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Why worry about a boycott from a group that's totally out of touch?

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Beltway Confidential,Education,Israel,Analysis,Larry Summers,Charles Hoskinson

There's lots of outrage these days about the Dec. 16 decision by the American Studies Association to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Former Harvard President Larry Summers called it "anti-Semitic" and suggested universities withhold funding for the organization.

Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg accused the group of scapegoating Israel. Even Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has stated his administration opposes the movement, noting that Palestinians "have mutual recognition of Israel."

But after spending some time on the ASA website, I wonder why anybody cares what this group does.

The ASA is an organization of 5,000 individual members and 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers "devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history."

But judging from what I saw, many members seem to devote their time to producing highly politicized, pseudo-academic silliness with titles such as "Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies" and "Vegans, Freaks and Animals: Toward a New Table Fellowship." (Yes, both of these cleared the peer review process.)

There's also a notice about the group's annual meeting in November 2014: “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century," which, if I had not seen it there, I would have thought was an announcement for a swingers convention in Las Vegas.

Spend some time there, too. Then, like me, you'll be wondering why the Israelis — and most sensible academics — would even bother with the group in the first place.

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