AAA President Waterston’s call to engagement on Israel/Palestine!

15 thoughts on “AAA President Waterston’s call to engagement on Israel/Palestine!”

  1. Twenty-two (22) anonymous people have become famous among members of the AAA in recent days. In an email that that has been widely disseminated, they have also become an authoritative source of information about what anthropology in Israel is like. Is this the way anthropologists are expected to pursue the goals of “Advancing knowledge; Solving human problems?” Is cutting off contact with other academics going to help anyone? Here is another suggestion for learning something about Israeli anthropology. Go to the most recent online issue of the American Anthropologists (Vol. 118, no.1). There (pp. 142-158), nine Israeli anthropologists respond to general questions posed by “World Anthropology” editor, Virginia Dominguez. Try it! Your knowledge may advance.

  2. I have been giving this issue a lot of thought. I am a practicing anthropologist with links to academia, and have also done some work independently in the NGO sector within Israel. I think the boycott would be very harmful in that it isolates some of Israel’s most progressive citizens. It also creates further roadblocks for numerous initiatives undertaken by Jews, Palestinians and other Arabs. Even if the resolution does not call for blocking grass-roots initiatives or individual academics, it does further a context in which such engagement is seen as collusion. But, there is an underlying issue: most progressives agree that the Occupation is wrong, but there is a level of hypocrisy for those of us in privileged US institutions to call for a boycott. Why boycott those caught in the midst of this situation and who may actually be critiquing it, if not seeking to change it outright? Anthropologists have so much to offer in terms of deeply understanding the responses to oppression by multiple actors by taking a creative approach to engagement based on solid tools of social analysis, and real participation with peoples who have suffered too much already.

  3. Dear Sirs, in my opinion AAA must remain impartial! AAA, I think, is not a political association , nor a party! In Israel there is a war , a terrible war! Dozens of rockets against Israeli civilians depart daily from hospitals , schools in violation of international humanitarian law! I’m sorry for Palestinian academics but Israel is the ONLY democratic state in the Middle East! I am opposed to any resolution to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.

  4. Suad Joseph
    Anthropologists have, in the aftermath of decades of reflecting on our discipline’s complicity with colonialism, held a general consensus that their research should do no harm to the peoples with whom they work. That is a rather minimalist responsibility. A greater responsibility is to ensure, in some measure, that the research we carry out offers a social good; that it is not merely extractive, serving the researcher or the researcher’s institution or country. Those of us who have committed to study with the peoples of the Middle East can recognize the vast need for social good in the region. At times the words we write, our main instrument for intervention in the world, appear vacant, empty in the face of the of those urgent and often sadly life/death needs. When words move us towards social justice, their power becomes material, enduring. The boycott resolution before the AAA offers words which, in some sense have no power, as no individual member of the AAA is compelled to or prevented from any action if this resolution passes. And no individual member of Israeli institutions is compelled to or prevented from any action if this resolution passes. Yet the resolution is a move towards social justice. That is its value. It harms no individuals, yet moves towards a powerful material transformation which will endure — social justice for a people under occupation.

  5. I commend the AAA for taking the courageous step of creating a space for an honest debate about this supremely important issue, and I am especially proud to be a member of an academic association that not only takes seriously in rhetoric issues of colonialism, racism, and appalling human rights violations, but takes these seriously in action. I plan on enthusiastically continuing my membership in the AAA in the future. Some of our colleagues have claimed that the AAA did not allow sufficient debate of the issue and did not present members with alternatives to a boycott. I was at the business meeting of the 2015 annual conference in Denver. The meeting exceeded two hours, and both sides were given equal opportunity to present their points of view. It was not the pro-boycott colleagues who engaged in unseemly attempts to undermine the atmosphere and space for open debate, but rather the anti-boycott side, one of whose members stormed off after a highly emotional outburst, another attempting a sort of filibuster, packed with non sequiturs, in a transparent attempt to run out the clock and prevent a vote. Moreover, there were numerous panels on Palestine – Israel, the anthropology thereof, the boycott, etc. at the 2015 meeting. I would assume that those who suggest that there was insufficient time or opportunity to inform themselves or debate the issue attended these and feel that more should have been done? If so, they had plenty of time to plan ahead. At the 2014 annual conference, there were also several panels related to the boycott, a AAA-sponsored discussion of the issue, and a business meeting at which the AAA members voted overwhelmingly to defeat an anti-boycott resolution. The anti-boycott partisans apparently either seem not to have seen the 2015 vote coming and did not sufficiently prepare their case, or they did and yet still failed to persuade their colleagues. Either way, the claims that there was a lack of democratic process to the 2015 vote and that members were insufficiently informed of alternatives are empty.

