We are circulating a statement in order to voice our opposition to the proposed AAA boycott of Israeli academic institutions, articulate the dangers of such a boycott, and encourage anthropologists to vote on this issue during the upcoming AAA ballot in April.
We are concerned that, while seemingly in service of justice for Palestinian academics and attempting to preserve a separation between Israeli academics and their institutions, the boycott will in fact have a pernicious effect by restricting academic freedom and exchange, endorsing discrimination on the grounds of ethnic and national identity, and breeding distrust and hostility within the AAA. Whatever your views on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, in foreclosing the free and collegial exchange of ideas and in effect accusing our colleagues and peers of guilt by association, a boycott will certainly not solve the problem. We urge you to take a moment to read this statement, sign, and share with your colleagues.
Don’t Let It Happen!
Don’t let it happen! A fundamental and long-standing principle of academic life in the United States is that participation “is wholly independent of national boundaries and races and creeds.” This April, every member of the American Anthropological Association will be asked to vote and to either accept or reject a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions, shun their representatives and isolate their scholars and students (including Israeli anthropologists) by boycotting their academic institutions in the following ways:
“…those institutions would not be able to be listed in AnthroGuide, advertise in AAA venues, or participate in the AAA Departmental Services Program (DSP), the Career Center, or the Graduate School Fair. In addition, the boycott precludes granting permission to copy and reprint articles from AAA publications to journals and publications based at Israeli institutions. The boycott may also preclude the AAA from selling Anthrosource access to Israeli institutions.”
-AAA BDS Resolution
At the annual business meeting of our association on November 20, 2015 approximately ten percent of the association’s members endorsed the pro-boycott resolution by voting to place it on an electronic ballot. Now it is up to the entire membership to decide whether that ten percent will carry the day. Historically, AAA members have not voted in great numbers on general membership ballots. This time, it is crucial that they do.
Academic boycott proposals are alarming. They are prompted by the particular political views of their supporters, who in this instance are allied with a Palestinian political movement known as BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement). Supporters of the boycott wish to have the AAA in its corporate capacity engage in a series of discriminations and exclusions based entirely on nationality and aimed directly at Israeli universities, colleges and research institutes; and they wish to continue the embargo until the Israel-Palestinian conflict is resolved on terms favored by the BDS movement, which views itself as the voice of Palestinian civil society. Academic boycott proposals of this sort are alarming because they discourage dissent, restrict the free flow of ideas and scholars, create feelings of distrust and hostility based on ethnicity and national origin towards individual members of the AAA, and make it difficult for those who disagree with the political analysis in question to feel at home in their own academic association. They violate the very ethos of the world-wide academy and its deepest academic freedom principles.
They are also alarming because they rely heavily on the dangerous and discredited logic of “complicity” or “guilt by association.” It is troubling enough that there is already a published account by an Israeli scholar who was explicitly denied a sabbatical placement at a university because the institute to which he applied endorsed a BDS boycott of Israeli academic institutions, even where this was not in accord with overall university policy. Although the AAA boycott resolution tries to draw a distinction between individual academics and their academic institutions, BDS omnibus definitions of complicity make plain that virtually any contact with Israel institutions and their journals opens individual American anthropologists to what it calls “common sense boycotts.” The boycott resolution calls upon individual anthropologists to determine whether and how to apply the boycott in their own professional practice. We believe that once an ethos of discrimination against Israeli academic institutions is officially endorsed the distinction between Jewish Israeli academics and their Israeli academic homes will be easily elided. If we permit this resolution to pass, thereby mandating AAA institutional support for an academic boycott, it seems likely given the political aims of the BDS movement that there will be an increase in egregious instances of personal targeting of anthropologists on the basis of their political views and ethnic and national identities throughout the profession, with little or no accountability. It is troubling enough that stories are already circulating in the profession about campaigns at some universities urging the boycott of visiting Israeli scholars and even of Israeli graduate students in the United States who have been told that their advisors won’t write letters of recommendation for them.
