US anthropological group rejects call for Israel boycott

Academic sanctions narrowly defeated, but association approves other action over Israeli policies on Palestinians

Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)
Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)

Members of the American Anthropological Association on Tuesday narrowly defeated a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The final tally of the six-week electronic balloting announced by the association showed 2,423 members opposed the resolution and 2,384 voted in favor.

Some 51 percent of the association’s eligible members voted, the largest turnout in its history, the association said in a statement.

The resolution called on the association to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions but did not ban relationships with individual scholars.

“The membership has spoken and we hear them,” Alisse Waterston, the association president, said in a statement. “We appreciate this was a difficult vote on an important and contentious issue. I’m especially proud that our members participated in knowledgeable, thoughtful, respectful debate throughout the process, and that AAA offers a model for informed engagement on difficult subjects.”

The statement said association members “are generally in agreement that serious threats to academic freedom and human rights have been noted in Israel-Palestine as a result of Israeli government policies and practices, and that AAA should respond to these threats.”

In response, the association’s Executive Board said it has approved a set of actions that can be taken, including issuing a statement of censure of the Israeli government; issuing a letter to US government officials to identify ways in which the association believes that US policies contribute to Israeli policies that violate academic freedom and disenfranchise Palestinians, and approving ways to provide active resource support for Palestinian and Israeli academics as well as visiting scholars in the region.

In December 2014, the association rejected a similar motion on boycotting Israeli academic institutions.

Some 1,100 anthropologists signed a petition to boycott Israel in August 2014. Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions cited “Israel’s ongoing, systematic, and widespread violations of Palestinian academic freedom and human rights.”

Both the American Studies Association and the Asian American Studies Association have approved similar motions.

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