This resolution appeals to the MLA to honor the Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions until Israel respects its obligations towards the Palestinian people under international law and norms of human rights. The resolution was a topic of public debate and discussion at the MLA Conventions in 2015 and 2016, and it is now scheduled for a Delegate Assembly vote at the MLA Convention in Philadelphia on January 7, 2017.
MLA RESOLUTION TO ENDORSE THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS
Whereas the MLA affirms: “When academic freedom is curtailed, higher education is compromised”;
Whereas the US materially supports Israel’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law;
Whereas these violations include the systematic denial of academic freedom and educational rights for Palestinian scholars and students;
Whereas Israeli universities are instrumental in perpetuating these violations;
Be it resolved that the MLA endorses Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and
Be it further resolved that the MLA affirms the right of faculty and students everywhere to advocate for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, without retaliation.
Resolution submitted to the MLA by Rebecca Comay and David Lloyd.
The Supporting Evidence Document
MLA requires all proposed resolutions to be supported with documented evidence. The supporting evidence document that accompanies the academic boycott resolution addresses each clause, detailing in particular US support for Israel, the violation of Palestinian human rights, notably the violation of the Palestinian rights to education, the collusion of Israeli universities in the violation of Palestinian rights, and the suppression of solidarity with Palestinians on university campuses in the United States and Canada. The supporting evidence document is thoroughly research and includes international, Palestinian, Israeli, US and European sources.
Download a PDF: mla-supporting-evidence-document
Excerpts from the Supporting Evidence Document
I. Whereas the MLA affirms: “When academic freedom is curtailed, higher education is compromised”;
The central statement of academic freedom in this country is the “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” formulated by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The Modern Language Association endorsed this statement in 1962 and has a long record of supporting its principles. The MLA reaffirmed its endorsement of this document in 2009.
II. Whereas the US materially supports Israel’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law;
The United States provides material support for Israel’s ongoing breaches of international law, its continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people, and its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the United States Department of State this support amounts to “over $3 billion” annually, and is supplemented by “a high level of exchanges with Israel, to include joint military exercises, military research, and weapons development.” Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in summer of 2014, like its previous attacks and its ongoing occupation, largely rely on the military aid, joint exercises, research, and development that the United States provides, most recently under a long-term, $30 billion military aid package, agreed to in 2007, extending from fiscal year 2009-2018, recently reaffirmed by Barack Obama. On the long-term military aid agreement, see Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, April 11, 2014 (http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf) ; see also (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/17/world/middleeast/17israel.html) .
III. Whereas these violations include the systematic denial of academic freedom and educational rights for Palestinian scholars and students;
Within both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), Israel systematically violates the academic freedom and educational rights of Palestinian scholars and students in three significant ways: 1) restrictions on travel and mobility; 2) campus invasions resulting in the closure or destruction of institutions; and 3) discrimination and censorship. Such violations have been well documented in recent reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many agencies within the United Nations, cited throughout this section.
IV. Whereas Israeli universities are instrumental in perpetuating these violations;
Israeli universities feature high levels of integration with the state and its projects, including development of military equipment used to maintain the occupation and the siege against Gaza, and the continuing dispossession of and discrimination against Palestinians in both Israel and the territories it controls. Israeli academic institution contributions take several forms, from the development of military hardware, especially of automated systems, to demographic and hydrological studies underwriting the ongoing eviction of Palestinians on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the appropriation of West Bank aquifers.
V. Be it resolved that the MLA endorses Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions;
This boycott recognizes and supports Palestinian civil society’s efforts to resist the military occupation by non-violent means. Because the US government is not only the primary contributor of economic and military aid to Israel but has consistently used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block effective international efforts to force Israeli compliance with international law, it is therefore all the more appropriate for civil society organizations in the USA such as the MLA to take up the call by the Palestinian people for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions. As a leading voice in the humanities, the MLA is in a strong position to express solidarity in the global justice movement and to help lead the way for other institutions to lend their support.
VI. Be it further resolved that the MLA affirms the right of faculty and students to advocate for the academic boycott of Israel, free from retaliation.
Instances of reprisals and retaliation against faculty members and students who have either engaged in criticizing Israeli state actions or advocated for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) measures are well documented and increasing in frequency and intensity. In their 2015 report, Stifling Dissent, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) documented a pattern of “increasingly coordinated efforts to quell advocacy for Palestinian rights on campuses.” Palestine Legal, “an independent organization dedicated to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom,” responded to 171 incidents of suppression of Palestine advocacy from 19 states in the first six months of 2016 alone, a 22 percent increase from the same period in 2015. Its 2015 report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech, documented 152 incidents of censorship, punishment, or other burdening of advocacy for Palestinian rights and received 68 additional requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such actions in 2014. In the first six months of 2015 alone, Palestine Legal responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression. These incidents include false charges of anti-Semitism, the online publication of blacklists of activists and distribution of posters on campuses, accusing professors and students of terrorist sympathies and “Jew hatred”, as well as orchestrated campaigns seeking to suppress courses that dealt with Palestine or have Palestine solidarity organization banned or censured. Similar charges and attempts to legislate against BDS activities have been taking place in Canada.
 Jewish Voice for Peace, Stifling Dissent: How Israel’s Defenders Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Limit the Debate over Israel on Campus (2015): https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/stifling-dissent/