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer addressed the boycott question this way: academic boycotts are an “assault on the fundamental principles of open discourse, exchange of ideas, and free argumentation, principles that lie at the very foundation of the academy and its missions of discovery, search for understanding, and education.” It is thus little wonder that academic boycotts have been rejected by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and by more than 100 major higher education institutions across the country, including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
If you are alarmed, as we are, at the erosion of academic values, free thinking and collegial trust that this boycott proposal portends, it is crucial that you vote when you receive the upcoming April AAA ballot. Whatever your political views on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict a boycott targeting the academic homes of our colleagues and peers in another country and unjustly accusing them of guilt by association will not solve the problem. Help spread the concern that ratification of this resolution is a stake aimed at the heart of academic freedom and will cause significant damage to anthropology as a profession and a discipline. As concerned anthropologists who have signed below we strongly encourage you to contact your colleagues and urge them to vote – and to vote “No”.
Please only sign this statement if you are a member of the AAA or an anthropologist. If you would like to show your support, please submit a testimonial to be featured on our page. Thank you for your support!
News & Additional Statements in Opposition to AAA BDS Resolution
Postscript: BSD, Moral Simplification, and the Collapse of the “Progressive”
By Jonathan Friedman, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego
I have been watching this development since the AAA meetings in November. I voted without the slightest hesitation against the boycott. I was first astonished and angered by the BDS statement and even wrote a nasty letter which I did not send. There are plenty of slogans around equating Israel with the Nazis and with Apartheid. On the other hand even the AAA task force on Israel/Palestine argues, quite inconsequentially, that Israel is basically a white settler colony (2015) (but see Goldberg’s critique 2016). The interpretive framework, then, is a de-legitimization of the state of Israel, on the amusing grounds that it is just like the United States which is not about to be boycotted by American Anthropologists who are concerned about their careers. It is also noteworthy that settler colonies are colonies settled by a mother country that is already in control of the colonized territory which does not fit the historical reality of Israel. This is not just a one-sided assessment. It totally ignores a long history of conflict since the 1920’s. And is it the Jews who initiated the conflict? Was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem a freedom fighter who simply made some erroneous alliances, i.e. with Hitler. Why not? The Mufti was an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood which from the start was violently anti-Semitic and then pro-Nazi and all of this long before the state of Israel was founded. And today, Hamas, a virtual branch of the Brotherhood states in its Charter that the Jews must be eliminated. The point here is that this hostility is not just a reaction to Israeli aggression. One might of course argue that the Jews have no place in the Middle East and that the existence of a state is simply an example of occupation or colonialism. BDS does not make such an argument since hypocrisy about such issues is more politically viable, but there are plenty of insinuations.. It would be easier to deal with the argument if it were more forthright (as in the case of Hamas).
I’ve long considered Israeli treatment of Palestinians to be deplorable at all levels, from land-grabbing to de-legitimization and constraints on their institutions. Boycott, divestment and sanctions directed at the Israeli state is an apt political response to these practices, as earlier against South Africa. But I cannot support an academic boycott and will vote against the AAA resolution for two reasons.
Throughout my professional life I’ve worked for inclusion – as a founding member of the Association’s Middle East Section to establish Middle East Anthropology within the AAA, as MES president in 2011-12, to include Arab-American issues sharing information about research in its purview, as editor of the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin to broaden its remit as MESA’s journal of review to include exhibitions, Internet and other digital material, and essays on research materials and methods as part of the craft in interdisciplinary Middle East Studies. In my view, academic freedom is indivisible and enhancing scholarship the priority for an academic association.
The BDS resolution before the AAA calls for excluding Israeli academic institutions, which I find problematic to square with academic freedom either philosophically or operationally. The argument that it is directed not against individual Israeli scholars, who are still welcome to participate in the AAA, but against their academic institutions, which are not, strikes me as bogus and sociologically inept. Its echoes of efforts by the State of Israel to de-legitimize Palestinian institutions and treat Palestinians as isolated individuals are beyond irony, as if identities did not derive from and find expression through institutions, which is also central to the critical cultural studies moot that has blossomed in contemporary anthropology of the Middle East.
I can support BDS, and even an AAA resolution condemning the State of Israel’s policies and treatment of Palestinians and its own citizens who are Arab; but this resolution crosses the line for a professional association devoted to promoting academic freedom in general and scholarship in particular, and it explicitly rejects the principle of inclusion that has been a core teaching of anthropology and positioning in the public sphere from the beginning.
