NYU President John Sexton Supports the Boycott of Israel. Just Not the ASA Boycott.

NYU President John Sexton has come out against the ASA boycott of Israel.

The boycott, writes Sexton,  is “at heart a disavowal of the free exchange of ideas and the free association of scholars that undergird academic freedom; as such, it is antithetical to the values and tenets of institutions of advanced learning.”

NYU has a campus in Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

Guess who is banned from entering the United Arab Emirates? Israeli citizens.

So, according to John Sexton, it is a violation of academic freedom for the ASA to refuse to partner with Israeli academic institutions; it is an affirmation of academic freedom for NYU to partner with Abu Dhabi, which not only refuses to partner with Israeli academic institutions but also forbids Israeli citizens from entering the country.


  1. Jonathan Stein December 28, 2013 at 11:20 am | #

    It’s worse: No one with an Israeli stamp in their passport is allowed to enter the UAE – and they check very carefully.

    • Corey Robin December 28, 2013 at 11:21 am | #

      I looked that up, Jonathan, because that is what I thought. I got very mixed information on that.

      • BillR December 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm | #

        Israelis cannot vist most of not only Middle East but most Muslim countries, most of which do not recognize it as a legitimate state (which works vice versa as well, as citizens of those countries cannot enter Israel either):


        The 3 Muslim majority countries that have formal diplomatic relations with Israel (Turkey, Egypt, Jordan) have received hundreds of billions in aid from US for setting up embassies, but relations on anything outside the most formal, official channels are basically non-existent as Israel has not gained any acceptance in these countries either e.g. 92% of Egyptians view it as an “enemy state” and only 2% of Turks have a positive view of it–a world record):



        If this is the popularity Israel enjoys in the countries with which it has had formal relations and cultural exchanges for decades then one can only wonder at it’s future in a region where it has not won any acceptance (Max Blumenthal also writes about after talking to Egyptians in Goliath).

  2. Ken Sherrill December 28, 2013 at 11:30 am | #

    Alert Dov Hikind and Jeff Klein. The Abu Dhabi campus might place NYU in violation of their proposed anti-boycott legislation.

  3. Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 11:43 am | #

    Does anyone actually think that, if NYU betrayed ethical principals by opening a branch in Abu Dhabi (a state in which slavery apparently still exists), that it should betray its principals again by supporting the ASA boycott of Israel?

    • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 11:49 am | #

      Forgive the spelling, but Corey’s blog gives no way that I can see to correct mistakes. (I dream that someday I will succeed in posting a message with no typos.)

    • Will Grannan-Rubenstein December 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm | #

      Well yes, as a matter of fact this is exactly what we think. If NYU’s “ethical principles” regarding boycotts/sanctions against the Israeli state exist for PR purposes when the boycott/sanction in question is a hot-button political issue around a totally nonbinding scholarly resolution, but do not exist when the boycott/sanction in question is the longstanding official policy of a government upon which NYU has conferred its academic legitimacy with an institutional partnership, then the principles in question can’t be said to exist in any binding sense at all.

      That sound you just heard was the point of yet another of Corey’s posts flying straight over your head.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm | #

        I certainly think NYU opening a branch in Abu Dhabi was a mistake that should be undone.

        Some people commenting here seem not to understand the difference between ‘boycotting’ a country or organization, and ‘censuring’ a country or organization. ASA joined the BDS boycott against Israel. John Sexton censored (not boycotted) ASA.

  4. hophmi December 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm | #

    1. And yet, the ASA is not boycotting Abu Dhabi, and there is no Abu Dhabi BDS movement.

    2. I guess it’s not all about the fact that Israel gets loan guarantees from the US, is it?

    • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm | #

      @ hophmi. NYU is not, for that matter, boycotting ASA; but Abu Dhabi does boycott Israel.

      There might be an augment for boycotting a monarchy that allows human trafficking (ie Abu Dhabi), but Israel is a democracy and guarantees the rights of all its citizens.

