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letter to Sonya Michel on her ASA BDS vote misrepresentation claim in the NYT
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 February 2014 - 11:18am
Professor of history, women’s studies and American studies
University of Maryland
College Park, Md.
Dear Ms. Michel,
I was very disappointed to see you argue in the NYT that Omar Barghouti "vastly overstates" the yes vote in the American Studies Association on the boycott of Israeli higher education institutions by not mentioning that 25% of the organization's membership voted on the question.
Surely you are well aware that this is how elections work in general: the yes vote is measured against the total number of people voting, not the total eligible electorate. That's how we elect public officials in the United States; that's how union representation elections work. People who don't vote are not counted.
According to the logic of your argument, most mayors, city councils, and elected school boards in the United States are illegitimate, because they were only elected with a minority of the vote, since the majority of the eligible electorate did not show up.
You are free, of course, to have whatever opinion you want on BDS, but I think it's embarrassing for academia in general for a university professor to use such an obviously specious argument in a letter published by the New York Times.