lift a finger toward me I cry foul and complain how belligerent you are and that you should have just given peace a chance.

15 A Definite Beta Guy December 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm

The situations are not analogous, DeadSerious. I have firm ownership of my land that is undisupted by anyone, except the sovereign claiming eminent domain. The Palestinians have never taken ownership of that land. It was under mandate by Britian, then controlled by Jordan, then placed under military occupation by Israel.

Quite different than having firm property rights that someone immediately violates. By the way, if I walk across your lawn for years and you never stop me, I have legitimate claim to continue going through it because you never enforced the property rights. I forget the legal name for it at the moment.

16 Tarrou December 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

Anyone else think it’s hilarious for left-wing academics to boycott other left-wing academics over policies they don’t control? I mean, if there’s one segment of Israeli population likely to be sympathetic with the goals or even the methods of the BDS crowd, it’s Israeli academics. And given the general quality of Israeli academics, it’s a pretty good bet that if they managed to expand this boycott to where it would actually do what they want, it would hurt the state of science in general (Cowen notes the number of Nobel laureates). The logic chain goes like this: If the Palestinians are completely right. If there is nothing objectionable about their society and putative rule. If the Israelis are completely to blame for every misfortune to befall them. If there is no other way to solve differences other than handing back the entire country to them. If we all agreed that this was the goal, and we wanted to punish those evil, evil Netanyahu-loving right-wing Israelis. Would academics be a reasonable target? Positing the answer to all this is “yes”, should the ASA boycott itself until such time as no one anywhere has any problems with US foreign policy?

17 Rahul December 20, 2013 at 8:27 am

I think it is apt that “American Studies” & “Asian Studies” were the departments that boycotted.

Well, I’ll wait for Physics or Economics to boycott, and then we can take this a bit more seriously.

18 Ricardo December 20, 2013 at 8:57 am

Ha! Maybe we should boycott all academic subjects that end in “Studies.”

19 Rahul December 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

Nice! Can’t think of even one of those that does much useful shit.

20 mike December 21, 2013 at 3:31 am

They’re largely the ones who advocate allowing mass indian and paki and other muzzie immigration to the USA, don’t be ungrateful

21 Careless December 20, 2013 at 10:21 am

And given the general quality of Israeli academics

I don’t know, I hear their American Studies departments are pathetic.

22 collin December 20, 2013 at 8:08 am

This is a worthless boycott and won’t go anywhere. I seriously don’t like the Israeli occupation but believe at this point it has going on so long that it be more disruptive for separate states. So my recommendation is the Palenstine people go all MLK on Isarel and have bus strikes. That would get more support from the West.

I think a better way to react to Israeli occupation is to do something that will really tick off Israel, sign a peace deal with Iran and stop all economic sanctions on iran.

23 Careless December 20, 2013 at 10:22 am

my recommendation is the Palenstine people go all MLK on Isarel and have bus strikes.

Difficult to do when you’re stuck in other countries.

24 Finch December 20, 2013 at 11:15 am

Consistent nonviolent protest probably would have gotten them a state by now. Terror, and especially terror directed at civilians, is the main reason the Palestinians are not sympathetic in the eyes of many Westerners. Followed somewhat distantly by Israel being ostensibly a democracy and the Arab governments being awful, and a general reluctance to be anti-Israel given Jewish history.

25 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm

As to your first contention: yeah right.

The second sentence is absolutely true; however, because the nonviolent route has been unsuccessful for such a long time, it’s either sit there and do nothing and continue to see your land stolen and your oppressor’s treatment of you worsen, or take extreme measures.

What did Americans do when faced with these options in the late 1700s? We attacked the British using what was at the time considered terrorist tactics.

26 Ape Man December 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

And we would have fallen flat on our face with out the support of Spain and France. Whereas the Canadians managed to leave peacefully and on good terms.

27 Finch December 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm

> What did Americans do when faced with these options in the late 1700s? We attacked the British using what was at the time considered terrorist tactics.

This is an appalling attempt at an equivalency.

28 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Why? Because you don’t like it?

29 Finch December 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

For one, because it equates attacks on uninvolved civilians with attacks on soldiers.

30 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm

“Uninvolved civilians” are the parties building the settlements and engaging in the land-stealing. The Israeli military is enabling that behavior but not the group actively annexing stolen territory.

