The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that condemns the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of Israeli universities, and calls for Pennsylvania universities to not participate in the action.
Resolution 627, as it’s styled, passed by a 191-0 vote. An identical resolution in the Senate is pending before the education committee.
“This is a very strong message from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to oppose ASA’s boycott of the State of Israel,” said Hank Butler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the lobbying arm for the state’s Jewish federations.
Resolution 627 passed thanks largely to the support House leaders from western Pennsylvania — Democrat and Republican.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) introduced it, while House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson); House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) signed on as co-sponsors.
“They realty wanted to get it done. And they moved it as quickly as they could,” Butler said, “so it was good — 191-0 is very strong statement.”
Last December, with 1,252 of its members casting ballots, the ASA voted to institute a nonbinding boycott against Israeli academic institutions. The question carried with only 16 percent of the organization’s members voting 30 percent of whom dissented.
In an earlier vote, the 20-member ASA governing council unanimously endorsed the boycott.
In defending the votes, ASA President Curtis Marez, told The New York Times his organization endorsed the boycott, even when it hasn’t addressed far worse human rights situations around the world, because “one has to start somewhere.”
Larger groups, such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Universities (AAU), have rejected the idea of academic boycotts.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)