Ultranationalist Group Targets Dissident Israeli Anthropologists

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions condemns recent efforts to intimidate Israeli scholars who have spoken out against the occupation.

This week, the ultranationalist pressure group Im Tirtzu released a report targeting Israeli anthropologists it accuses of supporting the international boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Last month, 22 Israeli anthropologists anonymously signed a letter supporting the proposed boycott currently being voted on by the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Continue reading

Suad Joseph: Why I Now Support the Academic Boycott


suad3I hesitated for some time to sign on to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  My respected and dear friends and colleagues who opposed the boycott expressed their concerns to me.  I could understand why their arguments were powerful for them and appreciated their deep dismay.  Those personal relationships gave me pause, even though the arguments were not entirely convincing.  It was personal.

My respected and dear friends and colleagues who supported the boycott expressed their concerns to me.  Their arguments were powerful.  Those personal relationships left me troubled and the evidence accumulated and sedimented.  It was personal.

My last trip to Israel/Palestine a few years ago, opened another lens on personal relationships.  Many of my Israeli friends, in Israeli institutions, stood for the boycott as well.  They explained that they could come and go as they wished, attend conferences, participate in academic events, apply for and win jobs/awards/grants. Their careers and mobilities were  minimally affected by the boycott.  It was not personal. Continue reading

Roberto González: #Anthroboycott Vote Should Not Be Suppressed

[this essay originally appeared on the blog of Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors]

Guest blogger Roberto J. González is an alumnus of UC Berkeley. He is chair of San José State University’s anthropology department and author of several books including Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State (2010) and Zapotec Science: Farming and Food in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca (2001). His position on academic boycotts differs from that of the AAUP, which can be found here.

gonzalezLast month, University of California President Janet Napolitano sent a bewildering letter to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the world’s largest professional association of anthropologists.

The document, co-signed by the chancellors of all 10 UC campuses, expresses concern about a proposed AAA resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It urges “Association members to consider the boycott’s potentially harmful impacts and oppose this resolution.”

Napolitano’s letter betrays an Orwellian disregard for what it claims to protect: academic freedom. Continue reading

Middle East Studies Association Criticizes Israeli Travel Restrictions on Boycott Activist

On 16 May, the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association sent a letter to Israeli authorities criticizing an effective travel ban imposed by Israeli authorities on Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is only the latest instance of Israeli restrictions on freedom of expression, especially of critics of government policy.

A copy of the letter is below.


An Open Letter to American Anthropologist

[this letter originally appeared as part of an exchange in Anthropology News]

Nadia Abu El-Haj
Susan Slyomovics

The recent issue of the American Anthropologist included a section presenting nine views on anthropology in Israel. The persons asked to respond to three questions about Israeli anthropology included “all living past heads of the Israel [sic] Anthropological Association,” a group whom Virginia Dominguez herself characterizes as Jewish, nearly all Ashkenazi, nearly all men, and nearly all faculty in leading research universities. Despite acknowledging the extreme narrowness of this demographic distribution, Dominguez, the editor of the special subsection, concludes that she “thought (and still firmly believe[s]) that the range of views and accounts in such a grouping [past heads of the IAA] had the best chance of capturing the diversity of views and understandings in the practice of anthropology in Israel (as well as some constancies and commonalities).”

There is absolutely nothing representative about this collection of views, however. In privileging the insights of past presidents of the IAA, the journal skewed the “sample”—such as it is—in significant ways. It tilted those authorized to assess Israeli anthropology towards an older generation of Israeli anthropologists who wield power and influence not just within the discipline, but also in Israeli society writ large.   Seven out of nine of them invoked that authority in a politically opportunistic way: Rather than just answer questions about the discipline in Israel, they voiced their opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions currently being voted on by members of the AAA. Continue reading

Are Palestinian Scholars Our Colleagues? Boycott and the Material Limits of Friendship

[this essay originally appeared on Savage Minds]

Alireza Doostdar

doostdar20alirezaThe debate over the AAA motion to boycott Israeli academic institutions has centered on questions of justice and academic freedom. Proponents of boycott argue that the exhaustively-documented injustices that Israel metes out on the Palestinian people, which includes systematic denial of their academic freedom, warrants a boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in the state’s crimes. Opponents argue that even though Israel may be oppressing the Palestinians, this should not be cause for curtailing the academic freedom of Israelis, which they see as amounting to unjust collective punishment.

