The Boycott Debate: Whose Voices Matter?

Voting is currently underway on whether the American Anthropological Association (AAA) will endorse Palestinian civil society’s call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Over the weekend, many AAA members received messages from a group called Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel/Palestine (ADIP), urging them to vote against the proposed boycott. The email message, and accompanying videos of Israeli anthropologists, demonstrates several troubling trends on the part of boycott opponents.

ADIP continues to spread misleading statements about the proposed boycott. First, contrary to ADIP’s message, the AAA has not taken any position regarding the proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The Association should be commended for the professionalism and neutrality with which it has conducted this challenging process. Moreover, the proposed resolution is a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, not individual academics. Individual Israeli scholars will still be welcome to attend AAA conferences and publish in AAA journals, whatever their religious background, nationality, or political beliefs. Although some of the Israeli scholars interviewed in the ADIP videos assert that the end-game of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, in fact, the boycott is part of a broader human rights campaign that does not dictate any specific political outcome. It simply demands that the Israeli state and its academic institutions end their discriminatory practices and violations of human rights.

Second, the video continues a trend of anti-boycott activists erasing the voices of the Palestinian scholars who initially issued this call for solidarity. In spite of the anti-boycott group’s claim to “dialogue,” virtually no Palestinian scholars have ever been featured on ADIP’s website. Nor are any Palestinian scholars featured in ADIP’s recent video series. ADIP has much to say about Palestinians, but their campaign does everything in its power to ensure that none are seen or heard by American anthropologists.

This silencing of the voices of the oppressed is not acceptable in anthropology in 2016.  

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is committed to amplifying the voices of Palestinian scholars and activists who are at the center of this struggle. To that end, we invite you to hear the words of Dr. Ala Alazzeh, an anthropologist at Birzeit University about why he supports the call for a boycott:

As anthropologists, it is crucial that we pay attention to the overwhelming majority of Palestinian scholars and students who support the boycott and have called upon us to stand in solidarity with them by voting for the proposed boycott resolution on the Spring Ballot. You can hear some more of these students and scholars in this video. We also urge you to read the essays we have published from Palestinian anthropologists, including from Dina Omar, Randa Farah, and Amahl Bishara.  

Ironically, ADIP’s strategy also involved silencing the voices of progressive Israeli scholars. We invite you to read a recent letter published by 22 progressive Israeli anthropologists, urging AAA members to vote in favor of a boycott. We have also published essays by several progressive Israeli scholars, including Hilla Dayan and an anonymous Israeli anthropologist who cannot use their real name because of  increasingly common attacks on progressive scholars who speak out against their government’s abuses.

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is committed to maintaining a rich diversity of voices on our website and will continue to do so through the 6-week election period and beyond. We are proud to count amongst our supporters Palestinian scholars, progressive Israeli anthropologists, and anthropologists from across the globe who are committed to realizing our discipline’s mission to  contribute to social justice and human rights. Regardless of the vote’s outcome, we are proud to have provided a platform for these scholars on our website, and urge you to read their perspectives as you consider your vote.

We urge all AAA members to vote in the Spring Elections. Step by step voting instructions can be found here.