  6. Yehuda Goodman
    LET ME EXPLAIN WHY SUPPORTING A BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS IS THE WRONG CHOICE FOR AAA MEMBERS.
    UNIVERSITIES IN ISRAEL ARE NOT “COMPLICIT” WITH THE OCCUPATION. The pro-boycott resolution states that Israeli academic institutions are directly and indirectly complicit with the occupation. Such accusations represent simplistic, legalistic and demonizing practices (and opportunistic politics) rather than a fair description and a critical analysis. To begin with, mentioning some minor issues – that will be resolved in negotiation and hopefully, I say, withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders – does not make them “complicit.” (And, referring to Tel Aviv University in this context is elusive, for it relates to the 1948 borders. Is it the case that the pro-boycotters – like the BDS – actually aim at annihilating Israel completely, not just opposing the Occupation??). Further, I would like to underscore that it is not even clear what being “complicit” means. Universities in Israel have quite similar relationships with their country’s defense industry as do universities in the United States. And, the intellectual work Israeli universities provide to the military is negligible, certainly in regard to the Occupation of Palestinian lands. Acknowledging that some faculty receive funds from the military does not mean that the university is an “accomplice” to the Occupation. Indeed, even the AAA TFIP (Task Force on Israel/Palestine) report determined that Israeli academic institutions (and certainly anthropologists working in Israel) cannot be accused of supporting or “being complicit” with the Occupation. In any case, anthropologists who are the main target of the boycott do not work for the Israeli military. No less important the crude equation that the boycotters make erases the complex processes of open discussion and debate that occur throughout university life in Israel. Israeli academic institutions serve as important sites from which strong and nuanced criticism of the Israeli government emerges, and from which peace initiatives have been worked out throughout the years. In effect, it seems that the boycott supporters’ aim is to try put pressure on Israeli government by holding innocent Israeli scholars (anthropologists in particular) as hostages.

    DISCONNECTIONS BETWEEN CRITICISING ISRAEL AND BOYCOTTING ACADEMICIANS. The boycotters explain they support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions by pointing to Israeli ongoing horrible occupation of Palestinian lands. However, they fail to justify the boycott itself. The evil of the Occupation won’t be fixed by a new evil, ¬and by misusing the power of the AAA. I wonder whether this deep irony escapes the boycotters, calling so passionately to punish some AAA members – who actually share their own political views but happen to reside in Israel. This problematic is clearly manifested in the pro-boycott resolution. Again, criticizing Israel and punishing fellow Israeli anthropologists are totally different matters. Furthermore, the resolution provide no clear conditions under which their boycott would end. As the AAA TFIP report makes plain, the AAA lacks any mechanism to determine whether these vague conditions will have been met. The pro-boycott resolution in effect proposes an endless boycott. A boycott that has no endpoint becomes a punitive practice with no possible constructive outcomes; it works to scapegoat its targets, rather than promote achievable goals.