Academic Boycotts and Professional Responsibility
Delivered at the Annual Convention of the American Philosophical Association, San Francisco, March 31, 2016
Russell A. Berman
I was invited to speak on this panel, having been reassured that it would be devoted to academic boycotts, in general, but I cannot say that I was surprised to discover that half of the titles here advocate one and only one boycott target. I will therefore make some remarks concerning academic boycotts in general, to which I object on principle, but also comment on the campaign against Israeli universities in particular. I expect that we will hear boycott proponents denounce the apartheid character of Israeli society or policies of genocide and other such mythologies that the boycott movement has disseminated and which the APA may eventually be asked to endorse. But let’s leave the propaganda for the discussion section.
Scott Simon’s Thoughts on the Boycott
I grew up in Indiana, hearing stories about the Holocaust, but believing anti-Semitism was an evil of the past. If anything, I thought it was an ideology held by a minority of poor whites who occasionally marched through the streets of Cincinnati draped in white robes. My naivety should have ended when, while walking through the streets of Old Jerusalem speaking German, a young Palestinian approached us to say, “We love Germans, because we love Hitler. Don’t worry. We will finish off the project you people have left undone.” I nonetheless returned to the United States, hoping that Israelis and Palestinians would eventually live side-by-side peacefully in their own independent states.
I am an American and Israeli citizen. I served in the IDF from 1987-1991. I then studied and taught at Tel Aviv University. These experiences have given me insight into the complexities of the situation between Israelis and Palestinians, complexities that the BDS threatens to reduce to a simplistic position of political comfort. The BDS will only work in favor of Israeli Right politics of religious nationalism driven by the rhetoric of fear and the claim that the world is always against Israel. We need to help the Israeli left by helping the academic institutions that provide them means to live and think, and a place to foster progressive dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Ridiculous for Americans to boycott Israeli academics for crimes in which their own government has been complicit, which could not happen without US support of Israel, militarily, materially, and politically. This is not calling attention to these crimes; it is diverting attention from their causes and remedies.”
-Marshall Sahlins, University of Chicago
Statement Reaffirming the University of Chicago’s Position on Divestment and Academic Boycotts Statements
Statement Reaffirming the University’s Position on Divestment and Academic Boycotts
The University of Chicago will not divest from companies for doing business in Israel and opposes academic boycotts aimed at specific nations, including Israel. The University is restating its policy to address questions regarding its institutional position.
The University does not take social or political stances on issues outside its core mission. Using investments or other means to advance a social or political position held by some segment of the University community would only diminish the University’s distinctive contribution – providing a home and environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on the widest range of issues. The Kalven Report outlines this approach and the values behind it, concluding that preserving the freedom of individual scholars to argue for or against any issue of political controversy requires “a heavy presumption against” collective political action by the University itself.
The BDS Attack in Israeli Anthropology
The vote on whether the American Anthropological Association (AAA) will boycott Israeli Academic Institutions is going forward despite the bylaws of the association which make membership open to all individuals and institutions, including Israeli institutions; Federal, state and local laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin; and the Association’s Articles of Incorporation that prohibit the organization from engaging in propaganda. These political and legal issues have been buried under the momentum of the BDS motion targeting Israeli anthropology.
Richard Shweder for Huffington Post on “Targeting the Israeli Academy: Will Anthropologists Have the Courage to Just Say “No”?” News
Targeting the Israeli Academy: Will Anthropologists Have the Courage to Just Say “No”?
Should members of the American Anthropological Association, as a group, shun Israeli universities and research organizations? Should the American Anthropological Association, as an organization, place an embargo on the free flow of scholarly and scientific information to Israeli libraries and journals? Voting begins on April 15 on a proposal to do both.
The proposal has a history. Since 2005 an international Palestinian political movement known as the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) has been targeting the Israeli academy, trying to gain support for boycott resolutions by universities and professional academic societies in the United States and Europe. To date their success has been limited. Two academic societies, the Association of Asian American Studies and the American Studies Association, finally signed on in 2013 but more recently in 2016 a boycott proposal was decisively rejected by the American Historical Association.
Why am I against the boycott?