      • Phil Brander December 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm | #

        Israel a democracy? For whom? Guarantees the right of ALL its citizens? Hhmmm, I don’t know…….

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm | #

        @PB. According to Wikipedia: “Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic republic with universal suffrage.”

        Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s population. They vote in elections and have members of Knesset. Compare that with, for instance, Jordan which has no Jews in the country because they killed or expelled all of those who once lived there.

  5. Corey Robin December 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm | #

    For people who are interested in more depth than can be found in a single sentence from Wikipedia, I highly recommend this website, which documents the more than 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against Palestinian citizens.


    • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm | #

      Your link goes to a discussion of “Citizenship Law – Amendment No. 10”, by an apparently obscure organization called The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

      As far as I can see from their own discussion that law does not discriminate against Israel’s Arab citizens. Moreover, there are plenty of countries (Iran, Cuba, etc) where treason by citizens is punished by death. Israel has no death penalty. Perhaps you can explain why you think it discriminates against Israeli Arabs.

      I am not arguing that things are perfect for Israel’s Arab citizens, but I know of no laws there intended to deny an Arabs their rights; as was the case with South African apartheid.

      • Corey Robin December 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm | #

        You’re not looking at the right link. Try again.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm | #

        I should correct that. Israel does have a death penalty. That sentence seems to have been applied twice, regrettably.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm | #

        Corey, that’s what I get when I click on your link.

    • s. wallerstein December 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm | #

      You have to click on “discriminatory laws” after you open the link.
      Maybe this link works better:

      • BillR December 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm | #

        Uri Davis’s Apartheid Israel is a good introduction to the “post-modern” form of Apartheid practiced in Israel (which is cloaked behind a Kafkaesque apparatus of code words and doublespeak that carefully tiptoe around the pitfalls that the Boers of South Africa fell into when they openly owned up to being racial supremacists).

    • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm | #

      Your changed link now goes to the main page of The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is still an obscure group that is mentioned almost nowhere. The actual list can be gotten by clicking a button on the right.

      You will understand if I do not have time to read the whole list now. The first item is called “Civil Wrongs Law – Amendment No. 8 (Liability of the State)” and it does not deal with the rights of Israeli Arabs. It seems to apply to fighting that occurred with Gaza (instigated by Hamas) after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005.

      • swallerstein December 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm | #

        I don’t see why the fact that a group is obscure disqualifies it.

        Maybe the Coca Cola Co. is always right because it’s well-known.

        Actually, following that logic, we should accept what Corey says because he’s well-known and neither you or I are.

      • Corey Robin December 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm | #

        “You will understand if I do not have time to read the whole list now.”

        Take your time. Seriously.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm | #

        Corey, why not just link me to a specific Israeli law discussed on that site that you think proves Israel deprives its Arab citizens of their rights?

      • Malcolm Schosha December 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm | #

        swallerstein wrote: “I don’t see why the fact that a group is obscure disqualifies it.”

        What I always look for are sources that are considered reliable, that are not obviously biased toward one side or the other. That is not always possible to find in discussion of issues involving Israel. As Abba Eban said: “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”

      • s. wallerstein December 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm | #


        Abba Eban was very witty. That’s my first real laugh for the day.

    • hophmi December 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm | #

      I’m sure many of us are quite familiar with Adalah, which is Palestinian advocacy organization. No one has claimed that Israel is perfect. The question is why Israel is being targeted. In India, as we’ve again learned over the past few weeks, tens of millions of Dalits live in abject poverty and are subject to abuse approved by the highest levels of India society and the highest ranking government officials. There is not, as yet, a movement to boycott India.