    ACADEMIC BOYCOTT REJECTS ANTHROPOLOGICAL AND ACADEMIC VALUES. Whatever the intervention to be taken by the AAA, it should reflect anthropological values, not blunt politics. The resolution calling to boycott Israeli academic institutions is just that, blunt politics. Time and again I note that the boycotters so often use post-colonial rhetoric instead of a constructive discourse of engagement with the complexity, contradictions, and nuances that are the hallmark of our discipline. Anthropological interventions should characterize our professional stance, I believe, not the politics of “anti-normalization,” as endorsed by the boycott resolution. Anthropological methods of inquiry – including dialogue based on long term relationships aimed at building trust – are the most effective strategies for promoting progress in Israel/Palestine and the region. I think that the TFIP report failed to meet these standards (I share much of its criticism of Israeli government, but, to be honest, it is a one-sided report, written hastily by non-experts, and is vague enough in relation to the main question of whether academics in Israel are “boycottable”). Indeed, I am part of a group of anthropologists called ADIP Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel/Palestine (https://anthrodialogue.wordpress.com/about/) who deeply sympathize with the urge “to finally do something” about the devastating, enduring conflict in Israel/Palestine, but we also believe that an academic boycott is the wrong choice. In the face of despair – and failure of previous dialogues – we shouldn’t abandon the only constructive roads to end the occupation. The AAA must not engage in blunt, punitive acts of boycotting Israeli academic institutions and fellow colleagues. A boycott is divisive and discriminatory and won’t advance peace. Let me add: Reading blogs and arguments by the boycotters I keep wondering what happened to their anthropology. How come they ignore or quickly dismiss the implications of a boycott? Isn’t it clear that silencing anthropological teaching, research and dialogue in Israel simply runs against the grain of academic freedom and the basic principles of anthropology? Again, I don’t find convincing at all to quote some famous anthropologists who support the boycott. Using such authoritarian rhetoric cannot change the basic moral problem with an academic boycott. This boycott won’t make any difference to the Israeli government, which will forget about it promptly. It will, however, severely damage the basic rights of all academics to teach and carry out research in Israel/Palestine. Paradoxically, while presumably defending Palestinian academic freedom, the boycott resolution has become a blunt instrument of retaliation and punishment against anthropology itself and anthropologists working in Israel/Palestine in particular. Note for example the issue of access to academic knowledge, mentioned in kind of casual way within the resolution: The boycotters ask the AAA to deny Israeli libraries access to anthropological journals (!). I assume, and do hope, that the AAA executive would not allow this to happen. But think about the actual request by the boycotters: By impeding anthropological knowledge and learning, the boycott resolution stymies the kinds of open-minded, innovative thinking that lies at the core of anthropology. If allowed, it will damage research and teaching of anthropology in Israel/Palestine, while having no positive effects on the rights and equality of Palestinians – scholars or laypersons. This is, once again, a direct attack on academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, and on anthropology itself.