Anthropology is a field staunchly dedicated to decrying the processes of Othering, replacing them with understanding, respect, and appreciation of the constraints and concerns of local moral worlds. The processes of Othering are a slippery slope, and history tells us only too well that initial steps taken to judge, label, or circumscribe a society or group — through linguistic markers, ID cards, or political actions like boycotts – often lead to other steps of Othering on a downward spiral towards dehumanization. Engaging in acts of Othering is antithetical to anthropology. The proposed boycott, singling out the academic institutions of one nation-state, is an act of Othering. Instead, anthropologists should be engaged in what we do best: research to increase mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation of the constraints and concerns of local moral worlds on the path towards peace.
“BOYCOTTS THAT BACKFIRE: THE THREAT TO ACADEMIC FREEDOM”
One does not have to approve of a national government’s policies in order to disagree with the idea of a blanket boycott of that country’s universities. I personally abhor the current Israeli government’s treatment of the Arab populations under its control. I also abhor any of the many ways in which academic freedom is increasingly restricted, whether through official Israeli suppression of Palestinian academic activity or as a result of political and religious fanaticism in this country and elsewhere. I am on record as having fought for academic freedom, particularly against nationalist attacks on academic work recognizing minority issues and rights. The freedom to speak openly is one of academia’s fundamental principles and a necessary component of the search for knowledge and understanding. It would therefore be inconsistent for me to support a sweeping boycott of Israeli academic institutions, for a very simple reason: such a boycott, whatever its proponents may claim, is likely to encourage intolerance on all sides of the current conflict.
The Symbolic Violence of Choice
“Why I signed” (the petition AGAINST academic boycott of Israeli institutions)
I have signed the petition against the academic boycott of Israeli institutions by the American Anthropological Association. After signing, I felt as if I had taken my stand and have since mostly stayed away from the contentious spaces of debate that are populated largely by pro-boycott anthropologists at this year’s meeting. I had hoped that scholars who had signed the anti-boycott petition and were more advanced in their careers and more entangled with research in this area would bring to the table a better explanation than I could. I also felt that if the boycott came to pass, that I would not fight it as it is better than no action at all and likely would not have devastating effects (either positive or negative).
Dear members of the McGill community,
The General Assembly of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) recently passed a motion to support the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign against Israel. That decision has been defeated in a subsequent online ratification process.
The University as an institution has not commented publicly until now out of respect for the student governance process. Students respect our governance processes; we do not interfere with theirs, or their right to put such motions within the context of their affairs.
“Against Selective Demonization”
The current Israeli government does things that many of us deplore. But are their policies really so atrocious, so beyond the pale of acceptable behavior of nation-states, that they call for a unique symbolic statement that abrogates personal fairness and academic freedom? It helps to put the Israel-Palestine conflict in global and historical perspective—something that anthropologists, of all people, might be expected to do. The Center for Systemic Peace tries to quantify the human cost of armed conflict. Their data show that for all the world’s obsession with the Israel-Palestine conflict, it has been responsible for a small proportion of the total human cost of war: approximately 22,000 deaths over six decades, coming in at 96th place among the armed conflicts, and at 14th place among ongoing conflicts. That does not mean that the violence is acceptable, but it does raise questions about invidious demonization. Why no boycotts against academics from China, India, Russia, or Pakistan, to take a few examples, which have also been embroiled in occupations and violent conflicts, and which, unlike Israel, face no existential threat or enemies with genocidal statements in their charters? In a world of repressive governments and ongoing conflicts, isn’t there something unsavory about singling the citizens of one of these countries for unique vilification and punishment?
-Steven Pinker, Harvard University
“Boycott Thoughts: Moral Scales”
I have asked several of my senior colleagues what are the moral grounds or the moral scale that has led them to support a boycott of Israeli Universities? Is Israeli worse than Syria? Or Egypt? Or Burundi? Or Russia? Or Iran? And the list goes on and on. I have NEVER received a reasoned answer to this question. A distinguished colleague just shrugged and said “why not?” She has not signed the boycott list because she wants to continue working in Israeli in order to reveal and denounce what she considers to be nefarious practices there.
“How BDS Risks Going over to the Dark Side; or, Why I am Ashamed of My Association”
I get the logic of economic boycotts for political reasons. In high school, I stopped buying grapes to support Cesar Chavez’ protest of the slave-like working conditions of Mexican farm workers in grape vineyards. I also stopped buying Saran Wrap, to protest Dow Chemical’s manufacture of napalm for killing civilians in Vietnam. When I became engaged, I informed my fiancé that I was disinterested in a diamond ring, to avoid supporting the apartheid regime that produced much of the world’s diamonds.