      Countries throughout the Middle East blatantly discriminate against Jews and Christians, and in the case of Abu Dhabi, receive plenty of diplomatic and financial support from American sources. No boycott movement there. So once again, I see a very poor moral defense of a morally indefensible action – the boycott of the Jewish state, a democracy. This action is about making left-wing scholars feel good, and little more.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 29, 2013 at 8:24 am | #

        There is an interesting essay, called ‘What is left anti-semitism?’ by Sean Matgamna of the communist organization called Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

        “…left-wing anti-semitism knows itself by another and more self-righteous name, “anti-Zionism”. Often, your left-wing anti-semite sincerely believes that he or she is only an anti-Zionist, only a just if severe critic of Israel.”

      • Donald December 29, 2013 at 9:59 am | #

        Yes, hophmi, the boycott of Israel by the all-powerful ASA is the first boycott in history. There are no other sanctions, boycotts, or blockades directed at anyone anywhere. Travel to and from Gaza is free and unrestricted. There are no sanctions on Iran, and if there were there would be great care taken to ensure that ordinary Iranians could obtain medicine and travel safely on civilian aircraft. And no one has ever advocated a boycott of some group without first checking to make sure that the targeted group is the worst violator in the world.

        In the US, Israel is singled out for criticism because Israel is singled out for praise. There are other reasons in other countries,including anti-semitism, but that’s not the main reason for pro-Palestinian activism here. In America, Israel is treated as such a close ally it might as well be the 51st state. Politicians treat Israel with kid gloves and the fact that they are a democracy is somehow seen as a defense, as though oppressive policies approved of through democratic processes are somehow made morally acceptable. Palestinians themselves asked for this boycott–Palestinians are criticized for terrorism when they use violence and their allies are accused of anti-semitism when they use non-violent forms of protest, so the real message here is that Palestinians should just sit back and wait for their betters to decide what they deserve and that inconvenience to an Israeli academic is a more serious human rights issue than anything that happens to Palestinians. But then, everything is more important than what happens to Palestinians. I’m a little skeptical of this boycott precisely because it was predictable how it would be spun–in my perhaps incorrect opinion, it would be better for groups to condemn the US government for its role in enabling Israeli apartheid. Though in that case the condemnation would have been studiously ignored by the press and all the champions of academic freedom. So the Palestinians are screwed no matter what.

        • hophmi December 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm | #

          Here we go. Israel is special because it has a special relationship with the US. As if Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or any of our Gulf Allies, who buy our weapons and are dictatorships because we allow them to be, do not have a special relationship.

          So to get at the US, you boycott its small ally. You’re a coward, Donald. Boycott the US, if that’s your target.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 29, 2013 at 10:19 am | #

        @Donald. To the best of my knowledge there is no academic and artistic boycott against any nation other than Israel. If I am wrong, give me some specifics.

        There has been a Arab League economic boycott against Israel since Israel was founded. In addition there is a boycott against Israeli products in the EU that is lead by the national labor union of every European country. Are those unions are also boycotting the products of China (for its vicious treatment of Tibetans), or any other of the many countries that are doing worse things than Israel?

      • simonr January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm | #

        Donald’s post won the internet! It might be pointless to attempt to advance this discussion any further, but regarding academic boycotts of other nations, Malcolm Schosha should refer to the following events (which, interestingly, I never noticed John Sexton or any other American university presidents complaining about):

  6. Patrick S. O'Donnell December 28, 2013 at 7:06 pm | #

    For Malcolm:

    “Though the Palestinian minority is no longer the completely ghettoized community it was during Israel’s formative era (1948-1967), it remains a distinct, separate, largely unassimilated community on the margins of Israeli society…. Moreover, the Palestinian minority continues to be widely perceived as a security threat, a potential ‘fifth column’ in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian nation as a whole. Palestinians in Israel still have to live with the suspicion and at times outright hostility of members of the Jewish majority. As the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the country’s leading civil rights organization, noted in its 2007 annual report: ‘Arab citizens are exposed to differential and humiliating treatment, and are often regarded with suspicion in Jewish towns, in the street, at the entrance to public recreation and commercial facilities, and a bus and train stations;’ or as Ahmad Tibi, a leading Palestinian politician in Israel more bluntly put it: ‘The problem is that they [the Israeli government and Israeli Jews] are dealing with us like enemies and not as citizens.’ [….]