    THE BOYCOTT HARMS INDIVIDUALS, NOT INSTITUTIONS. A central point in the boycott resolution is referring to the boycott as a political protest and as a political measure that is purely aimed at institutions. However, anthropologists should always be reminded about the problematics of such “pure” distinctions, and deep gaps between explicit statements and actual outcomes. The boycott will clearly harm, and already is harming, individual anthropologists. Such a boycott is unethical and violates the principles of scholarly endeavor, given the impact it would have on the production of scholarship and the careers of individual faculty members, graduate students, and others. Just to illustrate, should the boycotters succeed, the only way to access anthropological journals in Israel will be individuals paying AAA membership fees. Moreover, the boycotters discourage global scholars from visiting Israeli academic institutions. Both these actions would hit hardest at the students and scholars who cannot travel abroad to AAA and other meetings, and do not have the funds to pay AAA membership fees. Moreover, let’s look again at the actual outcome, not merely at the legalistic formulations used by the boycotters. As noted in the TFIP report (indeed one needs to read it in full, not just the last pages…), the boycott debate has already had negative impacts on collegial relationships within anthropology departments and the AAA itself. Experiences of intimidation have been expressed on both sides. Whereas in Israel there has been some pressure on scholars not to encourage a boycott, in the US and Europe it is the boycotters who have been intimidating their “Others,” including pressures put on graduate students and faculty members to “take sides.” Many fear recriminations if they do not take the “right” side. A boycott will deepen these abusive tendencies and spur practices of ostracism, intellectual litmus testing of individual scholars’ acceptability, and even black lists. I, with the ADIP group keep wondering what kind of an academic institution the boycotters want the AAA to become? Again, the boycott resolution asks AAA members to support not a critique of the Israeli government but a direct attack on the teaching of anthropology and research in Israel/Palestine. It seeks, in effect, to punish innocent Israeli anthropologists.
    ¬
    Let me conclude by saying that ADIP unequivocally oppose the Occupation and clearly object to Israeli government policies. At the same time, and here comes our deep disagreement with the boycotters, anthropologists should strive to be engaged, and do so in constructive ways. The AAA should try promote research, open dialogue, and peaceful change in Israel/Palestine. The boycotters present a deeply distorted trivialization of engagement and of dialogue. The AAA should consider a significant financial support for Palestinian anthropology, fellowships, and research on the conflict, as well as other substantial work that involves deeper engagement in the complexity of the conflict, rather than a boycott. We should consider the establishment within the AAA of a fund, valued at 1% of the Association’s annual expenditure, to promote and enhance scholarly endeavors in conflict areas, with an initial emphasis on Palestine and Israel. In fact, this would follow the TFIP report, which the boycotters seem to have read so selectively. Here are some better alternatives to the punitive boycott that AAA should adopt: Clear criticism of the Israeli government policies and of its continued Occupation of Palestinian lands; Calling on the US government to put pressure on Israel to advance Palestinian rights; calling upon Israel to enhance the freedom of speech and movement for Palestinians, and to stop persecutory policies toward Palestinian universities; And, supporting teaching resources and research in the region for AAA members by providing Palestinian libraries access to anthropological journals at no cost, and offering funds for teaching at Palestinian universities and to Palestinian anthropologists.
    I thus urge AAA members to VOTE NO on the BOYCOTT RESOLUTION.
    ANTROPOLOGISTS SHOULD RESIST THE CALL FOR ACADEMIC BOYCOTT AND REJECT OSTRACISING FELLOW ANTHROPOLOGISTS. WE SHOULD SEEK CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS TO END THE OCCUPATION AND SUPPORT DIALOGUE.

  7. I am grateful to be an anthropologist responding to a direct call by oppressed people to boycott institutions. At the discussion in Denver, so many individuals voiced their willingness to embrace their own academic freedom as individual intellectuals by rejecting unconditional allegiance to institutions, when those institutions are complicit in military occupation or structures of apartheid.

    We all know better than to claim academic institutions are pure and separate from their military and political contexts, and we all know better than to claim that institutions are ever as well meaning as their scholars, the bravest of which often protest and resist those same institutions on many matters, from contracts with corporations like Lockheed Martin or the use of prison labor to clean campus grounds.

    We also know better than to claim that a loss of our own comforts and opportunities are the same as being systematically oppressed: this is not really about Israeli or American scholars, or what they may gain or lose. This is about Palestinian academic freedom, about the right of a people to attend kindergarten, high school, college, and even graduate school without being harassed, silenced, threatened, killed, or otherwise estranged from their rights as human beings. Palestinian civil society is asking that we respond to their systematic exclusion from academic discourse –and from their land, human rights, and basic safety– with a boycott of institutions. They are not asking us to sacrifice much, to go to prison or suffer financially. There may indeed be inconveniences when it comes to formal institutional partnerships, but it is important that we maintain the ability to distinguish between the inconveniences of an elite and the suffering of the oppressed.

    While I do understand how uncomfortable it can be to make moves toward equality for those of us who have enjoyed undue supremacy, I also know that the liberation of one people is the liberation of all people. An academic boycott of institutions– not individuals– is a form of speech. We cannot overlook the silencing of Israeli academics who favor BDS: it is illegal to express this type of dissent in Israel. On some campuses, Israeli scholars are asked to sign documents promising not to express this form of dissent. For these Israeli colleagues, a boycott of such institutions and such practices, will be liberating as well.

    From campuses in Palestine, to campuses across Europe, the US and Israel, we all say “No” to unconditional allegiances with institutions, and “No” to apartheid. An academic boycott of Israeli institutions is about joining the very brave academics –Israeli, American, Palestinian– who are willing to voice dissent.

