ASA accused of endorsing Puerto Rican Terrorists

NGO News Desk :: Adding fuel to the flames of debate over the American Studies Association (ASA)’s controversial decision to boycott Israeli universities, right-wing magazines such as Frontpage and Grumpy Opinions have accused the ASA of being an “Anti-American” American Organization. These publications have claimed that the ASA has given “explicit endorsement of Puerto Rican terrorist groups,” citing talks by the civil rights attorney Jan Susler of the People’s Law Office and the popular Puerto Rican poet Giannina Braschi who both addressed the association’s “Empire and Resistance” conference held in San Juan in November 2012. That well attended event honed in on the subject of American imperialism in Puerto Rico and elsewhere and did not address issues of the boycott.

According to the the website of the American Studies Association, the majority of its members have endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, 66.05% of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% of voters voted no and 3.43% abstained. The resolution was in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians. The ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members.

Frontpage Magazine pulled the Puerto Rican author Giannina Braschi into the fray for having read gruesome scenes of black humor from her novel “United States of Banana” which dramatized the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11th as a metaphor for the fall of the American Empire. Widely considered one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin American letters today, Braschi is the celebrated author of the Spanglish classic “Yo-Yo Boing!” and the postmodern poetry trilogy “Empire of Dreams.”  Her statements which stirred controversy included:
“Banks are the temples of America. This is a holy war. Our economy is religion.”

“The suicide-bomber kills the anonymity of the crowd. Nobodies suddenly become somebodies with names, nationalities, stories, and faces. The crowd has an individual rage that is awakened when its collectivity is attacked. It’s the fear that it could happen to you—or to me—or to any one of us anytime the crowd gathers. The government worries that the roll call of the death toll will storm the polls and overturn elections and cars, businesses and samenesses. When the government proclaims war against terrorism it is proclaiming war against the awakening of the masses.

“It doesn’t matter how often I hear: religion, religion, religion. I know deep in my heart that it is not about religion. It is about the battle of matter and spirit—the battle of the oppressed that are dispossessed—and want to possess—because they feel possessed. And they are possessed of spirit. It is the call of the oppressed to be possessed by something higher than material dispossession. After all the schisms of isms—after capitalism, socialism, marxism, communism, feminism—after separation of church and state—it is an anachronism to call it a religious crusade when it is a global conflict between the ones who have too much and the ones who have too little, too little to lose.”

“Success can be measured by numbers—and not just by the number of dead and wounded—but by the number of spectators around the world who witnessed the fall of the American Empire on TV.”

The Chicago based Civil rights attorney Jan Susler, who also spoke at the 2012 ASA conference in San Juan, was accused by the same magazine of aiding terrorists for her years of work on behalf of political prisoners of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. Both Susler and Braschi have both argued for the independence of Puerto Rico: Susler through high-profile legal battles and Braschi through award-winning books of poetry and fiction. Giannina Braschi has often stated that liberty is not an option, but a human right.

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