Implicit in these arguments are a set of unexamined attitudes toward collegiality and reciprocity. Briefly, I want to argue that the decision whether or not to support boycott turns on whether one is able to imagine Palestinian scholars as colleagues and friends. This imagination is a product not just of our individual cognitive capacities, but of specific material conditions. Continue reading

NEW e-book featuring essays in support of #anthroboycott

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to announce the release of “Reflections on Anthropology, Politics, and the Grassroots Movement to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.” This free e-book features a dozen essays by anthropologists in support of the boycott, including Ann Stoler, Thomas Blom Hansen, James Ferguson, Jemima Pierre, and Brian Boyd.


Continue reading

Violating the Right to Education for Palestinians: A Case for Boycotting Israeli Academic Institutions

[this essay originally appeared on Savage Minds]

Violating the Right to Education for Palestinians: A Case for Boycotting Israeli Academic Institutions

Thea Abu El-Haj & Fida Adely

During the 50 day Israeli War on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Israeli military killed 1462 Palestinian civilians, 495 of whom were children. Israeli forces destroyed or severely damaged the homes of over 100,000 Gazans and over 200 schools.


The Jabalia Elementary Girls School serving as a shelter for Palestinians in Gaza was hit by shells on 30 July 2014. Photo: UNRWA Archives / Shareef Sarhan

Among the most egregious events of this 50 day siege were the bombings of three UN schools that were sheltering internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to Human Rights Watch, 45 Gazans, including 17 children, were killed in these attacks on schools. Those killed had believed that UN facilities—particularly schools—would offer protection from rampant shelling. Continue reading

“An Anthropology Committed to Critical, Ethical Engagement With the World”: Graduate Students Speak Up For the Boycott

[this essay originally appeared on Somatosphere]

As graduate students and new members of the American Association of Anthropologists, we approach the academic boycott resolution vote with hope. We write today in response to “When It’s Time to Vote, Don’t Boycott—Cut the Purse-strings”, which outlines an argument against the resolution and calls instead for “targeted, collective action”. The academic boycott is exactly this: a targeted, collective action, and one that students across the country have chosen to support. In the past few months, graduate student unions at NYU, the University of California, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, have voted to boycott and divest from Israeli occupation industries and Israeli academic institutions. At NYU, over half of voting graduate students also pledged to personally uphold an academic boycott. We voted for the AAA boycott resolution because it is a collective action that respects the autonomy and judgment of Palestinian civil society, who have determined for themselves, over the last 50 years, how to best engage those who wish to stand in solidarity with their struggle against the occupation. Continue reading

Naomi Schiller and Nina Glick-Schiller: Why We Voted To Support the Boycott

[this essay originally appeared on the website of PoLAR: The Political & Legal Anthropology Review]

Two generations of anthropologists, Naomi Schiller and Nina Glick Schiller, have written a statement supporting the boycott in response to Political and Legal Anthropology Review’s fourth emergent conversation about the AAA ballot. APLA and PoLAR do not officially support or oppose the measure. 

People around the world are appalled by the ever-shrinking life opportunities for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, including the prison-camp type limitations on education, healthcare, mobility, and opportunity.13103359_1734057706870696_8096789545168256388_n

The AAA boycott gives us, as anthropologists, an opportunity to take action against one arm of the Israeli state. While it is true that states have many faces and a range of institutional structures, Israeli universities—as one face of the Israeli state—have contributed institutionally to the dehumanization of both Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians struggling to survive in the remaining bits of Palestinian territory. This boycott is not a boycott of individual anthropologists, but of institutions. Academic boycott is an instrument to highlight the complicity of Israeli universities as institutions that control hiring and firing, grant or deny resources to students and faculty, and provide multiple platforms for legitimating Israeli policies of annihilation, including ongoing seizure of Palestinian land and the destruction of Palestinian homes. Continue reading