    [Palestinian-Arab citizens] also have to contend with persistent poverty, relatively high levels of unemployment, inadequate educational resources, land confiscations, home demolitions, municipal under-funding, and discriminatory legislation. [….] [De facto segregation means] [n]ot only do Israeli Jews rarely encounter Palestinian citizens of Israel in their daily lives, but also they rarely read about them or hear about them in the media, and when they do it is often in negative ways. [….] [Israel’s Arabs] have many more rights and protections than their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Yet when compared with Israel’s Jewish citizens, Arabs are decidedly unequal. They suffer from numerous inequities, tacit discrimination, government neglect, and social prejudice. They are largely excluded from the country’s public life, they have not been integrated socially or economically…. As such, collectively, Arabs are very much second-class citizens in Israel.” From Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman, Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

    On how many if not most of Israel’s (religious or secular) Jews “see” Palestinians in particular and Arabs generally both inside and outside Israel, perhaps the best portrait remains Sylvain Cypel’s Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse (Other Press, 2006).

    • Malcolm Schosha December 29, 2013 at 8:07 am | #

      Hi Patrick, you wrote: “Ahmad Tibi, a leading Palestinian politician in Israel more bluntly put it: ‘The problem is that they [the Israeli government and Israeli Jews] are dealing with us like enemies and not as citizens.’”

      I think some of the problem is that it works both ways, and many Israeli Arabs also regard the Israel government as their enemy. It really is a difficult situation, and I understand that many on both sides regard the other with suspicion, and with reason based on experience. Also there are obviously bigots both among Jews and Arabs.

      There needs to be more contacts between Jews and Muslims. But things may have gone the other way. Then in the early 1980s I worked in a Histadrut factory in Tel Aviv 50% of the workers were Arabs, almost all from the West Bank (one woman commuted from Jordan), so there were at least some contact at work even it they lived separately. Now, apparently, much of that contact has ended after the Intifada, with the increase in terrorist attacks.

      It is my hope that efforts like at the Oasis of Peace (Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam), and Arava Institute, will prove increasingly helpful, and that the situation will in time heal.

    • s. wallerstein December 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm | #

      Maybe I’m missing something, but there is obviously at least one other boycott in effect, the U.S. government boycott or embargo against Cuba, functioning since 1962.

      It serves absolutely no function, except allowing the Castro brothers to blame all Cuba’s problems on U.S. imperialism (which exists, but is not the origin of all of Cuba’s problems).

      I doubt that a boycott against Israel will do any good either.

  7. Brian December 29, 2013 at 6:52 am | #

    “We have a thing in Abu Dhabi?!” — John Sexton, after reading this post.

    • WTT January 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm | #

      Late response, and sorry for that, but Sexton flies there and back every week, first class, on the students’ dime.

      • msilverz January 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm | #

        That is just false, WTT. Sexton does fly out several times a semester — to teach a seminar on the relationship between government and religion — but not every week. And there is no sense in which he flies “on the students’ dime.”

      • s. wallerstein January 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm | #

        In any case, is it so great to fly, even first class? Is it such a privilege, so glamorous? Flying inevitably means long waits, being less comfortable than in one’s home or a hotel room, flight turbulence, bathrooms that are no fun to use. If Sexton were a top surgeon who flew to Abu Dhabi frequently to operate, would anyone be scandalized?

  8. Matthew December 29, 2013 at 8:20 am | #

    Israeli citizens as such are not barred from entering the UAE. I know of many Israeli citizens living in Abu Dhabi, and we have had Israeli academics attend events at NYU Abu Dhabi. (The UAE does not have dipolomatic relations with Israel, and so Israeli passports and are not recognized. However, Israeli citizens who hold additional passports from other countries are free to enter the UAE.)

    • Malcolm Schosha December 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | #

      Matthew, what you are saying is that Israeli citizens are barred from entering all UAE countries. But if they also hold citizenship in another country they can enter, but only by using their passport of that other country.

