‘Irreversible Impact’: Over 100 organizations urge universities to reject academic association BDS resolution

An overwhelming majority of Middle East scholars support boycotting Israel, according to a survey.

By Dion J. Pierre, Algemeiner

Over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations on Tuesday issued a fervent letter urging university leaders to reject a boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) resolution being proposed by the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

The measure, which accuses Israel of being an apartheid regime and committing crimes against humanity, will be considered via electronic ballot from June 15-30, according to the website of Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (AnthroBoycott). Passing the resolution would make AAA the first major academic professional association to endorse the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement since the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) did in 2022.

“An academic boycott, unlike an economic boycott, seeks to suppress the open exchange of ideas, collaboration, and scholarly discourse,” the letter says. “The AA resolution, if passed, not only threatens the core principles of academic freedom but also poses significant risks to the educational opportunities and experiences of your students and faculty, the reputation of your institution and the inclusivity and diversity of your campus community.”

The letter, drafted by AMCHA Initiative, adds that the boycott would have an “irreversible impact on students and faculty” and that “research has shown a clear correlation between academic boycotts and the incitement of anti-Jewish hostility and antisemitism.” Citing these concerns and more, it called on university leaders to denounce all academic boycotts, dissociate with AAA if the resolution passes, and “implement safeguards” that would prevent academic boycotts on their campuses.

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Signatories of the letter include Academic Engagement Network (AEN), B’nai B’rith International, EndJewHatred, National Association of Scholars, StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Zionist Organization of America.

An overwhelming majority of Middle East scholars support boycotting Israel, according to a survey published in Nov. 2022, which shows that only nine percent of 500 responding experts from the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and the American Political Science Association (APSA) would “oppose all boycotts of Israel.” 91 percent “support at least some boycotts.” 36 percent also favor “some boycotts” but not against Israeli universities.

Established in 1902 and based in Arlington, Virginia, the American Anthropological Association, which has over 10,000 members, has considered boycotting Israeli universities before. In 2015, a measure similar to the resolution AAA members will vote on in June was defeated by 39 votes, with 4,807 votes cast.

80 major Jewish organizations spanning the American political spectrum signed a blistering letter imploring members of AAA to reject the BDS resolution. Drafted by the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF) and The Academic Engagement Network (AEN), it said that Israeli universities “work hard to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence” on their campuses and foster viewpoint diversity, which, it noted, includes “support for Palestinian voices.”