Victory: Middle East Anthropologists Overwhelmingly Support Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Anthropologists of the Middle East have voted overwhelmingly to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In a special referendum held June 2-11 by the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association, a boycott resolution passed 157 to 11, with 71% of the membership participating.

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (Anthroboycott) submitted the resolution during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip last month. The boycott represents an act of solidarity from scholars specializing on the region, many of whom have long studied U.S. support for Israel’s colonial practices and violent suppression of the Palestinian people.

Anthroboycott calls on our colleagues across the discipline to take up the boycott call, especially in light of the strong statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people released by the board of the Middle East Section in May and endorsed by 17 other sections of the American Anthropological Association. We offer our assistance and resources to those who wish to organize for the boycott.


Middle East Anthropologists Voting on Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Middle East studies scholars in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) are voting on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (Anthroboycott) submitted the measure during Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip. Voting will be open to all members of the AAA’s Middle East Section (MES) from June 2 to June 11.*

Anthroboycott urges MES members to support the boycott resolution and we call upon our colleagues across the AAA and its various sections to undertake similar initiatives. Boycotting Israeli academic institutions is a basic act of solidarity that Palestinian civil society has demanded for over a decade, and one that takes our professional location as anthropologists as a starting point for change.

Scholarly associations in the United States bear a special responsibility to boycott, as the U.S. government is the world’s leading sponsor of Israeli colonial violence. Israel has also long stood with other white supremacist and settler regimes worldwide, from its support for apartheid South Africa to its ongoing collaborations with police forces in the United States.

The recent escalation in colonial violence against Palestinians is a reminder for anthropologists to take up the unfinished work of 2016, when the AAA narrowly missed adopting a boycott resolution by a razor-thin margin in a referendum that was unprecedented both in its turnout and in outside interference from pro-Israel organizations. In the years since, the situation in Palestine has only further deteriorated, with the 2018 adoption of a Basic Law enshrining the principle of Jewish supremacy and the U.S. government’s recognition of Israeli annexation in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Anthroboycott notes the recent outpouring in solidarity with the Palestinian people among our colleagues. This includes the statement by the MES Board endorsed by more than a dozen sections of the AAA thus far. We are also heartened by the outcry that forced the Association’s leadership to rapidly retract its deeply flawed announcement on the situation in Palestine and to replace it with an improved text.

We invite anthropologists who wish to organize for the boycott in the AAA and its various sections to reach out and join us.

*: Electronic ballots were sent to MES members around midnight on the evening of June 1; those who have not received ballots should check their spam folders.

Call to Action: Respond to Increasing Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Educational Institutions

Anthropologist for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions urges our colleagues and representative bodies to respond to increasing Israeli attacks on Palestinian educational institutions.

This past month, the State of Israel forced the Hind al-Husseini College and Al-Quds University’s College of Art, both located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, to shut down. The closure comes after the two colleges attempted to host an academic conference on the protection of Muslim and Christian heritage sites in Jerusalem. Israel also detained 15 of the conference participants.

Israel has also recently refused to renew visa applications for numerous visiting professors working at West Bank universities, effectively preventing them from teaching Palestinian students and collaborating with their Palestinian colleagues. At Birzeit University alone, 15 foreign passport holding professors have had their visa renewals denied or delayed. Many of those affected are professors of Palestinian origin but who are unable to obtain residency documents due to Israel’s discriminatory immigration policies.

While Israel was impeding the operation of Palestinian universities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Hebrew University held an academic conference on expanding green spaces in the occupied West Bank, a tactic Israel frequently uses to displace Palestinian communities and seize their land. The event featured a number of settler organizations – including a uniformed speaker from the Israeli Civil Administration, the military body that governs the West Bank – but no voices of dissent, Palestinian or Israeli.

These ongoing attacks on Palestinian education come amidst a flurry of discriminatory and violent actions undertaken by Israel. This past month, Israel’s parliament passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” downgrading the status of Arabic and promoting the creation of Jewish-only communities. Meanwhile, Israeli settlement activity and settler violencein the West Bank continues uninterrupted. And in Gaza, Israel’s increasingly violent attacks on Palestinian protesters have killed 165 Palestinians and injured nearly 9000 since 30 March.

During the 2015 debate at the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) annual meeting  over whether the AAA ought to endorse Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, opponents repeatedly assured us of their concern over violations of Palestinian rights. They assured us that there were other ways to effectively object to Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and academic freedom.  In the face of these increasing attacks on Palestinian academic institutions, the silence of boycott opponents, both as a group and as individuals, reveals what we have argued all along: their calls for dialogue have translated into inaction, from them and from the AAA .

