In a recent letter to the Editor of the Denver Post, Mountain States ADL Director Scott Levin responds to Patty Limerick’s opinion piece concerning academic boycotts. The text of the letter follows.
Patty Limerick commendably rejects the resolution of the American Studies Association calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions (“Taking a stand on academic boycott,” Jan. 10). But she is wrong to call for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians that starts with comparisons between Israel’s history with the Palestinians and the tragedy of Native American peoples who were pushed off their land as a result of Manifest Destiny.
One should never attempt to draw comparisons between the painful experiences of one oppressed minority with those of another. Oftentimes such comparisons may lead to suggestions that one group’s pain is somehow worse than another’s. Historical comparisons are offensive and inappropriate exactly because there are no true analogies that would suffice to describe the terrible pain suffered by the victims.
The tragedy of the displacement of Native American people in the United States has no parallels in history. It should not be analogized with the very complex and nuanced issues at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which also defy pat categorization.
The rejection of academic boycotts against Israel needs no caveats in order to make the case for academic freedom.
Scott L. Levin
Mountain States Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League