MLA Voting Now Open: No on Resolution 2017-1!

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.

The academy cannot be separate from the political, economic, and ideological turmoil of our time: #States of Insecurity calls on academia to uphold its role as a place of critical and historical reflection, inquiry, and intervention.

— MLA President Diana Taylor

Excerpt from A Statement of Past Presidents of the MLA

As former presidents of the Association, we wish to comment on Resolution 2017-1. We think that it misrepresents the MLA’s mission, defining the Association’s role in an erroneous, narrow way that directly contradicts past and present practice. We also think that this resolution unduly restricts the membership’s ability to act in the future.

Past presidents of the MLA
Mary Ann Caws
Margaret Ferguson
Roland Greene
Marianne Hirsch
Linda Hutcheon
Sylvia Molloy
Catherine Porter
Mary Louise Pratt
Sidonie Smith
Domna Stanton

#Vote No on Resolution 2017-1/Protect Free Speech.

Pro-Israeli Scholars’ Rights Group Spams MLA Membership, Violates Association Privacy Policies

MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, lead by Russell Berman and Cary Nelson, is a small group of academics that Israeli agencies and pro-Israel lobby organizations in the US have endorsed in the battle against academic boycott. Scholars’ Rights came into existence primarily to oppose MLA Members for Justice in Palestine and seeks single-mindedly to undermine solidarity with Palestinians among academics.  Behind its shallow liberal discourse on academic freedom, the Scholars’ Rights group engages in all manner of misinformation and misrepresentation to defend Israel from growing public criticism.

To garner support for the anti-boycott Resolution 2017-1 that Russell Berman and Martin Shichtman proposed at the MLA Convention, and is currently subject to a members’ ratification vote, Scholars’ Rights launched a massive email campaign on Tuesday May 16, spamming a large segment of the MLA membership.  The nature and format of the May 16 email, which was sent possibly to several thousand MLA members reveals the suspect ethical character of this pro-Israel group. Continue reading

“Misleading or Flatly False”: Tim Reiss’s Statement Against MLA Resolution 2017-1

Timothy J. Reiss is Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. His most recent books are Against Autonomy: Global Dialectics of Cultural Exchange (2002), Mirages of the Selfe: Patterns of Personhood in Ancient and Early Modern Europe (2003) and the edited collections Music, Writing and Cultural Unity in the Caribbean (2005) and (co-ed.) Topographies of Race and Gender: Mapping Cultural Representations (2008-9). He is currently finishing a book on Descartes and his age’s political practice and thought, another on rethinking the Renaissance as part of long continental and oceanic intercultural exchanges, and an edited collection on Ngugi wa Thiong’o.  See also his earlier statement in support of an academic boycott of Israel.

I am making a statement asking our membership to vote no on Resolution 2017-1 because it strikes me as so egregiously against everything the MLA represents. The resolution itself, that we refrain from endorsing “the boycott,” is a nonsense. As things currently stand, the MLA endorses no boycott. Within the framework of the MLA, therefore, there is nothing from which to refrain. Why are we having a vote at all on something non-existent? That we have supported boycotts and other forms of “political” action in the past does, however, show that every space possible must always be left open for debate within the MLA. To assert, as this Resolution does, that the one case preemptively never open for debate is that of Israel is simply to put the MLA on public record as endorsing some special status for Israel. Whatever one may think of the merits of BDS in particular (as a political intervention on behalf of academic freedoms the MLA most definitely claims to further) and of the MLA’s political role in general, such an endorsement surely exceeds any conceivable MLA interest.

Does the MLA really wish to go on record as promoting Israeli academics’ freedoms while denying those of Palestinian academics?

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.

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The Right to Boycott Israel and the Culture Wars

In a recent article titled “The Palestinian Litmus Test,” published online at Jadaliyya, David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, writes about the current MLA membership vote on the anti-boycott Resolution 2017-1.  Lloyd explains the context of the MLA ratification vote in the following manner:

After three years of unprecedentedly open debate, the membership of the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) membership is finally voting on the Palestinian call to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Voting continues through May. Unlike other organizations that have considered the issue, however, the MLA is not voting on whether or not to boycott. Instead, we are voting on a resolution (2017-1) that would commit the association not to endorse the boycott, even though a pro- boycott resolution—having been rejected by the Delegate Assembly in January—is no longer even on the table. To resolve not to endorse a non-existent resolution may seem a somewhat redundant exercise. But proponents of 2017-1 hope that passing their resolution will be the final nail in the coffin of a national movement for academic boycott—a movement whose capacity to rise from setbacks stronger than before has proven quite remarkable. They seek to close off debate on the issue within the MLA permanently, and by doing so, to send a signal to other associations that the matter is settled.

