Dissenting Israeli Anthropologists Reject Anti-Boycott Resolution

Some 30 Israeli anthropologists sent the following statement to the American Anthropological Association last month.

Response to the IAA Announcement and Resolution, 18 June, 2015

Last week, the Israeli Anthropological Association passed a resolution condemning the occupation, opposing academic boycott, and calling for “dialogue between willing parties”. The resolution and the adjoining press release are important responses to Palestinian civil society’s call for academic boycott and to the hundreds of anthropologists who have endorsed it. The explicit condemnation of the colonial occupation and of the racial discrimination faced by Israel’s Palestinian citizens (while disregarding the discrimination faced by non-Ashkenazi Jews and other groups) are an important step for any Israeli academic association. We urge our American colleagues to support the IAA in this regard.

Nevertheless, we are convinced that the IAA would not have taken this step were it not for the aforementioned initiative within the AAA. Moreover, the declaration of the IAA does nothing to release Israeli academic institutions at large from their responsibility. In this vein, we find it odd that the IAA would implicitly condition the possibility of “dialogue between willing parties” on rejection of the academic boycott. In our opinion, principled action to address academic complicity with the reproduction of race, class and gender hierarchies and the perpetuation of the colonial occupation is a precondition for true dialogue, which is finally underway now.

In this spirit, we are also critical of the IAA’s claim that “identifying academic institutions with the political regimes of their states contradicts the historical contribution of anthropology to intellectual and political debate.” If anthropology’s “contribution” is one that absolves academic institutions of social accountability, then our discipline will have done more harm than good.

Consequently, we urge the AAA and the discipline at large to continue its exploration of the ways the academe – in the USA and around the world as well as in Israel – is complicit in colonial occupation and other forms of injustice. While sharing the IAA’s commitment to ending the occupation, we refuse to deny the part played by Israeli academic institutions in maintaining an unjust social structure in Israel and in servicing the occupation. Moreover, we refuse to participate in the attempt at defusing what is currently one of the most effective non-violent tools of struggle that Palestinians have developed. We urge the AAA to do the same. This dialogue has finally begun, and it must be allowed to proceed.