Following the narrow defeat of the boycott resolution, Alisse Waterston, acting in her capacity as President of the AAA wrote: “the general consensus has not changed: AAA can and should take appropriate action to address the serious threats to human rights and academic freedom that have been observed and documented in the region.” We strongly urge the AAA to live up to its promises and condemn these ongoing attacks on our Palestinian colleagues.

Until the AAA has the opportunity to reconsider its relationship to the separate and unequal education systems operating under Israeli sovereignty, we urge individual anthropologists to recommit themselves to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions called for by our Palestinian colleagues. Anthropologists can sign a statement of support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions here. Advice for how individual scholars can implement the boycott in their individual practice can be found at our website.



Anthroboycott Congratulates new AAA Officers: Anti-BDS Blacklisting Effort Fails

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions heartily congratulates all of the newly elected officers of the American Anthropological Association.

This year, outside groups opposed to Palestinian civil society’s call Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, sought to influence the election by circulating a blacklist of nominees who have expressed support for Palestinian human rights. This attempt to impose a political litmus test on the leaders of our association is part of a larger anti-Palestine intimidation campaign, encompassing attempts to criminalize boycottsblacklist leftist professors and file frivolous lawsuits against academic associations.

Thankfully, AAA members soundly rejected this intimidation campaign, electing 12 out of 13 candidates included in this failed blacklist (2 of the candidates were running for the same position). We hope that the new AAA officers continue to embody the best traditions of our discipline, including a critical global perspective, a suspicion of authoritarianism and state power, and an inclination to understand and even sympathize with the experiences of oppressed groups, both in Palestine and beyond.

As we approach the Oct. 4th nominations deadline for next year’s AAA elections, we encourage those committed to social justice to get involved in our association.  At the same time, we urge the AAA membership to remain vigilant against the ongoing attempts of pro-Israel and other right-wing organizations to intimidate, blacklist, and retaliate against academics who express solidarity with Palestinians and other left-leaning causes.


The Patience of Activism

by Roberto J. González

This essay is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Among the many reactions following last year’s vote on the American Anthropological Association’s BDS resolution, there was one that was particularly shortsighted–namely, the idea that somehow the ballot marked a significant and historic turning point. For example, days after the votes were tallied, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement describing the result as “an important milestone in the effort to counter the BDS movement and in support of academic freedom.” Many others seemed to intepret the vote as the beginning of the end of BDS. Continue reading

How We Came So Close, and Why Victory is in Sight

by Daniel Segal

This essay is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

More than ever, the world needs to find potent, non-violent means to achieve social justice and peace in Palestine-Israel.  And more than ever, those of us who are citizens of the U.S. state must oppose our government’s enabling of the Israeli state’s oppression of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. Continue reading

Blue-washing settler-colonialism: The sea beyond Palestine and the maritime BDS

by Nikolas Kosmatopoulos

This essay is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

In this season of anniversaries, I wish to bring to memory the early summer 2010, when the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the humanitarian fleet carrying cargo and solidarity activists sought to break the siege on Gaza. The flotilla was the boldest and bloodiest grassroots maritime campaign in the history of the international solidarity for Palestine. In international waters, the Israeli Navy attacked the fleet and killed nine civilians on the spot. Despite the brutal killings, the massive arrests, and the eventual blocking of the sea route, the Ships to Gaza constituted a watershed event that would be displaced in memory only by the Arab uprisings that arrived few months later. They caused a sea change that challenged the illegality and inhumanity of the siege before global audiences, uniting on board hundreds of people from all over the world. The ships were to the siege what a growing movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is to the occupation: ample evidence that both are falling out of the consciousness of the world. Surely by serendipity, the ships went perhaps a bit further; they made the world conscious that the sea, not only the land, is about Palestine, politics, BDS. Continue reading

#AnthroBoycott, Anti-Capitalism, Articulation

by Ahmed Kanna

This essay is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

What lessons does the short history of #AnthroBoycott hold for our organizing efforts in the future and what’s our place in the larger Trumpian moment?  That the boycott of Israeli academic institutions almost passed the general membership vote of the AAA in the spring of last year is a testament to the effectiveness of what even a small, committed group of activists can accomplish.  The tiny margin of our loss should always be seen in the larger and intensely hostile context in which our organizing efforts took place.  A number of malign factors confronted our efforts, among them that our discipline remains under the hegemony of a Cold War liberalism and, as many have observed, is yet to be fully de-colonized; the support of the “full might of the Israel lobby” enjoyed by our opponents; and their relentless attempts to distract from the basic issues of colonialism, racism, and occupation which are fundamental to any understanding of Israel – Palestine. Continue reading