As noted elsewhere on this site, Resolution 2017-1, which was proposed by Russell Berman (Stanford University) and Martin Shichtman (Eastern Michigan University), aims to shield Israel from institutional critique by delegitimating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement  and discrediting advocacy in support of Palestinian human rights.

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions closes June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.

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Derek Attridge: The South African Example and Boycotting Israel

“Resolution 2017-1 is as intellectually dishonest as it is morally obtuse”

Below is Fred Moten’s statement against MLA Resolution 2017-1. Fred Moten is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, where he teaches courses and conducts research in black studies, performance studies, poetics and literary theory. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2009); B. Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010); The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), which was a poetry finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the California Book Award for poetry; The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2015), which was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), A Poetics of the Undercommons (Sputnik and Fizzle, 2016) and a three volume collection of essays whose general title is consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press, 2017, 2018). Moten is also co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013) and, with Wu Tsang, of Who touched me? (If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to be Part of Your Revolution, 2016).

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.

Most folks who refuse to answer the call for solidarity that will, in the first instance take the form of boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions upon Israeli academic and cultural institutions, don’t dispute the facts. A few do, but one generally feels it necessary to respond to them in the same way that you would respond to anyone who denies conquest. When I say anyone I’m not thinking of any imperial nation or corporate entity; I’m thinking of any child who blatantly takes something from another child they think of as other, or as weaker or, simply, as someone who has something they want and think they should have. You may or may not listen to their arguments about how their conquest and theft wasn’t really that; you may or may not be disgusted when they don’t even feel the need to make an argument; either way, in the end, you just make them give it back.

The situation of Palestine, alas, isn’t so easy.

When things are more complicated, when the task of reversal and repair requires great intellectual and moral energy, rather than counter-coercion, you have to think a little bit. There is a general history of brutality and its various justifications to unravel and to begin that work requires the cessation of business as usual. BDS, and the call for it, in the refusal to allow things to go on like this, provides the conditions and atmosphere for such thinking.

The utter silence of MLA Delegate Assembly Resolution 2017-1 regarding the denial of Palestinian academic freedom is all but deafening. Moreover, the disingenuousness of its defense of debate with representatives of Israeli universities is manifest in the absence of any such defense of the right to debate the boycott within Israeli universities, which is now suppressed by the Israeli state. The promotion of teaching and research on language cannot be carried out by way of language’s repression. Resolution 2017-1 is as intellectually dishonest as it is morally obtuse. Vote No!

Growing Opposition to MLA’s Anti-Free Speech Resolution 2017-1

The MLA membership ratification vote on Resolution 2017-1 opened on April 19 and will close on June 1, 2017. From the very moment that the MLA announced that members will be voting on a resolution calling on the association to “refrain from supporting the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions, many scholars and students expressed Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 4.23.55 PMopposition to what is unabashedly a pre-emptive attempt to protect Israel from future criticism within the MLA.  The Delegate Assembly’s marginal vote in favor of Resolution 2017-1 has caused many scholars and students to question their future membership in a professional association that has been taken over by a group of pro-Israeli ideologues who are prepared to repress members’ rights in the interest of defending Israel.

In an article titled “The Palestine Exception,” which appeared online in Jacobin, David Palumbo-Liu, the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University,  presented the MLA  membership vote on resolution 2017-1 in these terms:

One of the world’s most important academic organizations [the MLA] has a choice: uphold academic freedom, or provide cover for Israel’s crimes.

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.

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Defending the Right to Boycott Israel

Click this link to VOTE NO on Resolution 2017-1.

Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.

Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.


In a 2014 op ed for the New York Times, Omar Barghouti, one of the Palestinian leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, noted that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the ‘delegitimization’ movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry. But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.” Since 2014, the boycott Israel movement has continued to grow and so has Israel’s and its US allies’ efforts to crush international solidarity with Palestinians. As reported in Haaretz, Israel’s assaults on the boycott movement range from the imposition of a 2016 travel ban on Barghouti (and more recently his arrest in 2017) to the passage of a 2017 law “barring those who support boycotts against Israel or West Bank settlements from entering the country” (see cnn.com report).

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