Houston A. Baker, Jr served as President of the Modern Language Association of America in 1992. He has taught at Yale, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, and Duke, and is currently Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of articles, books, and essays devoted to African American Literary Criticism and Theory. His book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era received an American Book Award for 2009. He is co-editor with Professor Merinda Simmons of the collection of original essays titled The Trouble With Post-Blackness (Columbia University Press, 2015). Included below is his statement in support of an MLA academic boycott resolution
“What is most devastating is that global capitalism, cowardly avarice, and silence have allowed (especially since 1967) the nation state [of Israel] thus formulated to commit all manner of atrocity upon the Palestinian people.”
My thoughts about BDS, and the reasons I support an MLA academic boycott resolution, are not complicated. To occupy someone else’s land and declare a nation state with the militaristic backing of an imperialist power is to pillage. Historical examples are legion. Think: The territories of the land masses of what has come (by random enunciation) to be called “America,” the “Americas,” the “United States of America.” Similarly, with militaristic backing and global allowance, to declare Israel a sovereign state and buttress such trespass with a myth of heroic founding on “unoccupied,” “unsettled,” or “nomadic” lands is exterminating self-justification. What is most devastating is that global capitalism, cowardly avarice, and silence have allowed (especially since 1967) the nation state thus formulated to commit all manner of atrocity upon the Palestinian people. Further pillage seems to have been the brutal momentum of the original “establishment.” What is not complicated in 2016 is the fact that the nation state of Israel is roundly supported in its dauntingly meretricious actions and policies by so many world governments, leaders, corporations, and citizenries. It does little good, perhaps, once the initial militaristic establishment has taken hold, to point to the vehement resentment and even violence of those who have been betrayed as a post-facto “cause” for the illegitimate establishment of the state in the first instance. And, of course, “Antisemitism” cast as an aspersion upon those who reiterate the facts of the state as they are, is childish sticks and stones.
Sign the “Open Letter” calling on the MLA membership to endorse a resolution in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Only the signatures of (former or current) MLA members will be included.
Webinar from Palestine : Wednesday, 30 March @ 9 pm Palestine time / 2 pm EDT
Academic Boycott Guidelines Explained: their logic and applicability
Participants: Samia Botmeh (lecturer at Birzeit University, member of PACBI steering committee) and Omar Barghouti (founding member of PACBI and the BDS movement)
Who can join? This webinar session is open for academic boycott pledge signatories and academic boycott organizers/activists. Places are limited and not guaranteed. Participants will have the chance to submit questions to speakers before and during the event.
How to join? Send an email to PACBIwebinars@gmail.com with your name, location, institutional affiliation and indicate which academic pledge you have signed or your other forms of involvement in the academic boycott. Instructions on how to join will be sent to approved participants.
The statement below was recently published in the newsletter of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed by the attempts to smear those advocating for Palestinians’ rights to racial equality and freedom from occupation with false charges of anti-Semitism.
Professor Bill Mullen of Purdue University was recently the target of a vicious smear campaign that linked him to swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs found outside the American Studies department office at Purdue. Professor Mullen is an American Studies scholar who is nationally renowned for his leadership in the Palestine solidarity movement, for his advocacy for the academic boycott, as well as for his social justice activism at large. Professor Mullen is an organizer with USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) who helped spearhead the academic boycott resolution in the American Studies Association. He is known for his principled positions against any forms of hate or oppression. The unfounded attacks on him can only be explained as a response to his activism. Continue reading
Rania Khalek’s recent article for Electronic Intifada reports on the decision of McGraw-Hill to burn the textbook titled Global Politics: Engaging A Complex World because pro-Israeli groups campaigned against the inclusion of a widely-circulated image (see graphic below) of Palestine loss of land. The maps in the image illustrate Israel’s aggressive expropriation of Palestinian land from 1946 until 2000. Inside Higher Ed also reported on the decision to destroy the books because the publisher came under political pressure of Zionists who challenged the accuracy of the maps. Khalek’s article shows how the erasure of Palestinians from their historic homeland is also subject to narrative erasure as publishers cave to pro-Israeli interest groups, who seek to conceal Zionist expansionism. She also draws attention to the nefarious alignment of pro-Israeli and racist and Islamphobic pundits and bloggers, who have sought to frame Palestinian resistance in terms of Islamist militancy by denying the historic injustices faced by Palestinians.
These maps are particularly powerful because they graphically and effectively illustrate to a general public a 70 year history of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli expropriation of land. The four images show how the creation of Israel in 1948 and Israel’s subsequent territorial expansion following the 1967 War went hand in hand with the reduction of the Palestinian homeland. Continue reading
In a powerful endorsement of the Campaign for Divestment from the Israeli occupation organized by University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Union, a group of over 130 faculty and librarians have signed a public declaration calling for the University of Toronto to divest from its holdings in companies profiting from the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories.
The signatories come from all three campuses of the University of Toronto and from over 38 different departments across all faculties. The statement emphasizes the near total failure of international diplomacy to hold Israel accountable for the growing humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The signatories insist, at a minimum, on the need to “identify the injustices, speak out against them, and support the Palestinian appeal for solidarity.” Read the declaration below. Continue reading
“Forty faculty members have signed a petition calling upon the University to ‘divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.’
The petition, released Monday morning on the first day of Israeli Apartheid Week, notes that the signatories are in solidarity with student groups Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace. CUAD demanded in February that Columbia divest from eight specific corporations “that profit from the State of Israel’s ongoing system of settler colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid law” as part of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.”
Click here to read the March 1, 2016 article published by the Columbia Spectator. Also see the report in Electronic Intifada on the Columbia Divestment movement.
Looking for MLA 2017 panels to submit Palestine-related papers? Below is a selection of CFPs on topics that might include papers related to Palestine, BDS, settler colonialism, apartheid, dispossession, transnational justice, orientalism, etc. Deadlines for submission of paper abstracts are in early and mid March. Browse the list of MLA CFPs: https://apps.mla.org/cfp_browse
Alternatively put together a special session and submit it by April 1, 2016. The Presidential theme is Boundary Conditions.
Let’s make sure Palestine is a presence in the 2017 MLA program!
Lucie Kim-Chi Mercier here offers a further perspective on the conference “Walter Benjamin in Palestine” that was held in Ramallah in December 2015:
“Aimed at ‘breaking the de facto cultural and academic boycott of Palestine’, the event constituted a direct response to the International Walter Benjamin Society’s decision to locate its annual conference in Israel, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University (13–16 December). Scheduled one week ahead of the latter, the Ramallah-based workshop gathered some active figures in the Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) movement, contesting Israeli institutions’ claim of ownership over the Jewish philosopher. Attuning oneself to Benjamin’s ‘tradition of the oppressed’, it was suggested, means counteracting his patrimonization by reinvigorating his radical critique of the law and violence of the state.”
Her account suggests the productivity of such proactive projects that honor the boycott call:
“The pivotal question running through the workshop was therefore that of legibility: how to render Benjamin’s works readable in the Palestinian context. What kind of legibility did Palestine confer on Benjamin’s writings? It quickly appeared that identifying specific points of passage between texts and situations was a difficult injunction. Some heated debates burst out about the necessity of close reading to achieve this objective. To a certain degree, the transdisciplinary composition of the workshop made it impossible to legislate over the nature of ‘reading’ itself. Interventions and interruptions often seemed more in touch with the surrounding reality than the conceptual exegesis.”
Download the report published in Radical Philosophy: Benjamin in Ramallah Conference Report