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Despite a big win, there are still groups supporting BDS

The pro-Israel campus groups Hillel International and the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) have been denied the right to present a discussion on Israel at the Jan. 9-12 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in Chicago, JNS.org has learned.

MLA’s convention includes a roundtable discussion that will feature supporters but no opponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

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The discussion – titled “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine “– is seen as a possible precursor to an MLA academic boycott of Israel, which would mirror recent boycotts by the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

The MLA convention will consider a resolution that condemns Israel for alleged “arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

Hillel and the ICC asked the 30,000-member MLA for the chance to present what they called an “open discussion featuring MLA members regarding academic freedom in Israel, its territories, and Gaza,” but MLA said the deadline to book a meeting at the convention had passed.

“The MLA convention has procedures for its members to organize sessions, and that deadline was 1 April [2013],” MLA Executive Director Rosemary G. Feal, the MLA’s executive director, wrote in an email to ICC Executive Director Jacob Baime. “We do not rent space at our convention for nonmembers to hold discussions.”

The existing MLA session’s speakers will include BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti; University of Texas professor Barbara Jane Harlow, who has stated her support for the ASA boycott of Israel; University of Southern California professor of English David Lloyd, a well-known BDS activist; and Wesleyan University professor Richard Ohmann, who signed a 2009 letter that described Israeli treatment of Palestinians as “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times.” University of Texas professor Samer M. Ali, who publicly defended the ASA boycott, organized the roundtable.

“We believe the members of the MLA deserve to hear a far more diverse set of perspectives on the issue of academic freedom in Israel and nearby countries. The MLA members, as academics, certainly can appreciate the value of multiple perspectives on what is a very controversial issue,” ICC’s Baime said.

ICC and Hillel said they are now considering organizing a “balancing panel” discussion at a nearby location during the MLA convention. The panel would feature MLA members who oppose the anti-Israel resolution being considered at the convention.

Ali, the organizer of the convention’s roundtable on BDS, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the roundtable assumes that Israel violates the rights of Palestinians, and that the debate will center on what to do about it.

“If people want to come and debate occupation, I think it will be a waste of their time, because that’s not what the roundtable is about,” Ali said.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I have a great number of linguistic books on my shelves that they can burn when they get that far. I'm downsizing my library, now that I discovered it will all fit on my iPad. My books in Hebrew have tainted the entire collection for them, I'm sure.

  2. I'm afraid you missed the irony of my statement. I have already donated numerous books to the JCC worth hundreds of dollars. Why would I burn a book? You really caught me on the wrong day with that comment. I've been in constant pain with no sleep and have no tolerance for that nonsense. If you know me so little as that don't bother.

  3. The modern language Association has converted an academic meeting (normally tax deductible) into a political meeting (definitely not tax-deductible).

    Meeting attendance lists should be easily attainable.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to file a letter of protest naming each attendee and challenging the deduction they might claim on their income tax return for attending this meeting.

  4. O for Pete sakes — you get on the MLA platform by proposing a panel, and you don't get on it by not being a member, not proposing a panel, and deciding that you don't like a panel that has been accepted.

    Making a demand in violation of the organizations rules is not being "barred" or "censored." Supporters of Israel should go to the session and argue against a boycott, and organize their own panel at the 2015 MLA.

    I'll rejoin the stupid organization just to vote against a boycott if it comes up, though I'm against the current Israeli government. Academic boycotts are ridiculous.

  5. The Jews ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the slaughter of untold millions can not go unpunished. The number of Palestinians slaughtered by the Jews dwarfs the mere three million Bengalis killed by the pakistanis or the three to 4 million sunnis exiled from Iraq. The Israelis have a racist policy calling for a Jewish state as a rebellion against the legitimate and freedom loving Islamic states throughout the middle east. Allowing the state of Israel to exist will allow for westyern enlightenment thinking and homosexuality to proliferate. All MLA professors should boycott Israeli academics due to the obvious ungodly thoughts of the Jewish professors, who should be stoned to death. That is why no Jews will be allowed to live in Palestine, and all American professors should boycott Israeli institutions until they give up their godless enlightenment beliefs. Allah Akbar.

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