    Scholars all over the world are answering the call for a boycott, the duration of which is up to Israel’s future policies and actions toward the Palestinian people. I am joined by a chorus of people who do not want to be part of a scholarly community that stands by while communities in the global south and Europe answer the call to boycott. We do not want to be part of a scholarly community that turns a deaf ear to occupied and displaced people. While our wise and well-taught undergraduate students lead the academic boycott on our campuses, we do not want to stand behind and ignore the lessons we teach in class: to know what is right and have the courage to face it.

  8. I have decided to remain active in AAA after being inactive for quite some time after the boycott vote and I am incredibly relieved to see AAA becoming a more inclusive, inviting, and open space for perspectives that have been historically silenced in U.S. academia. It is simply not true that Israeli universities are not complicit in the occupation–extensive evidence exists on how some universities are built against international law on Palestinian land, resulting in the displacement of Palestinian people from their very homes and all Israeli universities contribute through research or other means to the Israel’s military forces that maintain the occupation–which contributes severely to obstructing Palestinian access to education. Israeli universities also participate in the repression of their own faculty’s diverse perspectives, especially when it comes to faculty who teach or research multiple or critical perspectives on Israeli history and politics. It is not so complicated that supporting the boycott means supporting all people’s access to education, freedom of expression, and to live free of illegal occupation. Its also simply not true that the AAA is boycotting individual anthropologists. The boycott is against institutions, not individuals–like the boycott against South African apartheid and most other boycotts. Finally, as far as “singling out Israel” and why not take seriously the crimes of other regimes, including U.S. complicity in many harmful policies–anthropologists should and do stand against all kinds of situations of intensive state violence–and it is especially our responsibility to stand against regimes like Israel that the U.S. enables. The U.S.’ singling out of Israel is precisely why we have a responsibility to boycott just as proponents of the boycott are indeed actively involved in working against the injustices of U.S.-led empire and war in many parts of the world. I am sure that if the people of Iraq or Afghanistan asked us to boycott the forces repressing them, as did the majority of Palestinian civil society, we would be discussing that boycott as well. I’m not surprised by the reactions though, as boycotts are meant to create discomfort–especially when all other strategies from diplomacy to dialogue have failed–this is what boycotts do and what working towards social justice for oppressed people often looks like.

  9. There are many disturbing things about the BDS resolution, but I will just mention three here. Discussion was curtailed rather quickly at the business meeting in Denver and it was thus not possible for us to dissect all the issues and have a full discussion of the implications of the resolution.
    First, the proponents of the resolution presented an academic boycott as the only legitimate way to oppose the occupation and the dreadful abuses the Israeli state perpetrates on the human rights of Palestinians and Arab Israelis. A vote against the resolution was thus characterized as a de facto vote for the continuation of the status quo in Israel-Palestine. This stance amounted to a kind of character assassination on BDS opponents, even though it is clear that virtually everyone who opposes the boycott is also sincerely committed to changing Israeli policy.
    Second, the boycott is not specifically directed at the institutions that can change the situation. Israeli anthropologists, their departments and universities are neither the architects of the reprehensible policies of the Israeli government nor are they in a position to effect the changes we all agree are needed. Thus, the resolution does not even hint at a strategy that might be effective, i.e., one that will hurt the Israeli government and economy enough to encourage change. For example, an economic boycott of Israeli products and divestment of Israeli financial assets might constitute such a step. Perhaps more important would be a concerted effort to convince the US government to stop its support for the Israeli government, and implicitly, its policies. American taxpayers are the ones who are footing the bill for the occupation and the process of undoing it needs to start here.
    Third, and perhaps most worrisome, the boycott is aimed at the alleged “complicity” of Israeli academia with the occupation. Many Israeli anthropologists have been in the forefront of the movement against the occupation and some have taken considerable personal risks to try to alleviate the situation of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The current resolution can only be read, at this point, as a means to censure and make pariahs of those colleagues who should be celebrated as courageous. It would curtail debate and discussion just when such interaction is most vitally needed. Within its logic, the resolution proposes that the boycott be lifted only when this “complicity” ends. But “complicity” is nowhere defined. Is it simply the consequence of Israeli citizenship or residence? How do we then reconcile our own complicity as Americans with the harmful policies of the US government? Aren’t we all complicit as our government kills non-combatants in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan? What about other harmful US policies, such as our support for Saudi Arabia, whether they affect human rights, the environment, or other areas with which we as citizens and anthropologists might be concerned? How might we disrupt such complicity and how might we determine the end of such complicity? Following this reasoning, isn’t merely living in the US a form of complicity? The identification of complicity as the foundation for an academic boycott drags us into a hopelessly circular semantic and moral exercise from which there is no logical exit. Peeling away the layers, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that the end of the boycott is intrinsically linked to the demise of the state of Israel, seemingly to be lifted once Israel no longer exists. If this the underlying agenda behind this resolution, then let us be clear about what precisely a vote for BDS means.

