US anthropological association moves closer to Israel boycott

Resolution passes by massive majority, calls for embargo on Israeli academic institutions, but not individuals; heads to full vote next year

Tel Aviv University (CC BY-SA/MathKnight/Wikipedia)
Tel Aviv University (CC BY-SA/MathKnight/Wikipedia)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. If it receives final approval from the full 10,000-strong membership early next year, the embargo will apply to all institutions, but not individuals.

The resolution calling for the boycott passed by an overwhelming 1,040 votes in favor and 136 against, at a meeting in Denver on Friday night.

US Jewish newspaper the Forward said the resolution was sponsored by academics from Columbia University and Tufts, as well as other US educational institutes, and will bar the AAA from “formal collaborations or other relationships with Israeli academic institutions.” But, the Forward said, there are currently no such collaborations between Israeli bodies and the AAA. The boycott also means that Israeli institutions will be unable to access the AAA’s database of anthropology.

According to US website Inside Higher Ed, the resolution stresses the distinction between individuals and institutions, and states that “Israeli scholars will still be welcome to participate in AAA meetings, use funds from their institutions to attend the meetings, publish in AAA journals and take part in other AAA activities in their individual capacities. The boycott does not preclude communication and collaboration with individual Israeli scholars.”

The resolution will be presented for final approval in a further vote in the coming months, Israel’s Ynet news website reported.

Writing for The Times of Israel blog section on Thursday, Daniel Elbaum of the American Jewish Committee lambasted the resolution, saying those behind it “are not interested in a two-state solution,” and “consider Israel itself an illegitimate entity that has no place in the community of nations.”

Last month, more than 300 British academics signed a public letter pledging to boycott Israel over its alleged treatment of the Palestinians, responding to a letter urging the opposite by a star-studded list of over 150 British writers and artists.

The signers declared that they would not “accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions; act as referees in any of their processes; participate in conferences funded, organized or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them.”

The academics wrote, however, that they would “continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities.”

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