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News Opinion Readers Respond

Academic boycott of Israel aims to let Palestinians have their say [Letter]

Thanks for your editorial against punishing Maryland public colleges and universities that have ties to groups that advocate boycotting Israel ("A chilling effect," March 10).

However, I take issue with your statement that "the [American Studies Association] itself is guilty of stifling academic freedom." That statement does not hold when considered in context.

The ASA is boycotting Israeli academic institutions — not individuals — because those institutions already deny academic freedom. The boycott is simply a signal that the ASA as an organization will not work with such institutions.

Put another way: Your editorial frames the boycott as being about Israel, but it's really about Palestinians.

You write that "tolerance for unwelcome ideas is exactly what is needed if the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is ever to be resolved in a way both sides can live with, and that cannot happen until all parties to the dispute feel they have had their say and that their concerns have been acknowledged. The state's public colleges and universities are as good a place as any for that discussion to proceed."

This is certainly true, which is why the ASA acknowledged the concerns of Palestinians — notably the denial of basic human rights — by endorsing the boycott of institutions that deny Palestinians the right to have their say or have their concerns acknowledged.

Asim Ali, Gaithersburg

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