  10. Your recent Presidential statement endorses the Task Force Report and recommends that AAA members read it. The Report certainly should be read thoroughly, and I also believe that the previously published critiques of the TF report should also be brought to the attention of all AAA members. Several critical reviews of the Report appeared in Anthropology News, and among other points they questioned the Reports lack of balance, systematic errors, and skewed theoretical perspective. These and other substantial critiques should be made available to AAA members, and I hope that you will find appropriate ways to do so.

    The major issue before us is not the Task Force Report, but rather the BDS resolution that will soon be voted on by the AAA membership. If approved, the BDS resolution would lead to the ostracization of Israeli anthropologists from the AAA. This would certainly be an extreme act, and to my knowledge would be the first time that the AAA ostracized fellow scholars and researchers. The BDS resolution bases this course on the preposterous claim that Israeli anthropologists are “complicit” with the Israeli government’ s policies. Needless to say, were this to become an accepted AAA principle—that universities and their academic staffs are “complicit” with government policies—it is hard to imagine that any university and faculty in the US or elsewhere would escape a boycott. We hope that in your continuing AAA Blog statements you and others among the AAA leadership will respond to this false claim of “complicity”.

    1. You are understandably very concerned about the situation of Israeli anthropologists if the BDS resolution should pass. If you read the resolution carefully, individual anthropologists are not to be boycotted, but their institutions are to be boycotted precisely because those institutions have been deeply implicated in the seizure of land and militarization of the territories for years. This has been well documented, even before the TFR was released. Individual Israeli anthropologists may still be included in all kinds of AAA activities, and I hope that as many as possible will be invited to continue to engage with American anthropology.

      But your comment shows a singular lack of concern about Palestinian anthropologists, who are already “ostracized” from involvement in the AAA and other anthropological activities, due to travel restrictions, forced institutional closures, lack of funds, etc. What would you do to accommodate their needs? Dialogue? How can one have “dialogue” when the positions of power between Israelis and Palestinians are so drastically different? To vote down the BDS resolution is not to maintain a position of neutrality, but to accommodate the powerful forces of the Israeli occupation and to continue the ostracism of Palestinians.

      As you suggest, we (Americans) are complicit in this situation, given the massive financial and military support we give to Israeli. The BDS resolution is, to be honest, a fairly tepid response to a terrible situation. But it’s better than sitting back in our place of privilege and doing nothing. By joining our voices with other organizations in the BDS movement, we can have some positive affect.

  11. Please note the criticial comments already made on the AAA Task Force report:

    https://blog.americananthro.org/2015/10/05/final-report-task-force-on-aaa-engagement-on-israel-palestine/

    Besides the many problems with the TF report, its actual recommendations are far from clear. Most importantly, the report demonstrates the disconnection between criticism of Israel and boyctotting of Israeli academic instituions and individuals. Israeli Universities are not complicit with the occupation. In particuluar, boycotting Israeli anthropologists is simply not justified even according to the TF report.

