Academics Oppose MLA anti-boycott Resolution

The Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace opposes MLA Resolution 2017-1, which calls on the Modern Language Association to refrain from endorsing the academic boycott.

The resolution in question makes several baseless accusations that fundamentally misunderstand the aims of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and particularly the call for a global boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Boycotts of all kinds are protected free speech under the First Amendment, and the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions is part of a broader grassroots effort to ensure Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality, and respect for international law in the region. The campaign is “committed to freedom of expression as stipulated in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and as such rejects, on principle, boycotts of individuals based on their opinion or identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion).”

According to a 2009 report by the Alternative Information Center, “Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but [instead] to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians.” This complicity in the occupation, and in the erasure of Palestinian art, culture, and history, led Palestinian academics to call for a boycott of those institutions.

MLA resolution 2017-1 offers nothing to solve the very real crisis that Palestinian academics face, but rather, attempts to silence scholars in the MLA and to curtail the dialogue about boycotts and Palestinian human rights. As an organization inspired by Jewish tradition and dedicated to peace and human rights, we call upon the MLA to reject this resolution, which seeks to distort the actual aims and implications of the boycott and suppress thoughtful debate on the boycott resolution.

Resolution 2017-1 (Anti-boycott proposed by Russell A. Berman and Martin B. Shichtman)

Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature,

Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars,

Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange,

Be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.

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