“BDS and the Rise of Post-Factual Anthropology”
Four anthropology professors stood at the entrance of the ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver last November, where members of the American Anthropological Association would soon vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions, organized by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement (BDS).
Each professor held up one of a series of enlarged maps that purported to show a visual history of the shrinking Palestinian lands since the beginning of the British Mandate in 1918. The maps, however, had erased a key historical fact, namely that in 1922 the British administratively severed 75 percent of Mandatory Palestine and ultimately transformed it into the country of Jordan, whose population, by the most conservative estimates, is at least fifty percent Palestinian. Indeed, Jordan is the only country in the world that has a Palestinian queen. That part of “shrinking Palestine” was missing from the maps.
“If you’re an activist it’s second nature to ask what are the consequences of my choices, not I’ll do it because it makes me feels good,” US academic Noam Chomsky tells Mehdi Hasan in this web extra. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) pro-Palestinian movement has called for the boycott not only of Israeli-made goods, but also of cultural and educational products and institutions.
While Chomsky supports BDS campaigns “aimed at the occupied territories”, he says he is opposed to those “actions against Israel itself”. “Just as I do not suggest boycotting Harvard University and my own university, even though the United States is involved in horrific acts. […] You might as well boycott the United States,” the academic adds.
Eugene Kontorovich for the Washington Post on how “Academic Israel boycotts can violate corporate law” News
Winter is the season of many academic association annual meetings — and with them, a predictable wave of proposals for these groups to boycott Israel. I have an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, co-authored with “Deal Professor” Steven Davidoff Solomon, explaining how boycotts by scholarly associations can violate corporate law, allowing members to sue to enjoin the measures.
Academic association boycott actions may be invalid under the ultra vires doctrine of corporate law. That rule limits a corporation from acting beyond its chartered purposes. In the modern era, ultra vires has little relevance for regular “all lawful purpose” for-profit companies. However, it still matters for non-profits, which often specifically limit their activities and goals in their constitution. Such constitutional limitations are binding, and corporate actions that go beyond the express constitutional powers and purposes can be enjoined.
A Reaction to the Report of the Task Force to the Executive Committee
“As AAA President Monica Heller has noted elsewhere, the Executive Board’s view is that the debate over Israel/Palestine is historically important and anthropologically relevant. The association is well placed to offer AAA members a chance to gain an anthropologically informed perspective on the region and on the broader questions it raises, and to participate in productive conversations about them.” (Introduction p.1)
As a recipient of the American Anthropological Association’s “Anthropology in Media” Award, I am dismayed by the AAA’s recent decision to boycott Israel’s academics and their institutions. This was approved by those present at a November business meeting (about a tenth of the members) and will be put to the whole membership in the coming months. It was based on a deeply flawed “task force” report on the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The report was a skewed sample of interviews and distorted interpretations of widely available data. For example, it notes that “although there had been marked improvement in Palestine as a whole between 1990 and 2013 – mortality rates for children under age 5 years were four to five times higher than in Israel.” One has to study the accompanying graph to see that the decline in Palestinian under-5 mortality was much steeper than that in Israel, so that the absolute difference between the two was approximately halved during that period.
“In Defense of the No Action Option: Institutional Neutrality, Speaking for Oneself, and the Hazards of Corporate Political Opinions”
A talk prepared for the panel on “A House Divided: Politics, Professional Mobilization, and Academic Freedom in American Anthropology,” November 20, 2015 American Anthropological Association Meetings, Denver, Colorado.
This is the full extent of the reasoning about the No action option as it appears in the report of the Task Force on AAA Engagement on Israel-Palestine (TFIP): “The gravity of the situation in Israel/Palestine and the widespread concern over this situation among AAA members is such that the Task Force recommends unanimously against inaction.” I am moved to critically respond to that recommendation. Why? Because I see wisdom and courage in the no action option; and real value too, not the least of which is the preservation of the value of academic freedom in our own academic institutions, including the American Anthropological Association.