Mind you, I’d agree that bombing pizza parlors in Tel Aviv isn’t a fair reprisal. Attacking settlements on occupied land: fair game as far as I’m concerned.

31 aaron December 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Consistent nonviolent protest might have gotten them a small subset of the 1967 borders but the West has too little in common with Palestinians culturally to really empathize with a nonviolent protest. Not that violent protest is any more effective, it’s just that I don’t see an effective course of Palestinian action that could counter Israel’s settlements when many Westerners won’t even acknowledge there’s anything wrong with the settlements.

32 Tom December 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

Well, they had bus strikes.

33 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 8:09 am

Love the appeal for solidarity with the Palestinian people/government when it ultimately suits your people, not to mention the “let’s not fixate on blame right now” hand wave.

Those are some serious mental gymnastics that only an Israel-supporter would come up with.

The short and honest answer is that an across-the-board academic boycott is unfair to people who in fact may revile the land stealing, settlement building, and degradation inflicted on Palestinians. Plus it’s fruitless.

A better approach would be to boycott specific professors with stated hawkish viewpoints. And businesses that materially or verbally support this activity.

34 Thor December 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

Yes, because the anti-Israelis, the anti-semites and the anti-zionists NEVER engage in mental gymnastics… (You generally get some nice 9.7s scores, Dead.)

My problem with the whole thing is that in saying you only support boycotts that might work, and then boycotting only Israeli academics, you are essentially throwing up your hands and claiming that boycotting their equivalents in Arab countries is not worth doing.

The soft bigotry of low expectations?

35 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

I’ve actually spent time in Israel and have friends there. I’m not anti-Israeli. I’m anti-settler and anti-Netanyahu type government.

My statement was that rather than boycotting all Israeli academics – many of whom might in fact share my viewpoints – a better approach would be to boycott those who favor oppressing Palestinians and stealing their land.

I don’t understand where you’re going with boycotting “their equivalents in Arab countries.” Are there equivalents? I’d have the same feelings towards Palestinians if they were “settling” Israeli land.

I’d support the boycotting of any Arab academic who speaks out in favor of suicide bombing or terrorism if that’s what you mean by equivalents.

36 Are you really serious? December 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

“I’d support the boycotting of any Arab academic who speaks out in favor of suicide bombing or terrorism” — well a very large fraction of Palestinian academics do. Admiring pictures of “martyrs” — most of which only targeted civilians — are to be found everywhere in Palestinian universities. Even more, support of suicide bombing (of civilians) is the declared policy of Hamas and Iran, who also acted many times according to this declared policy. Will you now boycott them?

37 dead serious December 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

Consider them boycotted. Please let me know who these people are – I’m anxiously awaiting your list and actual proof that these people promote suicide bombing.

You don’t have to tell me about the poisoned thinking behind martyrdom – I was living in Tel Aviv when a suicide bomber hit a disco, killing about 30 people, and another bomb was detonated in a Sbarro in downtown Jerusalem. I believe that a Tel Aviv marketplace was also bombed that summer.

38 Are you really serious? December 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm

It seems from your reply that you are somewhat doubting the wide spread Palestinian support of suicide bombers? Are you not aware of the wide spread celebrations and justification of 9/11 in the Arab world? See, e.g. for much actual TV footage. Are you not aware of the very common handing out of sweets after suicide attacks? See, e.g. and the many sources in it.
The truth is that no one who has ever been in a Palestinian university can have any doubt of the widespread support and admiration of the “martyrs” — especially those that killed civilians. This is simply not interesting to news outlets since it is so common and clear.

Here’s a quote from the wikipedia page on the Sbarro restaurant bombing (which of course points to the undisputable primary sources): “After the suicide bombing, Palestinian university students at the An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus created an exhibition celebrating the first anniversary of the Second Intifada.[36][37] The exhibit’s main attraction was a room-sized re-enactment of the bombing at Sbarro. The installation featured broken furniture splattered with fake blood and human body parts.[36] The entrance to the exhibition was illustrated with a mural depicting the bombing. The exhibit was later shut down by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.[38]”

Is that enough for you to boycott An-Najah university?

Do you also need proof of the Iranian official policy supporting terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians or does the official direct support of terror organizations like Hamas or Hezbolla suffice as proof for you? Will you boycott Iran?

39 8 December 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

End Apartheid!

