A majority of the members of the Middle East Studies Association on Wednesday approved signed a resolution “endorsing the Palestinian call for solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, or BDS.”
MESA President Dina Rizk Khoury who introduced the resolution in December 2021, explained at the time that “since Palestinian civil society first called on the international community to engage in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in order to pressure Israel to end its military occupation and other rights violations, our members have been engaged in thoughtful discussions about what it means to participate in academic boycotts, and other ways of showing solidarity with fellow scholars whose lives and livelihoods are under attack,” and called on the membership “to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students, not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.”
The BDS resolution “outlines ways that the Israeli government systematically violates Palestinians’ right to education. Some of the violations cited in the resolution include restricting the freedom of movement for Palestinians, attacking Palestinian educational institutions, harassing Palestinian students, teachers, and professors, and destroying Palestinian archival material.”
AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin issued the following statement in response to the MESA vote to endorse an academic boycott of Israel:
“What MESA did is morally reprehensible and incredibly dangerous. Although the academic boycott that MESA members voted to endorse seemingly targets only Israeli institutions and scholars, the biggest victims of academic BDS are students and faculty on US campuses. Academic BDS’s rejection of the normalization of Israel in the academy not only calls on its faculty endorsers to work towards boycotting educational programs and research opportunities in or about Israel and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities on campus, it also urges the censuring, denigration, protest, and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals.
“So, it’s not surprising that faculty boycotters are a direct and major contributor to campus antisemitism. They are the ones instigating, inspiring, encouraging, and modeling the playbook for students, and while students come and go, tenured faculty have years, often decades, to leave their mark. In addition, MESA is not just any academic association. Its 3,000 members are the primary purveyors of Israel-related courses and departmentally-sponsored events about Israel on campus. Their embrace of an academic boycott means campus antisemitism is likely to grow exponentially worse for Jewish students. Universities must immediately withdraw their membership from MESA and prevent their own faculty from using their university positions and departmental affiliations to promote politically motivated advocacy and activism. In addition, state and federal legislators responsible for ensuring that government monies given to institutions of higher education are used for educational purposes rather than political ones should withhold funds from schools that permit faculty and departments to abuse their positions to promote personal political hate.”