“We urge UC Berkeley’s anthropologists to campaign against this resolution and to resist the idea of an academic boycott. We have two main reasons for this call: (1) the double standard implicit in the resolution; and (2) the impact of such boycotts on the purposes and credibility of academia.
First, the double standard: We find such an institutional initiative against Israel disturbing, when extensive slaughters are taking place elsewhere in the Middle East, causing deaths and casualties literally thousands of times greater than the casualties among Palestinians at the hands of Israelis. Surely, all Muslim lives matter.
“A recent decision by the American Studies Association, ASA, to impose an academic boycott on Israel is a regrettable step that subverts academic freedom. Any limit on the open exchange of knowledge and ideas stands in direct opposition to the scholarly values and goals we uphold as an institution. UC Berkeley fully supports the position taken by the Association of American Universities, AAU, against this academic boycott.”
-Berkeley News, “Chancellor opposes academic boycott of Israel”
Horrifically sad, and terribly ironic. The day after the American Anthropological Association votes down a boycott of Israeli Universities, one of the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is a prominent Israeli anthropologist. Our th...
"As if to confirm the allegations of those who claim that the American Anthropological Association leadership is biased against Israel, the AAA has indicated that, despite the boycott, it will proceed with an anti-Israeli statement and further sim...
"David Rosen, Professor of Anthropology and Law at Fairleigh Dickinson University, co-founder of ADIP and a member of its steering committee, said, ”We are profoundly grateful to those who worked so hard to defeat this resolution and to those wh...
"Members of the American Anthropological Association have narrowly voted to reject a resolution calling on the group to boycott Israeli academic institutions. A total of 2,423 AAA members voted to oppose the boycott measure, while 2,384 supported...
BDS MOTION DEFEATED! Thanks to all supporters for your participation in this historic vote! It was defeated by only 39 votes, so indeed all your votes counted. Read more: http://tinyurl.com/zm59zp2
"I have been watching this development since the AAA meetings in November. I voted without the slightest hesitation against the boycott. I was first astonished and angered by the BDS statement and even wrote a nasty letter which I did not send. Th...
"We need to support critiques of terrible policies both within and without Israel and within the United States not to polarize the crucial public sphere of intellectual discourse." -Ida Susser, Hunter College and Grad Center/ CUNY
"Free academic exchange is the basis of an ever-improving understanding of human nature. As a member of AAA, I don't want to see us start down this slippery slope of exclusionary practices -- especially us, a discipline committed to breaking down ...
"The proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions is an affront against academic freedom, thus wrong on grounds of principle. It is also an ineffective means of creating change or improving human rights conditions in the occupied Palestinian ...
"It's especially troubling to me that members of AAA would see fit to advance a political agenda against members of the anthropological community. It not only seems in violation of fundamental academic values, but also an unproductive course of ac...
"I oppose the boycott for various reasons. Ultimately, I believe that the boycott will inevitably increase the share of violence and hatred in the region rather than reduce or heal it. In that sense I think that the boycott is destructive, not pro...
Great essay by againstanthro boycott's own Prof. David Rosen.
"The Anthropology Association's proposed boycott will restrict academic freedom and exchange, endorsing discrimination on the grounds of ethnic and national identity, and breed distrust and hostility within the association." -Alana Cooper, Case W...
"As individuals anthropologists who wish to voice personal political opinions, it is their right to do so. I do however question the ethics of punishing students and scientists because of political positions by their nation of origin. This seems p...
"I’ve long considered Israeli treatment of Palestinians to be deplorable at all levels, from land-grabbing to de-legitimization and constraints on their institutions. Boycott, divestment and sanctions directed at the Israeli state is an apt poli...
"Boycotting Israeli universities does not promote peace and tolerance, it is an attack on academic freedom, and creates new antagonisms against the most liberal sectors of Israel. This will make a two-state solution less likely. As the peace proce...
"While anthropologists can take political positions, the Anthropological Association as a professional body of social analysts is dedicated to the analysis of conflict, not to taking sides. Anthropologists should support open inquiry, not shut it ...
"As an Israeli academic, I reject the Boycott movement in spite of my opposition to the current policy of the government, since I do not believe that it will move policy into a more constructive direction, and will isolate the sane professionals w...
"Although I abhor Israel's persecution of Palestinians and its butchery in Gaza, I object to the resolution to boycott Israel for three reasons: 1) It punishes the very colleagues whose critical vision must be part of the solution, 2) it enters th...
Dylan defied BDS critics by playing in Israel...
"...in debates over the boycott elsewhere (I draw especially on the MLA discussions) one typically encounters a mendacity on the part of boycott proponents who claim that boycott adoption would have minimal or even no impact on scholarship and wou...
The BDS AAA Resolution We Want to Defeat
This resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions was endorsed by a vote of 1040-136 at the American Anthropological Association business meeting on November 20, 2015. It will now be forwarded to the entire membership of the AAA for a final vote via electronic ballot in spring 2016.
The resolution was submitted by Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Fida J. Adely, Talal Asad, Amahl Bishara, Brian Boyd, Karen Brodkin, Steven C. Caton, Lara Deeb, Donald L. Donham, Ilana Feldman, Les W. Field, Sondra Hale, Thomas Blom Hansen, Engseng Ho, Rhoda Kanaaneh, Ahmed Kanna, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Nadine Naber, Julie Peteet, Jemima Pierre, David Price, Junaid Rana, Lisa Rofel, Daniel A. Segal, Ajantha Subramanian, Michael Taussig, and Jessica Winegar.
AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (AAA) RESOLUTION TO BOYCOTT ISRAELI ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS
Whereas for decades, despite condemnation by the United Nations and other international bodies, the Israeli state has denied Palestinians — including scholars and students — their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, discrimination, and military occupation; and
Whereas the United States plays a decisive role in enabling Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinians’ basic rights under international law, and U.S. academic institutions facilitate Israeli academic institutions’ complicity by continuing to maintain close, extensive and privileged ties with them; and whereas the AAA is a leading U.S.-based academic association; and
Whereas anthropological frameworks and methods, ethnographic and archaeological, are actively used by the Israeli state to further occupation and colonization; and whereas the AAA has committed in its Statement of Purpose to “Take action on behalf of the entire profession” and “Promote the… constant improvement of professional standards in anthropology;” and
Whereas the AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states, “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation;” and whereas the AAA has historically upheld those rights, including the right to education and academic freedom, for peoples around the world; and
Whereas Israel has obstructed Palestinians’ right to education by destroying Palestinian universities and schools in military strikes; periodically raiding and forcing those institutions to close; preventing Palestinian anthropologists from freely studying their own society; preventing Palestinian archaeologists from accessing, studying, stewarding, or protecting their own cultural heritage; and restricting Palestinians’ movement which limits their ability to attend and work at universities, travel to conferences, and study abroad; and
Whereas the Israeli state and universities systematically deny Palestinian students in Israeli educational institutions rights and resources equal to their Jewish Israeli counterparts; and
Whereas Israeli scholars and students who criticize Israeli state policies and who support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions do so under threat of sanction; and
Whereas Israel routinely harasses and imposes severe restrictions on foreign academics seeking to attend conferences or conduct research in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as on scholars of Palestinian origin who wish to travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories; and
Whereas Israeli academic institutions have been directly and indirectly complicit in the Israeli state’s systematic maintenance of the occupation and denial of basic rights to Palestinians, by providing planning, policy, and technological expertise for furthering Palestinian dispossession; and
Whereas the vast majority of Palestinian civil society organizations, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors, have called for an international boycott of Israeli academic institutions as part of the broader boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement; now therefore
Be it resolved that the AAA as an Association endorses and will honor this call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli academic institutions until such time as these institutions end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law; and
Be it further resolved that the AAA leadership, in accord with the governance procedures of the Association’s bylaws, is charged with implementing this boycott and determining how to do so with reference to both (a) the Association’s own mission, and (b) the attached appendix; and
Be it further resolved that this boycott pertains to Israeli academic institutions only and not to individual scholars, and also that individual anthropologists are free to determine whether and how they will apply the boycott in their own professional practice; and
Be it further resolved that in implementing this boycott, the AAA will support the rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel/Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
APPENDIX TO AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION TO BOYCOTT ISRAELI ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS
Background for the Resolution
For decades, Israel’s colonization of Palestine and the accompanying widespread and systematic abuses it has committed have been a matter of public record, extensively documented by the United Nations and leading human rights organizations. These have included violations of academic freedom and the right to education. Israeli academic institutions are party to these abuses.