40 prior_approval December 20, 2013 at 8:16 am

We did – boycotting also playing its role. However, in all honesty, there does not seem to be a single political figure in the Middle East with anywhere near the stature of Mandela.

41 mike December 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

There are no imprisoned murderous terrorists in the Middle East?

42 Ray Lopez December 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

@ PA: Do you really thing a boycott had anything to do with South Africa’s ending of apartheid? I recall debating this in the 1980s, and I took the position the SA boycott was meaningless. I think the end of the Cold War, and the end of the USA’s use for South Africa as a anti-USSR state, was the real reason that apartheid ended. Same thing happened in Nicaragua.

43 derek December 20, 2013 at 10:14 am

Yasser Arafat tried to fill that role.

44 Ape Man December 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Did boycotting work while uncle sam was giving South African Billions? Oh wait, American never gave South African anywhere near the amount of money that the US gives Israel. That is one of the many things that makes this boycott thing so ridicules. It is pretty silly to try to use boycotts to change another nation’s policy when you can’t even change your own nation policy of supporting said policy with lots of money.

45 prior_approval December 20, 2013 at 8:14 am

‘Now I understand the justice-based case for such a right’ – then dismiss it.

‘Small steps to a much better world’ – where justice is only possible as long as the practicalities allow it, apparently.

46 Brandon T. December 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

I’m pretty sure the idea of “small steps” does IN FACT mean that justice depends at least partially on practicalities. Do you deny this? Also, please demonstrate how this pathetic boycott is a small step towards anything besides other than self-congratulations.

47 ummm December 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

the left is being hypocritical again. accusing others of being racist/antisemitic without looking in the mirror first

48 prior_approval December 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

The ‘right of return’ is amusing to hear when a certain group of people claim a right to return based on texts that are thousands of years old. That group having more than a couple of Americans, actually –

‘In many people’s imaginations, Jewish settlers in the West Bank are bearded, M16-toting fundamentalists living in hilltop trailers overrun with barefoot women and children. And sometimes that’s the reality—but not always.

In 2010, 269 Jews moved from America to West Bank settlements, many of which are marketed as “bedroom communities” to families and white-collar professionals in the US. The migration is called “making aliyah,” which translates roughly from the Hebrew as “movin’ on up.” Never mind that it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions for Israel, as an occupying power, to install civilians in the West Bank, one fifth of which, according to the Oslo Accords, falls under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

To encourage Jews to illegally settle there, the Israeli government subsidizes home purchases and offers reduced rates for leasing land, in addition to the perks all new Israeli citizens get such as free health care, upward of a 90 percent reduction in property taxes, tuition waivers for earning advanced degrees, and a payment of about $14,000 spending money for a family of five. The first installment is paid on arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport—in cash.

Prospective immigrants shop for homes at frequent government-sponsored events, like the Israeli real-estate exhibition that recently took place in New York, or the “aliyah expo” I attended a few years ago in the Times Square Marriott. Neatly bearded and wearing a knitted yarmulke, Shmuel Aron of Brooklyn Realty sat in front of a particleboard wall affixed with photos of sleek high-rises in Har Homa, which was billed as an Israeli town but is in fact a settlement located squarely within Palestine, near Bethlehem. Simply put, the Israeli government carves up the West Bank, builds illegal homes in Palestinian territory, calls it Israeli territory, and then invites Jews to move in. Booths draped in fabric offered information packets on floor plans, as well as the many government subsidies that accompany aliyah. After browsing the offerings, I spotted a bowlful of fortune cookies. “Israel is for tough cookies,” my fortune read.’

This would be worth boycotting. Somehow, this seems unlikely, from both a justice and a practical perspective.

49 Brandon December 20, 2013 at 8:42 am

Yeesh. Shorter Robin: tl;dr. Who has time for this stuff?

50 Tom T. December 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

Shorter Robin: “We’re not anti-Semites; we’re useful idiots.”

51 Handle December 20, 2013 at 8:51 am

We live in the age of the boycott. Or more precisely, pro-boycott or counter-boycott costless signalling. It’s the latest thing in mob rule posing as justice.

In the future everyone will be boycotted for fifteen minutes.

52 Rahul December 20, 2013 at 8:51 am

As an aside, I find orgs like “United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation” intensely annoying. Especially when they get official federal funds.

Why not fund science on the merits of the science alone? Why have a special purse for only Israeli-US collaborations?

