The American Anthropological Association Censures Israel for Violations of Academic Freedom

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) issued a statement dated June 2016 censuring Israel for violations of academic freedom. In the statement, the “American Anthropological Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.07.41 PMAssociation expresses its strong disapproval of Israeli government policies and practices that threaten academic freedom and the human rights of Palestinian and Israeli scholars. This is a statement of censure concerning these government policies and practices.” Inside Higher Ed reported on June 27 news of the AAA statement of censure.

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Putlizer Prize Winning Author Endorses BDS: Nguyen Stands with Palestinians

While Palestinians are subject to an unrelenting occupation, for the last two years scholars thesympathizercover200and students of language and literature at MLA Conventions have exchanged views on the legitimacy of an academic boycott of Israel. Meanwhile an increasing number of world renown authors have individually and collectively announced their solidarity with Palestinians through support of the boycott of Israel.

One of those contemporary injustices that we struggle to remember is the Israeli occupation and the deprivation of Palestinian rights.

— Viet Thanh Nguyen

Recently, Viet Thanh Nguyen, the 2016 Putlizer-Prize winner in fiction for his novel The Sympathizer, expressed his endorsement of the cultural boycott of Israel. In a statement, Nguyen commented:

Always remember, never forget. These powerful words compel us to think about both the injustices of the past and the injustices of the present. One of those contemporary injustices that we struggle to remember is the Israeli occupation and the deprivation of Palestinian rights. For any of us concerned with justice, the imperative is clear: we must stand with the disempowered and the forgotten against militarism and the state.

Nguyen’s use of the phrase “always remember, never forget” resonates powerfully across contexts. The phrase is often associated with a post-Holocaust discourse of generational responsibility to oppose the evil represented by the Nazis, but for Nguyen “always remember, never forget” connects no doubt more personally to memories of the Vietnam War, which provides another context for grounding his solidarity with the “disempowered” Palestinians and his opposition to Israeli “militarism and the state.” Through this phrase, Nguyen speaks intimately to Jewish and Vietnamese readers who will recognize the associations that he evokes, but he also addresses a general public, appealing to an inclusive notion of political justice that acknowledges the violence experienced by Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Continue reading

Why Cornel West Supports BDS: Democratic National Convention Platform Hearing

If support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in the US was once limited to long-time Palestinian solidarity activists, as is evident from the video recording of the debate at the Democratic National Convention Hearing,  BDS has now become the basis upon which, Cornel West, a Democratic Platform Committee member, is advocating for Palestinian rights as crucial to balancing the Party’s policy on Israel and Palestine. In the clip below,  West announces his support for BDS on the grounds that the BDS movement is aimed at achieving justice for Palestinians, who are subject to the Israeli occupation. West also eloquently refutes efforts to discredit BDS by associating it with anti-Semitism. Pro-Israel members of the party platform committee, such as Robert Wexler, ground their defense of Israel in the special relationship between the two countries, implying the unique status of Israel, and consequently the US’s shared responsibility for Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights. While Wexler aims to maintain and build the Democratic Party’s pro-Israel position, West calls out the American Israeli Political Action Committee’s (AIPAC) hold on the Democratic Party and the US government’s disregard for Palestinian lives.  For more analysis and a longer clip of the debate, see the Electronic Intifada report on the debate.

 

 

MLA Members Meet Right to Education Campaign in Palestine

A group of MLA members recently visited the West Bank  to meet with professors and students at Palestinian universities and to discuss the conditions of teaching and studying under the Israeli occupation. During their tour, the MLA members documented the disruptive effects of the Israeli military presence, especially the constraints on freedom of movement into, out of, and within Palestine, which have made it extremely difficult for Palestinians to achieve their goals in higher education. Despite the occupation, Palestinian professors and students continue to pursue their educational goals, reaching out through various organizations to assert their basic rights. MLA Members for Justice in Palestine in will be publishing the near future accounts from the trip. 
Below is a report on a meeting of the MLA members with the Right to Education Campaign – Palestine.

