More than 100 education, civil rights, and religious groups on Tuesday urged more than 250 university leaders to publicly condemn a resolution the American Anthropological Association is about to embrace “to boycott Israeli academic institutions.”
AAA, which is among the largest scholarly and professional organizations in the country, will vote on the boycott resolution from June 15 to July 14.
A similar effort failed by 39 votes in 2016.
The organizations, which include Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Alliance for Academic Freedom, B’nai B’rith International, numerous university Hillels, MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the World Jewish Congress of North America, demand that the universities, whose anthropology departments are fee-paying members of the AAA, immediately sever all ties with AAA should the resolution pass.
Organized by the AMCHA Initiative, the groups warned of the enormous significance and dangerous ramifications of this AAA vote. They pointed out that “unlike the few disciplines that have misguidedly endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, anthropology is a core discipline of the academy, and its abandonment of scholarship for the promotion of politically motivated and directed activism will have rippling effects for years to come.”
Well, some would beg to differ. In November 2020, Arnie Daniel Schoenberg of San Diego City College wondered if Anthropology was really a science, suggesting the anthropological imagination (a.k.a anthropological perspective) is how anthropologists see the world.
“I think the best way to get a sense of how anthropology differs from other branches of science is to understand the anthropological imagination,” Schoenberg argued, adding: “I like the connotations of “imagination” in the way it has been used by John Lennon and recent social movements to recognize the agency that people have to go beyond their cultural constraints.”
“Anthropologists balance several seemingly contradictory philosophies,” he explained. “I like to see the anthropological imagination as tendencies between two extreme poles, and though they may lean towards one side or the other, they can never really go to the extreme in any direction.”
Schoenberg points out that in Anthropology “we are objectively discussing some aspects of a biological species that has been around hundreds of thousands of years and has a few distinct characteristics from other animals, but at the same time, we are talking about ourselves, my relatives, the people who gave me the genes I have now, that enable me to think, and type, and wish that this font was easier to read on this crappy screen.”
So, maybe not so scientific after all.
The signatories to the Letter from 107 Organizations to 250 Universities Re: AAA Academic Boycott, noted that, unlike an economic boycott, an academic boycott AAA is considering directly threatens to:
- Suppress the open exchange of ideas, collaboration, and scholarly discourse
- Invoke irreversible harm to students and faculty
- Incite antisemitic activity on campus.
The groups also warned that “continued association with the AAA, should they pass a discriminatory academic boycott of Israel, would tarnish the reputation of your institution. Several universities severed ties with the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), including most of the universities with prestigious federally-funded Middle East Studies programs, when that association endorsed an academic boycott of Israel last year.”
You have such a nice school here, it would be a shame to go, you know, Nazi…