The opposite of a boycott is a sop & both are quite idiotic.

53 mike December 20, 2013 at 8:55 am

“Why not fund science on the merits of the science alone? Why have a special purse for only Israeli-US collaborations?”

I assume this is a rhetorical question, because I’m sure you’re afraid of any plausible answer.

54 Rahul December 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I’ll try to be brave. Please let us have your answer, O wise mike…..

55 mike December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well, I’d recommend Steve Sailer’s posts on the ethnic composition of the Forbes 400 and the Atlantic 50 to start.

56 mike December 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

Open borders double world GDP!

57 JJ December 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

The way boycotts work is that the first few, while fruitless, provide a signal to other institutions across society to start boycotting more relevant things. Academics, especially left wing academics, have always been a societal “canary in the coalmine.” They’re betting that their boycott will get the ball rolling in a decade and a half long process that ends in a South African style solution to the problem.

58 Z December 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

Let’s not kid ourselves. These people voting for the boycott just don’t like Jews. I know, I know, many of them are Jews. Well, Marx was a Jew and a rabid anti-Semite. Self-loathing is the motivation to join a movement so it is no surprise to see a bunch of self-hating Jews hating on Israel.

59 A Definite Beta Guy December 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

I consider this related to the discussion on the Bombing War thread re: Wars that are under-studied vs. saturated. The Six Day War, War of Attrition, and Yom Kippur War would fall in the under-studied category wars, particularly Yom Kippur. In this instance, the Europeans had boycotted Israel and forbade any US supply of Israel, even during a surprise attack on their holy holiday.

Point being, it is not as if these anti-Israeli feelings are new, nor that they have always been rational responses to an oppressive power. israel in Yom Kippur was pushed to the point of threatening to arm its nuclear arsenal, which in turn made it a target of the USSR. Somehow I do not think any Messianc religious impulses would save Jerusalem from ICBMs.

60 Finch December 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

While this might be true in lay circles, I don’t think it’s true for professionals. The various Arab-Israeli wars were influential modern conflicts with significant influence on technology and strategy. They had use of drones, air forces, SAMs, tanks and anti-tank weapons, and ballistic missiles, among other things… They were arguably a small-scale parallel for a Soviet invasion of Germany or a new Korean war.

61 A Definite Beta Guy December 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

Agreed. My focus was on the lay-man’s perspective, in this case the foreign policy surrounding the war, or, hell, the foreign policy surrounding the whole issue. Most people I speak to are not aware of the civil war in Jordan which caused a schism between Jordan and the rest of the Arab world, for instance.

62 Z December 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

Leftism is a suicide cult. These people hate themselves, their countrymen and their ancestors. Their primary desire is to destroy wester civilization, of which Israel is a key component. This has nothing to do with the polices of the Israeli government. These same idiots will gladly tromp off to Cuba or China or any number of Sub-Saharan failed states for a conference. Many of them celebrated the rise of Khmer Rouge and the triumph of the North Vietnamese. Their antecedents covered up the Holodomor and Stalin’s purges.

63 mike December 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

How is Israel a “key component” of Western Civilization?

64 md December 21, 2013 at 4:04 am

“western civilization, of which Israel is a key component”

That’s what I thought before visiting. But it’s not true. Israel is an Asiatic country. Not only it is not a key component, it’s barely a component at all.

65 Z December 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

This is what it has come to, I guess. Westerners are so ignorant of their own heritage, they can’t even point out the “Judeo” in Judeo-Christian. But then hardly anyone can spot the Christian anymore either so it makes perfect sense. The war on the past is just about complete. It is onto the glorious future. Watch your fingers as they slam the cage door closed.

66 mike December 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

The “Judeo” in “judeo-Christian” is a recent addition to placate the jews and minimize Christianity in countries that used to be just “Christian”

67 indybones December 20, 2013 at 9:33 am

i think your first move to “focus at the demands of the boycotters” seems a little intentionally daft. yes, we can and should evaluate the implications of any *stated* policy. but almost more than anywhere else in the policy sphere i can think of, the israeli-palestinian issue requires overton-window-shifting. israeli politics and policy are to some (including this commenter) extremely hardline and borderline irrational. anyone pushing for a reasonable policy, you know, something we might all agree is a GOOD IDEA POLICY WISE, will end up with hardline-lite.

of course, it seems like this particular overton window may have torn in the middle.

so yes, you can criticize their demands, but i think it needs to be viewed in the larger context of social negotiation over what the truths of the matter are.

68 Axa December 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

Sorry, out of topic but somebody is selling for 22K a robot that requires no technical expertise to teach him to work. I guess the minimum salary for many low skill workers is about to become meaningless not so far in the future. Ps. It’s made in ‘Merica

69 bill reeves December 20, 2013 at 10:09 am

In Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitlers Willing Executioners he called the first phase of the Jews destruction ‘social death’. Strip them of their jobs, their memberships, their dignity, their friends and they are so much easier to murder later on. It’s telling that our brilliant academics are reprising Nazi tactics on the geopolitical level. Of course I’ve argued for some time that much of the academy is objectively fascist.

70 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

Wow is that a tone-deaf post.

You’ve perfectly described what the Israeli government and every cockroach settler has been doing systematically to the entire Palestinian population for decades.

The oppressed have become the oppressors.

71 Tarrou December 21, 2013 at 10:31 am

“Cockroach”? No, my friend, THAT is the telling bit. Dehumanise the opponent, call them animalistic names. Pigs and monkeys are the common, “cockroach”…….wasn’t that what the Hutu’s called the Tutsis during the Rwanda genocide? Yeah, you’ve got a disinterested handle on this issue, my friend.

72 dead serious December 21, 2013 at 11:31 am

I use the term cockroach to describe specifically settlers who are squatting on occupied land, not Jews as a whole and not Israelis as a subset.

Again, I’ll make the offer to build an unauthorized condo or three in your back yard without your permission. I’m curious how you’d react.

73 mike December 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

What sense does it make to “make the offer” to do something “without your permission”?

74 dead serious December 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Yeah, that second part is a mess. I think you know what I mean.

75 Mark December 20, 2013 at 10:17 am

Since the ASA resolution states:

“Whereas the United States plays a significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians”

And further, since the ASA resolution states:

“Whereas the American Studies Association is committed to the pursuit of social justice . . . and to solidarity with aggrieved peoples in the United States”

why doesn’t the ASA take more meaningful action and announce that its members will not accept any grants from the U.S. until such time as it ceases its support for these Israeli actions and also returns territories illegally occupied by the U.S. to its native inhabitants?

76 Thor December 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

What is most informative is to look at the other positions taken by the ASA membership.

They are a marginal (but politically militant) group, as simplistic as Dead Serious when treating a vexing, complicated issue.

77 Mark December 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Yes, I noticed that their top scholarship award is named after the noted Stalinist, Angela Davis.

78 dsgntd_plyr December 20, 2013 at 10:20 am

Tyler Cowen: Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land the Palestinians used to occupy.

Tyler Cowen: America should open it’s borders to everyone.

79 Tyler Cowen December 20, 2013 at 10:35 am

Neither of those claims is an accurate description of my views.

80 Corey Robin December 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

Tyler: With respect to the first claim — ” Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land the Palestinians used to occupy” — could you give us a more accurate description of your views?

81 Tyler Cowen December 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

It is simply too general, for instance “used to occupy”? When? And does this apply to individuals? Any Palestinian has a claim to any previously Palestinian land? Selectively? All Palestinians? etc.
And Scoop, I’ve been clear as the blue sky that I don’t favor open borders for the United States.

82 Corey Robin December 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I get that that position is not an accurate description of your views; indeed, I took that as a given. That is why I was asking you for an accurate description of your views on the issue of Palestinian refugees. Feel free to respond at whatever level of precision — or generality — you wish to respond to.

83 Ian December 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

It’s clear as the blue sky that you’re playing word games over the term “open borders” and engaging in sophistry so that you can deny that you support “open borders” for the US.

You’re a hypocrite. You think Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

84 Ian December 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Tyler Cowen,

You’re a hypocrite. You think Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

85 Scoop December 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Late, I know, but in case you read responses to your own replies: Why respond disingenuously? The OC did assert that you support “open borders” but I did not, as you are doubtless a careful enough reader to see.

I noted that even toning his language to stuff you’ve actually written, your positions still invite charges of hypocrisy.You support enough immigration to quickly eliminate the NW European majority that has existed in the US since its founding (and created the nation’s culture, etc.) but not enough immigration to Israel to eliminate the Jewish majority. Israelis get to have their state but pre-65 Americans should risk admitting a new majority. As I said, I can certainly see reasons why one might have this opinion, but those who are wary about your positions on immigration here are right to wonder why you don’t think Israelis should welcome something similar.