      • msilverz December 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm | #

        Not quite, Malcolm. What I am saying is that Israeli passports are not recognized by the UAE (because the UAE and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations). There is no policy against Israeli citizens as such, which is why there are Israelis in the UAE and why Israeli academics have been able to participate in events at the UAE.

      • msilverz December 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm | #

        Sorry: in case it wasn’t clear, msilverz = Matthew.

    • Malcolm Schosha December 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm | #

      @Matthew. UAE does not recognize the existence of Israel. Admission is refused to nationals of Israel.

    • Malcolm Schosha December 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm | #

      Hmm. That link does not want to work. On page 2 of this PDF, travel info for Abu Dhabi International Airport, it says “Admission refused to nationals of Israel.”

      • msilverz December 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm | #

        Malcolm, I live in Abu Dhabi. I have colleagues who are Israelis. I have invited Israelis for academic events and they have been able to attend (so long as they have passports from other countries). The information page to which you linked is just incorrect.

        That said, you’re certainly correct that the UAE does not formally recognize the existence of Israel. That is why someone traveling only on an Israeli passport cannot enter the country (much as someone with only a Cuban passport cannot enter the US).

      • Malcolm Schosha December 31, 2013 at 7:39 am | #

        @Matthew. No, it is not like US relations with Cuba. The US recognises the existence of Cuba, but has broken off diplomatic relations. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel because it does not recognize the existence of Israel, neither de facto nor de jure.

        As for Israelis being allowed into Abu Dhabi, you will understand, I hope, if I consider a document of the Abu Dhabi government a more reliable source than your personal claim.

        • msilverz December 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm | #

          Malcolm, I did not suggest that the diplomatic situation between the UAE and Israel is like the diplomatic situation between the US and Cuba. I suggested that the situation for Israelis trying to enter the UAE is much like the situation for Cubans trying to enter to the US.

          You wrote: “As for Israelis being allowed into Abu Dhabi, you will understand, I hope, if I consider a document of the Abu Dhabi government a more reliable source than your personal claim.”

          If you’re unwilling to accept the veracity of my statements about my own experiences in Abu Dhabi, then clearly this conversation isn’t worth continuing. You have convictions about what life here must be life, and no testimony to the contrary will shake those convictions. Adieu.

      • s. wallerstein December 31, 2013 at 8:17 am | #

        From my personal experience traveling and knowing people who have two passports, immigrant officials often “bend the rules” when someone who looks important or with dollars to spend is concerned.

        So it may well be that Abu Dhabi does not allow Israeli nationals to enter the country in theory, but in practice when an Israeli national with another passport arrives and looks like they’ll “contribute” something to the local economy, either working or spending (or both), they get waved through with a smile.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm | #

        s. wallerstein wrote: “…in practice when an Israeli national with another passport arrives and looks like they’ll “contribute” something to the local economy, either working or spending (or both), they get waved through with a smile.”

        I suppose, then, all that is necessary is for the Israeli national to give the Abu Dhabi airport officials the quenelle salute; and after that they will be allowed to enter that postaccio, which still allows human trafficking, with a smile.

        Out of curiosity, do you know a. wallerstein, a long ago interlocutor of mine from elsewhere on the web?

      • s. wallerstein December 31, 2013 at 1:50 pm | #

        Yes, Malcolm, we’re old friends. It’s a genuine pleasure (no irony) to run into you again. Have a great new year.

      • Malcolm Schosha December 31, 2013 at 3:26 pm | #

        Kol HaKavod! I hope you are well, my friend, and that you have a great year.

  9. Donald Bigioni December 29, 2013 at 11:31 am | #

    I don’t get it ? I agree with Mr. Sexton. Who does Corey agree with?

  10. Zhang Lao January 19, 2014 at 3:22 pm | #

    Why do so many support the Israeli actions?

Comments are closed.