US anthropologists back Israel boycott in landslide vote

Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution backing the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The measure passed at the association’s annual meeting in Denver on Friday by 1,040 votes in favor to 136 against.

It must now be ratified in a referendum of the association’s entire membership of 10,000 in April.

A second resolution condemning the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel was crushed 1,173 to 196.

“The resolution to be placed on the spring ballot calls for the AAA to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions only and not individual scholars,” the association said in a statement.

The resolution says the association “endorses and will honor [the] 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.”

It cites Israeli universities’ provision of “planning, policy and technological expertise for furthering Palestinian dispossession,” as well as Israel’s systematic violation of academic freedom for Palestinians, including its military attacks on schools and universities.

“Stand for justice”

“As heirs to a long tradition of scholarship on colonialism, anthropologists affirm, through this resolution, that the core problem is Israel’s maintenance of a settler colonial regime based on Jewish supremacy and Palestinian dispossession,” Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions said.

“By supporting the boycott, anthropologists are taking a stand for justice through action in solidarity with Palestinians,” the group of scholars who supported the initiative added.

They note that Friday’s vote was the result of more than three years of organizing.

It also marks a significant blow to Israel lobby groups that have stepped up their efforts to combat BDS following the decision of the American Studies Association to adopt the academic boycott in 2013.

The vote will likely encourage similar efforts in other academic organizations. A discussion on the academic boycott of Israel is, for example, currently taking place within the Modern Language Association.

Anti-Palestinian activists have been quick to express their dismay. The American Jewish Committee deplored the vote and said the anthropologists had “mistakenly succumbed to the whims of the BDS movement leaders.”

Palestinian welcome

Lisa Taraki, a Palestinian sociologist at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank and a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said the anthropology association’s vote “sent a clear message of international solidarity with Palestinians and upheld some of the best values of the profession.”

“We are certain that this outstanding expression of support for the Palestinian-led BDS movement will further galvanize academics to pursue the institutional boycott of Israel,” said Haidar Eid, a Gaza-based comparative literature professor and PACBI steering committee member.

“As in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the boycott of complicit institutions will significantly contribute to the long march towards Palestinian liberation and self-determination,” Eid added.

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Comments

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For many years the field of anthropology functioned as an ideological support mechanism for empire. It's heartening to see latter-day scholars adopting a progressive set of values. And from this vote others will follow. Well done to the organisers of this successful motion.

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"It must now be ratified in a referendum of the association’s
entire membership of 10,000 in April..."

Israeli lobbying of the entire membership will be fierce. We
can expect Israel to use everything in its playbook from
economic threat to pressure from those who donate to the
use of misinfrmation etc.

We must counter with pressure of knowledge, increased
information in favor of the AAA boycott that have already
been made.

(Note: Don't go "high-volume and don't use what we have
atthe wrong time. "Timing is everything", a politician once
observed.)

The fact that this support is from America is significant.

We have just begun.

Spreading of information in the media by letters, statements
on our side may be crucial.

What is the date of the vote by the entire membership? Our
work must be well-coordinated. And, of course, it must be
accurate and over-accurate because we are dealing with
scholars and the powers-that-be who we know will not be on
our side. (Until they have lost in a stunning defeat for
them.)

Onward!

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.