86 Tyler Cowen December 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Corey, “too complicated to be settled well or dealt with well by a boycott” will have to do for now, that is the point I wanted to establish, not that I have all the answers to what is obviously a difficult problem.

87 dead serious December 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm

“Now is not the time to talk about x” is a typical escapist refrain. It’s not only never the time to talk about x, it’s definitely never the time to actually do something about x.

See: gun laws, Jewish land grabs, etc.

88 Stevel December 21, 2013 at 8:57 pm


With respect to the “right of return” – do you support the right of return of Arab Jews and full compensation of all the property they have lost? The numbers of Jews that fled Arab countries is roughly equal to the number of Palestinian Arabs displaced during creation of Israel.

89 Scoop December 20, 2013 at 11:10 am

If those two statements are not roughly reflective of your positions — support for policies that would make NW Europeans and their culture a minority in America but opposition for policies that would do the same to Jews in Israel — then you have done a really lousy job explaining your views. (I’m not saying that such preferences make no sense. Migrants to the USA don’t typically want to kill or at least expel NW Europeans. I’m saying those do seem to be your preferences.)

And, no, it’s not that people are not reading you carefully enough. It’s up to authors to be clear. If there’s confusion among your readers — who are far brighter and more attentive than most readers — then the fault is yours.

90 Bill December 20, 2013 at 10:21 am

Following WWII, displaced Jews had a “right to return” to Germany, Poland, Czech, and eastern Europe…. but many did not exercise it.

Perhaps you can figure this out for yourself by asking the following questions: If your property has been confiscated, and someone is living there, how easy is it to return to a population that still has anti-semitic attitudes and beliefs.

Right of return isn’t going to happen.

What might happen is compensation for property taken.

91 Tarrou December 21, 2013 at 10:36 am

How long does “right of return” last? My great-ancestor was a minor baron in East Prussia, now northern Poland. Do I have the right to return to Poland, evict the current residents of ancestral lands, and take up residence? What about the pagans my ancestors evicted during the Northern Crusade? What about the people they undoubtedly drove out? Who among us volunteers to give his house and land back to the native tribe from which it was stolen mere hundreds of years ago? “Right of return” sounds well and good until you start thinking through how it would actually work.

92 The snake December 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

I think a lot of people who see the injustice in Palestine would just be glad to see the issue being discussed on one of the top blogs on the net.

Judged by that standard, the boycott is worth it.

93 Millian December 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

What is the Jesuitical distinction between a “justice-based case” and some other means of determining the justice of a claim? Is justice not dispositive?

94 Ed December 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

The way out of this is not to extend the “right of return” to the Palestinians, but to withdraw the right of return from Jews. Israel has existed now for 65 years. Pretty much all the diaspora communities that were going to relocate there have done so -how Jewish the more recent arrivals really are is questionable. There are over ten million people, Israeli and Palestinian, living in the small space of Israel and the occupied territories. Its to the credit of the Israeli leadership that they have managed to secure a high standard of living for the people living there -even the standard of living of the Arab part of the population compares favorably to the rest of the Middle East- under these conditions.

Not that they are looking for my advice, but the Israeli government should declare that Israel is a settled state and in the future their main concern will be for the interests of the people born there. Immigration policy would be changed to line up more with that is standard with the rest of the world. Jews facing genuine persecution would be admitted under a generous refugee policy, as would Palestinian Arabs facing genuine persecution who could demonstrate their ancestors owned property in Israel. But no automatic right to immigrate for anyone.

That would knock the wind out of the Palestinian demand, though I agree that this is more of a bargaining position designed to lead to compensation.

And I don’t have a problem with the boycott, though I think if it focused on property rights for the Palestinians in the West Bank it would be on much stronger ground.

95 C December 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

This boycott is a farce. But what will the ASA do now that it has essentially started the process of transforming itself into a political organization with political goals, rather than simply an academic/professional associate that promotes american studies?