“On 18th of June, six-members of the Modern Language Association (MLA) had arrived to Birzeit University. Where a near 3 hours discussion between the MLA members and the RighScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.30.46 PMt to Education Campaign was held. The meeting with MLA members (who are also part of MLA for Justice in Palestine) was flourishing, as the R2E volunteers expressed how honorable and happy they were meeting supporters to the Palestinian cause.

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Simon During Statement in Support of a Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Simon During is a Research Professor at the University of Queensland, and is currently based in Berlin. He has previously held positions at the University of Melbourne, John Hopkins and simon-duringelsewhere. His research interests are broad and he is working on the relationship between Anglicanism and British literature in the period 1688-1945. His books include  Against Democracy: Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations (Fordham University Press, 2012), Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity (Routledge, 2009), Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (Harvard University Press, 2002), Patrick White (OUP, 1994), and Foucault and Literature (Routledge, 1991).

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.

My father, a German Jew born in 1916, was a Holocaust survivor, some of whose relations were murdered by the Nazis.  I was brought up to admire Israel which my parents saw both as an experiment in socialist and co-operative state planning and as a solace for the Jewish people. As a child, I absorbed this view of Israel as a saving remnant of the twentieth century’s tragic history, a view which—not that I realized it then— tended to count the Palestinian people out. That optimistic view began to corrode after the 1967 war with Egypt, but, for me at least, it only collapsed when it became clear that Israel, for all its claims to democracy, was mendaciously preparing a future that contained no real prospects for Palestinian social justice and autonomy. And as it also became clear that this harder Zionism was increasingly willing to treat the Palestinian people in ways that were not wholly dissimilar to how the Nazis had once treated the Jews. Is it possible to think about the Gaza strip today and not be reminded of the Warsaw ghetto of the early nineteen forties?  I personally have found this mutation of the hope that Israel might represent a radically post-fascist society into a fear that it is doomed to repeat past evils almost impossible to come to terms with. The ironies cut too deep.

it also became clear that this harder Zionism was increasingly willing to treat the Palestinian people in ways that were not wholly dissimilar to how the Nazis had once treated the Jews.

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Aamir Mufti Statement in Support of a Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Aamir R. Mufti is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures (Harvard, 2016).aamir_mufti

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.

I support the MLA resolution in favor of the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, and the BDS call more broadly, not because the boycott strategy is always and unequivocally the correct course of action, nor because it has no internal contradictions, but because it is the only course of action left to us. Every other course of action, including, above all, support for the diplomatic “peace” process, has met its end in the sharp rightwards, neo-fascistic turn in Israeli politics and society and the clearly visible reality that no numerically significant segment of the Israeli political system, including the Labor Party, has any intention of reaching any kind of compromise with the Palestinians, let alone agreeing to a resolution based on the principles of equality and dignity. (This has been made evident by Labor’s new plan, which envisions nothing beyond the optimal management of the occupied population.)

Every other course of action, including, above all, support for the diplomatic “peace” process, has met its end in the sharp rightwards, neo-fascistic turn in Israeli politics and society. . .

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The Smallest of Margins: The American Anthropological Association and the Academic Boycott of Israel Vote

By the smallest of margins, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) membership voted against a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. 2,423 members voted Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 12.13.18 PMagainst the resolution and 2,384 voted in favor of it (50.4%-49.6%).

While the result is disappointing, Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic have done remarkable work mobilizing support for the boycott movement and raising awareness about the conditions of Palestinians.

In its press release, Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions state: “the decision to hold this vote in the first place marks a historic step forward in opening spaces for critical discussion of the U.S. role in enabling Israel’s widespread and systematic abuses against the Palestinian people. The past three years of debate about the boycott have brought exponentially more discussion of Palestinian rights in the AAA than ever before in the Association’s history. This includes a ground-breaking report by a AAA Task Force recognizing the settler-colonial practices of the Israeli government. These represent important first steps towards opposing Israeli human rights violations.” Continue reading