Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions calls on the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to condemn the “Entry to Israel Act, Denial of Visa to Non-Residents Who Knowingly Call for a Boycott on Israel” bill, which passed the Israeli Knesset on March 6th, 2017. This new legislation bars entry to anyone who supports Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, those who oppose the academic boycott but support economic sanctions of Israel, as well as those who support limited actions, such as an economic boycott of settlement products. In light of Israel’s ongoing repression of academics, human rights activists, and civilians, we urge AAA members to abide by the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions until such time as Israel ends its discriminatory practices.
The provisions of this new anti-boycott law pose serious challenges to anthropologists who work in Israel-Palestine, many of whom now face the prospect of being denied entry. This legislation undermines the ability of anthropologists to sustain critical engagement with colleagues and communities affected by Israeli state policies. As the leading professional association representing anthropologists who study and travel in the region, the AAA should condemn the Israeli government’s attempts to impose a political litmus test on future anthropological collaboration and research, and also condemn the law as an infringement on rights to expression.
The impact of this law on anthropological research in Palestine and Israel is already being felt. The vast majority of anthropologists who study the region support the Palestinian-led call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. As such, they must now contend with the very real possibility that the state of Israel will deny their applications to collaborate with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, as well as conduct research in Israel and Palestine.
The impact of this new law on young scholars is particularly chilling. As anthropologists Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar have documented, junior scholars who express criticisms of Israeli policies are already subject to professional retaliation. The new law exacerbates this problem. Doctoral students considering where to conduct their ethnographic or archaeological research will face increased pressure to avoid Palestine as a field site. Those who persevere will be putting their careers at risk to uphold their political commitments.
This threat to academic life in Israel-Palestine is far from hypothetical. Even before the passage of the law, Israel denied entry to Dr. Adam Hanieh (SOAS, Development Studies) who planned to give a series of lectures at Birzeit University in the Occupied West Bank. Recognizing the potential of this new law to exacerbate such violations of academic freedom, the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom has already condemned what it describes as an “ideological litmus test for anyone entering the country or seeking to enter areas under Israeli control, including the West Bank.”
A political litmus test for entry into the country is Israel’s latest attack on academic freedom. Israeli citizens’ support for boycott, divestment, and sanctions is already penalized under Israeli law. Palestinian academics continue to be harassed, educational institutions raided, and students and professors arrested without charge. Israeli academic institutions are directly complicit in these abuses.
President Alisse Waterston stated: “the 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.” An official AAA condemnation of this law is necessary but not sufficient to end these practices. We urge AAA members to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement in all of its forms, including through a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The BDS call was issued by over 180 Palestinian civil society organizations. More information about the academic boycott, as well as advice on how to implement the call in your capacity as an individual scholar can be found at our website.