96 chuck martel December 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

Early 19th century British firebrand and opponent of Wilberforce William Cobbett would love dropping intellectual incendiary weapons on the ASA over this. Any American that supports this boycott and has an iota of integrity should slither right down to the register of deeds office and sign over whatever real property they might own to any native American tribe or individual that lived on that property at some point in history. Since no one is going to do that, integrity is in short supply in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In fact, the problem with US land theft goes on to this day:

97 Ian December 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Tyler Cowen would be an example of a hypocritical American with no integrity. He thinks Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

98 mofo. December 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

You must really think that means something, that’s the 3rd time you’ve posted that!

99 Ian December 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Well it bears repeating. Hypocrites need to be called out. Especially when it involves highly consequential things like the demographic makeup of entire countries.

100 Mark December 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm

in 1948-9 the Palestinians lost a war in which they resisted the creation of a Palestinian state next to a Jewish state, a Jewish state which would have included a Palestinian minority. Jerusalem was supposed to be an open city under UN jurisdictions but instead most of it was conquered by the Arabs who, for the entire time they occupied it from 1948 to 1967, denied Jewish access to their Holy Sites in contrast to Israel which turned jurisdiction of the Temple Mount over to Moslem religious leaders when they captured East Jerusalem in 1967 after responding to an attack by Jordan. Actions have consequences. It has proven impossible to create a two-state solution because the Palestinians continue to reject it – see 1937, 1947, 2000, 2001, 2008. Today we have this bizarre situation where people criticize Israel for not allowing a Palestinian state, the Israelis keep offering it and getting rejected and then they get blamed again. You would think that after awhile people would wonder what it is the Palestinians really want.

There is a fundamental issue which many of the commenters here are skirting around. Do they support a two state solution with a Palestinian and Jewish state or do they want one state with Israel gone which is the goal of the BDS supporters? If you support a one-state solution I guess the boycott makes ideological sense though, as a practical matter it will not succeed, since Israel will not commit suicide. If you support a two-state solution the boycott is counterproductive because it just rewards and encourages the Palestinian’s historical intransigence.

101 Ian December 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

That has nothing to do with the hypocrisy of believing that Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

102 dead serious December 21, 2013 at 8:00 am

It doesn’t much matter what I support as a commenter, does it?

I think both Palestinians and Israelis generally support a two-state solution, but the non-contiguous land aspect makes that difficult for both parties.

Also, the fact that Israel won’t give up East Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as their capital, wants to control all water rights, and is averse to a return to the 1967 borders which will be very difficult with the existence of these internationally-condemned “settlements.”

To say that the Palestinians have rejected a two-state solution is a little simplistic. They’ve rejected the terms that Israel has put forth, which is quite far from what they’re seeking.

It is in Israel’s best interest to pursue a two-state solution as a one-state solution would render Jews a minority in Israel. If I were Palestinian I’d be pushing for the one-state solution as strongly as possible. They haven’t been doing that.

103 Tarrou December 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

They rejected ALL the land of the ’67 borders… ’67 and ’68. Right after Israel took it all, they offered to evacuate it all, return it to Jordan, Syria and Egypt, respectively, in return for a peace treaty, but were refused. They offered it to the representatives of teh Palestinians and were refused. People who bang on about the ’67 borders should know that those borders were offered already and rejected, the “three Nos”. No peace, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation. One’s heart breaks for the Palestinians, but they did kind of walk into this on purpose. In 1948, in 1967, in 1995, in 2002. Israel has slowly taken a harder and harder line, because no line was soft enough in the past. At the end of the day, the Israelis want a two-state solution and the Palestinians don’t.

104 freethinker December 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

“Why don’t we look at the world of science, where academic collaboration is actually um…useful?” Happy learn that a polymath like Tyler, who has wide interests, including in the humanities, finds the sciences ” actually useful” , which implies humanities are “actually useless” . Whenever I say this I am branded a philistine. I am now in good company.

105 Ian December 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Tyler Cowen is a hypocrite. He thinks Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

106 C December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I don’t know, I think it’s much more likely he’s an intellectual deploying specific terminology and specific arguments regarding contextually different situations. It’s hard to argue that that is sophistry.

107 Ian December 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

No, his denial of supporting “open borders” for the US in the thread here is clearly sophistry in an attempt to appear less hypocritical than he actually is.

108 mike December 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

“That’s different” is the automatic response of the high-IQ hypocrite. Not saying that every invocation of “that’s different” indicates hypocrisy, but that every hypocrite can and does invoke it. Real quick, how do you think Prof. Cowen would feel if America adopted a policy that the USA is a Christian Nation and that maintaining the Christian Nation was the the US Government’s top overriding policy goal?