An academic boycott has an important role to play in pressuring Israel to end these abuses. Israel stands apart from other states that routinely engage in mass human rights abuses due to the level of support it receives from the United States. At the governmental level, Israel is the leading recipient — in absolute and per capita terms — of official U.S. aid, much of which goes to purchase weapons used to oppress, maim, and kill Palestinians. More than with any other country, the U.S. regularly thwarts any concerted action at the United Nations to curb Israel’s abuses, in the face of near-universal condemnation by the international community. Furthermore, Israel enjoys extensive ties with academic and cultural institutions in the U.S. As a result, Israel depends on the U.S. not only for diplomatic and military aid, but also for its sense of legitimacy in the face of international condemnation.
The academic boycott is an act of protest against Israel’s violations and an act of solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues. It is also a rejection of the support that the U.S. government provides Israel, enabling it to act with impunity. Israel’s dependence on the U.S. makes it vulnerable to popular pressure, such as boycotts, from U.S. organizations. Boycott functions by making complicity with the status quo burdensome for Israeli academic institutions. It provides a concrete and proven way that scholars can participate in amplifying that pressure. The academic boycott has also already prompted conversation and learning among many in the United States, Israel/Palestine, and elsewhere. The extraordinary efforts of the Israeli state and organizations opposed to criticism of Israel to counteract the boycott are signs that it is effective.
As a discipline with origins inextricably tied to the history of colonialism, anthropologists are well-placed to recognize and speak out against colonial practices, especially when they are supported by our government and within our society. The AAA has taken strong stances against such violations of rights in the past, via resolutions as well as boycotts. Boycotts have been effective in similar struggles for liberation and justice, including in apartheid South Africa. This boycott is called for by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including all Palestinian universities. Several other U.S.-based academic associations have endorsed the boycott, including the American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association of Asian American Studies, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and the Association for Humanist Sociology. All of these associations remain perfectly healthy – financially, legally, and in terms of membership numbers – after doing so. The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies passed a boycott resolution at their April 2015 conference, and discussion of the boycott continues at the National Women’s Studies Association, the Modern Languages Association, and elsewhere.
Implementation of the Boycott
This resolution calls for the AAA — as an Association — to implement an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. If the boycott is adopted, the AAA will refrain from any formal collaborations or other relationships with Israeli academic institutions, including the Israeli Anthropological Association. There are no such relationships at this time, so adopting the boycott would formalize the current status quo in this regard.
The resolution applies to academic institutions only. Israeli scholars will still be welcome to participate in AAA meetings, use funds from their institutions to attend the meetings, publish in AAA journals, and take part in other AAA activities in their individual capacities. The boycott does not preclude communication and collaboration with individual Israeli scholars. Indeed, one of its goals is to encourage dialogue about human and academic rights in Israel/Palestine grounded in a set of shared principles of justice.
This resolution does not impose any requirements on AAA members acting in their individual capacities. Under this resolution, individual members will remain free to make their own decisions about whether or not to support the boycott in their own professional practice, such as whether to accept Israeli grants, attend conferences in Israel, or publish in Israeli journals.
The boycott would affect Israeli institutions in the following ways: those institutions would not be able to be listed in AnthroGuide, advertise in AAA venues, or participate in the AAA Departmental Services Program (DSP), the Career Center, or the Graduate School Fair. In addition, the boycott precludes granting permission to copy and reprint articles from AAA publications to journals and publications based at Israeli institutions.
The boycott may also preclude the AAA from selling Anthrosource access to Israeli institutions. However, individual AAA members from Israel would still have access to Anthrosource through their personal membership. Permanent residents of Israel qualify for AAA membership at the rate for “Less Developed Countries,” which is $US 30 per year. This is the same rate that applies to Palestinians in Israel/Palestine as well as in the broader Middle East/North Africa region.
We anticipate that endorsing the boycott will have minimal financial ramifications for the AAA. Currently, there are no Israeli institutional members of the DSP, so there will be no financial losses in that regard. Other academic associations that have adopted the boycott have seen their membership numbers increase and none of those associations have sustained significant legal costs. If the boycott is adopted, the AAA leadership would be entrusted to determine how best to proceed in order to ensure its implementation to the greatest extent possible while maintaining the financial viability of the Association.