Large majority votes for MLA resolution condemning Israeli restrictions on academics

An overwhelming majority of members of the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted in favor of a resolution condemning Israel’s restrictions on the movements and entry of Palestinian academics. But due to the academic association’s rules, it was not enough to ratify the resolution.

According to official results, 1,560 voted in favor of ratification and 1,063 voted against. But a recent amendment to the MLA constitution requires that 10 percent of all members vote in favor of a resolution, which meant the resolution fell short by 830 votes.

The resolution criticizes the fact that Israel has “has denied academics of Palestinian ethnicity entry into the West Bank” and “restricted the academic freedom of scholars and teachers who are United States citizens.”

It calls on the State Department “to contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

MLA is a major academic association with members in 100 countries. It has been seen by supporters and opponents of Palestinian rights as the next major battleground following last year’s vote by the smaller American Studies Association in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.

The resolution criticizing Israel sparked an intense debate within MLA, as Alex Kane reported for Mondoweiss.

“This will, of course be spun by opponents of the resolution as a defeat for the cause of Palestinian solidarity,” University of California, Riverside professor of English David C. Lloyd wrote in an email to The Electronic Intifada.

“But the fact remains that of those who voted, a large majority supported the resolution. If further comment needs to be made, it is about the apparent apathy of American scholars rather than about the merits of this quite modest and far from radical resolution.”

Still, Lloyd says that it was “unexpected and remarkable” that 60 percent supported the resolution, in spite of fierce opposition. “What it strongly suggests is that on the battleground of ideas, Israel and its supporters are continuing to lose ground.”