web analytics
March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


MLA Won’t Consider Outright Israel Boycott, But Debate Still Raises Hackles

WASHINGTON – Until recently, the rule of thumb in the pro-Israel community was that the bigger the academic group, the less likely it was to consider a boycott of Israeli colleagues.

But with the 30,000-member Modern Language Association set to host a panel on BDS at its convention this week in Chicago, the rule may have to be reconsidered.

Supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement have scored some victories in recent months, mostly among smaller groups. The American Studies Association, which endorsed a boycott resolution last month targeting Israeli academic institutions, claims about 4,000 members.

Though the Modern Language Association will not consider an outright boycott of Israeli universities, it will consider a resolution calling on the State Department to oppose the “arbitrary denials of entry” to American academics seeking to teach or conduct research at universities in the West Bank and Gaza.

“They proposed the travel resolution as a fallback,” said Cary Nelson, an association member and former president of the American Association of University Professors.

“They’re trying something else as a step toward a boycott resolution the next time. If they can win this, they will move onto the next one.”

In a conference call Tuesday organized by the Israel Action Network, Nelson argued that the Modern Language Association did not deserve the scorn it has weathered for hosting the panel, which will feature five supporters of BDS and no opponents. The panel is among several hundred to be held at the convention, and Nelson said such panels typically reflect a single point of view and are not debates.

The Modern Language Association is already on record opposing academic boycotts. In response to the removal of two Israeli scholars from a British journal, the group adopted a resolution in 2002 calling boycotts based on nationality or ethnic origins “unfair, divisive, and inconsistent with academic freedom.”

Still, activists on both sides of the issue say the success of individual boycott efforts is less important than the fact that boycotts are being discussed at all.

“The mere calling for a boycott will impede the free flow of ideas,” Russell Berman, a comparative literature professor at Stanford University and a past Modern Language Association president, said on the conference call.

“The calling of a boycott will have a chilling effect on academic life.”

Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, said what is truly alarming is the notion that just convening a panel implicates the group as anti-Israel.

“It’s chilling, the idea that putting on a session is wrong, that it signifies foregone conclusions,” Feal told JTA.

Samer Ali, the associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas in Austin who convened the panel, said the point is to shed light on Israeli practices.

“I think the only tangible benefit to come out of academic boycotts of Israel (and the ASA vote, the MLA roundtable, etc.) is generating discussion about the daily effects of the occupation,” Ali wrote in an e-mail.

Far from sparking a wave of pro-boycott measures, the vote by the American Studies Association has engendered a broad backlash, with more than 100 university heads speaking out against it.

“Some may argue that BDS is picking up momentum,” said Geri Palast, who directs the Israel Action Network, an initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish Federations of North America.

“The reality is that the broad academic community is rejecting BDS in terms of its singling out one country and saying there is only one narrative. We are winning this debate.”

Nelson said he would attend the BDS panel to offer his opposition before heading to a nearby hotel to speak on a panel organized by the campus group Hillel and the Israel on Campus Coalition.

Notably, there were signs of disagreement between academics opposed to BDS and pro-Israel groups over how best to counter such resolutions. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, for instance, in its appeal to universities to reject the American Studies Association boycott also called on them to cut off the group.

“I can understand that reaction,” said Berman. “But I don’t think I would want to elevate the principle that political statements should be grounds for academic sanctions.”

(JTA)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “MLA Won’t Consider Outright Israel Boycott, But Debate Still Raises Hackles”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iran's nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow is in an underground bunker.
Congressmembers: No More Money for Talks With Iran
Latest News Stories
Iran's nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow is in an underground bunker.

Congress is ‘fed up’ with being left in the dark on the Iran negotiations

Mount Hermon cable lift to the top of the mountain.

While there’s not much snow left, there are bike trails, hiking trails and extreme mountain sleds.

The White House says another foreign policy failure proves Obama is doing something right, but it not clear exactly what.

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he supports Saudi Arabia’s attack on Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen Saudi Arabia has been joined by other oil-rich states, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the Gulf States, all of whom said that “they “have decided to answer the call of President Hadi to protect Yemen and his […]

The former US envoy to the United Nations writes in the NY Times that bombing Iran is the only way to stop a nuclear arms race.

Sappers blew up the bomb, and security forces are trying to track down who placed it there.

The method developed by these Israeli scientists overcomes the network isolation challenge by identifying the computer’s operating temperature.

Authorities have ruled out terror but don’t know of the co-pilot’s motives.

in a new report, Amnesty International charges “Gaza armed groups’ with war crimes in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

After failing to replace Netanyahu, the Obama administration wants Ambassador Ron Dermer removed.

PA Chairman Abbas congratulated the Arab party on its success in the March 17 Israeli elections.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, had contacted French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to complain about the project.

Sunni countries in the Gulf have been accusing Iran of interference through several Shi’ite proxies in the region.

The time difference between New York and Israel returns to Israel being 7 hours ahead.

More Articles from Ron Kampeas
Hillary Clinton

Clinton derided perceptions that U.S.-Israel tensions had become tense under Obama.

“We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text.”

It’s not yet clear if Nemmouche was acting on orders and, if so, whether the orders came from ISIS.

“The Jewish community is going to have to work harder,” said one veteran official who has worked both as a professional in the Jewish community and a staffer for a Jewish lawmaker.

The disagreements don’t seem to have gone away, despite a cease-fire that appears to be firmly in place.

“On the Hill and with some people with whom I have spoken who are robust Israel supporters, people are concerned if not angry,” one of the staffers, a Democrat, told JTA

President Obama in an April 25 press conference seemed ready to take a break. “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” he said.

Obama himself suggested that a break from the process may be necessary.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/mla-wont-consider-outright-israel-boycott-but-debate-still-raises-hackles/2014/01/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: