The Struggle Continues: Campaign for Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions Undeterred by American Anthropological Association Vote

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions vowed to continue its campaign after a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions that was under consideration by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) narrowly missed adoption by a razor-thin margin of 39 votes, 2,423-2,384 (50.4%-49.6%).

Over a six-week period this spring, the AAA’s members were invited to vote by e-mail on the resolution, with turnout reaching an unprecedented 51%. Members at the AAA annual meeting in Denver approved the decision to hold the referendum – itself historic – by an 88% vote last November.

The resolution in question would have precluded the AAA from engaging in any formal association-level collaborations with universities or research centers in Israel. It would not have prevented Israeli scholars from participating in AAA activities or collaborating with AAA members.

Despite this setback, the decision to hold this vote in the first place marks a historic step forward in opening spaces for critical discussion of the U.S. role in enabling Israel’s widespread and systematic abuses against the Palestinian people. The past three years of debate about the boycott have brought  exponentially more discussion of Palestinian rights in the AAA than ever before in the Association’s history. This includes a ground-breaking report by a AAA Task Force recognizing the settler-colonial practices of the Israeli government. These represent important first steps towards opposing Israeli human rights violations. Separately, over 1,300 anthropologists have signed a petition pledging to uphold the boycott through their own personal practice.

An academic boycott is an appropriate and effective response to Israel’s longstanding and systematic violations of Palestinian rights, including the right to education, because:

  • The boycott is a way for the AAA as a U.S.-based association to protest the unprecedented amount of aid and unconditional political support Washington provides to Israel.
  • The boycott is a way for anthropologists, with their long disciplinary history studying colonialism, to speak out against Israel’s colonial practices in Palestine.
  • The boycott is a way for a professional body of scholars to show solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues, whose work and lives are impeded on a daily basis by Israeli policies.

In recent months, outside organizations poured enormous resources into derailing the boycott through intimidation and disinformation. These groups organized harassment campaigns targeting untenured and adjunct scholars who supported the boycott; lobbied university presidents across the country to intervene in the vote; paid AAA membership dues for boycott opponents; called for the firing of Israeli scholars accused of supporting the boycott; and, just as the AAA began voting, filed a frivolous lawsuit against the American Studies Association for its own endorsement of the boycott in 2013.

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions will press on with its campaign to educate colleagues about Israel-Palestine and to mobilize anthropologists to take effective action in support of Palestinian rights through the boycott.

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is a self-funded grassroots group working in support of Palestinian human rights, composed entirely of AAA members, including faculty, contingent labor, and graduate students.