It is, at this point, beyond obvious that quarters of the hard-left academic world are overrun with anti-Semitism disguised as anger at alleged Israeli mistreatment of the terrorist-governed citizens of Gaza. Israeli citizens and soldiers stubbornly refuse to be killed and terrorized into surrender, so they apparently must be punished. Possessing little power but much spite, the members of the American Studies Association (ASA), an otherwise-obscure academic association, voted last year to ban Israeli institutions and Israeli academics representing Israelis institutions from their annual meeting.
No other nationality is subject to such discrimination — not Syrians representing a regime that has gassed its enemies, not Iranians representing a regime that hangs apostates, not Russians representing a regime that has launched an invasion of a neighboring sovereign nation. Instead, they focus their ire on the Middle East’s lone democracy, a nation under constant terrorist attack that still grants its citizens — regardless of race or religion — greater civil liberties than any other nation in the region.
While the ASA is entitled to its spite, it may not exempt itself from the consequences of its actions. Yesterday afternoon my colleagues and I at the ACLJ sent a letter to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel reminding the General Manager (and the Hotel’s owners) that the hotel may not be dragooned into the ASA’s campaign of hate and discrimination. California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act bans “business establishments” from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, race, religion, and national origin. If the Westin hotel enforces ASA’s ban, it will be guilty of exactly the kind of invidious discrimination the law was crafted to prohibit.
In fact, when it passed the Unruh Act, the California legislature was specifically motivated by prior attempts to boycott of Israel and a concern that California businesses would deny goods and services to Jews.
The ASA’s boycott has been roundly condemned across the political spectrum, with more than 250 institutions and multiple academic associations rejecting the boycott. This widespread condemnation is welcome evidence that while the American academy is certainly dominated by the Left, it is not yet captured by the anti-Semitism that is sweeping much of Europe. It’s critical that the ASA be isolated, that its contracting partners not be exempted from the consequences of the ASA’s actions, and the law apply according to its original (and constitutionally valid) intentions.
We have given the hotel five days to respond and fully hope and expect that a commercial establishment in California will not double down on the ASA’s anti-Semitism. It’s bad business, and it’s illegal.