109 Mark December 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

If you haven’t noticed there are over 20 Moslem countries with non-Moslem minorities who define themselves as being governed by Moslem principles and that does not seem to bother the ASA. And, in contrast to Israel, those minorities are denied participation in public life. Israel’s population is 15% non-Jewish and recent public opinion polls showed that a plurality of Palestinians in Jerusalem would prefer to keep Israeli citizenship even if a Palestinian state is created. In fact, there is an entire organization of countries called the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which as you can see defines itself by its religious belief despite the presence of non-Moslem minorities in almost all of these countries. And, by the way, about 750,000 Jews were expelled from these Moslem nations after the creation of Israel.

110 Ian December 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm

That has nothing to do with the hypocrisy of believing that Israel shouldn’t have to readmit Palestinians to land Palestinians used to live in while favoring much more liberal immigration policies for the US to allow people into the US who have never lived in the US nor have had any previous connection or association with it, unlike the Palestinians and Israel.

111 Eater of Welfare Theorems December 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thank you for once again being a voice of reason regarding an issue that seems to break the sanity of otherwise intelligent thinkers.

112 Rahul December 21, 2013 at 7:20 am


113 Nathan W December 21, 2013 at 8:22 am

I think we should boycott everything Israel until they can honour previous treaties, namely to stop building more and more and more settlements throughout Palestinian land, for a period of, say five years.

Israel continues to sanction the building of more settlements. This contravenes its treaty with the Palestinians. A long period would be required for Israel to show that it is capable of honouring previous agreements for any period of time.

114 Dallas December 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

As I sit down to proposal reviews on joint research projects in the field of aquaculture (producing aquatic animals), visions of real science are in my mind, not politics. Experimental design, analysis, relevance of any findings, etc. are considerations and the whole world could benefit if the research is successful.

The backdrop of this review is 3 billion more people on the way in the next half century and another 2 billion people who want/need more meat (high quality protein that isn’t soylent green) in their diets on a finite planet with finite irrigation water and finite fertile land. Aquatic animals that don’t have to stand up or keep warm are inherently more efficient in converting “feed stuffs” into meat (by a factor of 2 to 3) over pigs and chickens so continuing the shift of meat towards seafood is required for the world to feed itself in the future. At the current rate of growth, aquaculture will provide half the worlds meat supply in about 30 year.

Any research that speeds this process is good for the planet, so the only real question is the quality of the proposed research.

Unlike all the “hard” sciences, including biology and biochemistry with their exponential rates of growth in knowledge and capability, the social sciences seemed to have progressed very little and still can’t solve even simple basic problems. The social sciences seem to sound like religions, with their revered leaders, as they dissect the original works and are behaving like political institutions with this boycott nonsense.

115 Ohad December 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I know that people have short memories, but it is totally shocking that the comments here seem to have no awareness of the Oslo process, how it failed and what that demonstrated, Arafat’s antics at the Oslo signing and Taba, the suicide bombings, the “Wall”, the rockets from Gaza, and the current relaxations in West Bank policy by Netanyahu and the consequent improvement in West Bank economic conditions.

116 Art Deco December 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm

In order to be an advocate of the Arab cause therein you have to:

1. Not pay attention to any coarse developments, to public opinion research, or to election results on the West Bank and Gaza, or

2. Not care about their implications. Israel is expected to allow a fuzzily defined seven digit sum of people to settle therein in spite of little evidence that that set of people is well-endowed with much human capital and a great deal of evidence that they are abidingly hostile to Jews.

117 Freddie December 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

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It’s the little changes that make the biggest changes.
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118 Ronan Fitzgerald December 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Personally I dont support the boycott. But right of return ? Civil War? Sometimes i wonder why anyone gives this site any credence

119 Art Deco December 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm

You are aware that ‘right of return’ is a stated goal of political organizations representing Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza and that public opinion research conducted between 2003 and 2008 among that population demonstrated again and again that the ‘right of return’ is simply a non-negotiable item for about two-thirds of those Arabs?

120 Art Deco December 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Robin’s commentary in defense of the world’s BDS-holes presumes the validity and defensibility of earlier boycotts. It is a purely intramural point, of no interest to anyone not in his rancid little subculture.

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