    1. Dear Yehuda,
      With all due respect you have not read the BDS resolution very carefully. It does not call for a boycott of Israeli individuals but rather Israeli institutions. Further, your statement that Israeli universities are not complicit in the occupation/continued colonization of Palestinian land ignores that fact that universities like Hebrew U. has been built (in part) on land stolen from Palestinian Jerusalemites and in violation of international law. Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, has written about this in the Israeli-Hebrew press if you and others would like to read about the hideous case of Edelston dorms and their establishment on the stolen land of Palestinian refugees from Lifta and elsewhere. Further, not only is Tel Aviv U partially built on the land of a destroyed Palestinian village but this and other schools are implicated in Israel’s arms industry which enables and helps perpetuate the illegal occupation of Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian lands conquered by Israel in 1967.

  12. I have decided that I had to leave the AAA after the shameful and pointless BDS vote. The casual, stupid politicization of the organization means that it can no longer represent the inquiry into human phenomena with any credibility. When you add the growing Antisemitism of the BDS activists to this situation, it makes my engagement with the AAA impossible.

    1. Not long ago, prior to the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S., homophobes used to predict that the acceptance of homosexuality would mean the end of Western civilization and all decent Christian morality. The claim that BDS will mean the end of Israel is an analogous claim. There is no reasoned way to counter such an apocalyptic pronouncement. BDS has emerged as a hopeful and strong possibility in the face of the fact that all other avenues have failed to get the Israeli state to end its occupation of Palestinian land and its increasingly militaristic abuses of Palestinian human and civil rights. Certainly the end of the Israeli occupation will change the current nature of Israel as a colonial settler state. It will change the racist hierarchies that define Jewish Israelis’ relationship to Palestinians. Hopefully, it will turn Israel into a truly democratic society.
      Israel’s academic institutions are directly and materially involved in the occupation. Virtually all Israeli universities are involved in defense-related research with the Ministry of Defense. Ben Gurion University, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Haifa University all made explicit statements of support for the summer 2014 assault on Gaza, including providing financial benefits to soldiers. Universities have been part of the colonization of Palestinian territory: part of Hebrew University’s campus is built on confiscated Palestinian land; Ariel University, the most recently accredited Israeli university, is located in a West Bank settlement.
      Israeli universities also discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Some 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian, yet they make up only a tiny percentage of university faculty; these scholars face barriers to promotion, especially if they are known as critics of the government. Palestinian students in Israeli universities have less access than their Jewish counterparts to scholarships and campus housing, as a result of privileges offered to those who serve in the military. Their freedom of political and cultural expression is regularly curtailed. Israeli Jewish faculty members openly critical of state policies are also marginalized and threatened.
      The anti-boycott sentiments expressed in these posts continue to mis-represent the boycott and to make a slippage between individual Israeli anthropologists and Israeli academic institutions. The boycott resolution for the AAA membership to vote on spells out in detail the goal of the boycott: to get Israeli academic institutions to stop supporting the occupation and to take a public stance against the occupation. To date, not a single university in Israel has made a public statement in opposition to the occupation. The boycott resolution spells out in detail how individual Israeli academics will continue to be welcome to study, speak, teach, and be visiting scholars at U.S. universities, as well as to publish in U.S. journals and attend the AAA meetings, so long as they do not do so as official representatives of their institutions. I truly wish those who worry about Israeli academics would express equal concern for the vast majority of Palestinian academics who are prevented from these activities by the Israeli state. The boycott is precisely such a statement in support of Palestinians’ academic freedom.
      Another common anti-boycott tactic is to state that we need to oppose the entirety of U.S. domination before we can address any one situation in which the U.S. is complicit. No one ever brought up this kind of argument when the boycott of South Africa was being debated in the U.S. Nor when many of us called for opposition to the military dictatorships in Latin America that were supported by the U.S. It is precisely because of U.S. complicity, along with the AAA commitment to address abuses of human rights, that we who live in the U.S. have an obligation to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, since our government has done the opposite: supported Israeli’s increasing dispossession of Palestinians from their land.

      Lisa Rofel

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