Why Jewish Anthropologists Should Support the Boycott

by Les Field

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

In June 2017 the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will pass the fifty year mark, and the “two-state solution,” an illusion that for years has received life support mainly from US politicians, seems to have lost its valence even in the United States. One year ago, the AAA resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions was defeated by the narrowest of margins. As a Jewish anthropologist, I have supported and continue to support BDS and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions because BDS is a non-violent and politically sophisticated path to expressing and acting upon critical analysis of the Occupation and the project of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine.  I hope Jewish colleagues in anthropology will confront the Zionist backgrounds many if not most of them experienced as children and as adults, and ask themselves the most challenging questions they can. My grandmother always said “Its not easy to be a Jew,” and from my very different perspective, this is still the case. Continue reading


Insecure Exchanges

by Rhoda Kanaaneh

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


I was born in the Palestinian village of Arrabeh but have spent most of the last twenty odd years in New York in the United States. My two homes are geographically distant from each other, but I’m often reminded of how closely linked they are.  President Trump’s promised wall is modeled after Israel’s. His attempted Muslim travel ban pales in comparison to Israel’s almost seven decade long ban against Palestinians who fled the war in 1948 and their descendants. Stories of police brutality and impunity, rates of incarceration, and prison conditions also bring these distant places close together.  Continue reading

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory must be understood as part of the process of settler colonialism

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

by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

When does occupation come to an end? When the occupying power withdraws from the occupied territory or is driven out of it.  50 years too long, the Green Line was originally to be a demarcation line on the map while the armistice talks were going on, rather than a permanent border. The green ink used to draw the line itself has moved in practice, that brutal shift from “Israeli-occupied territories” to “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Under international law Occupation is a form of administration by which an occupying power exercises government authority over occupied territory through military government. Continue reading

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Anthropologists Reflect on the Struggle for Boycott and a Half-Century of Israeli Occupation

June 2017 marks fifty years since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a watershed event that consolidated and extended the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. After a half century of deepening colonization and apartheid, the “two state solution” that has long been proposed as a way to resolve the conflict appears more elusive than ever.

June 2017 also marks the one-year anniversary of the narrow defeat of the resolution in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The vote was the culmination of years of vigorous debate among anthropologists about the best way for our discipline and professional association to support justice in Palestine and express solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents a series of reflections by our colleagues to commemorate this solemn occasion:

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui explains why “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory must be understood as part of the process of settler colonialism

Rhoda Kanaaneh‘s “Insecure Exchanges” traces links between struggles for racial justice in Palestine and the US

Les Field on “Why Jewish Anthropologists Should Support the Boycott

Glenn Bowman shares “Reflections on 34 Years of Field Research in the Israeli Occupied Territories

Ahmed Kanna emphasizes the importance of linking #Anthroboycott to struggles against capitalism

Nikolas Kosmatopoulos discusses opportunities for solidarity with Palestine beyond the boycott, especially at sea

Dan Segal reflects on last year’s AAA boycott vote in “How We Came So Close, and Why Victory is in Sight

Roberto J. González takes the long view in “The Patience of Activism


Continue reading

Support Democracy in the AAA. Vote Today!

Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recently received a series of emails from third-party pressure groups, urging them to vote against supporters of the boycott of Israeli institutions in the elections for the organization’s officers. Boycott opponents are using outside support to try and meddle in the organization’s democratic process. We hope that members will ignore this noise and vote for AAA office holders based on their merits.

As anthropologists, we believe that 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 are meritorious qualities that we should look for in the AAA’s leadership.

As the United States faces a resurgence of right-wing nationalism, scholars face increasing challenges to our academic freedom. These include blacklists of faculty who express solidarity with Palestinians and other left-leaning causes, repression of labor organizers, and efforts of alt-right groups to infiltrate campus spaces. Now more than ever we need to support colleagues who will defend our academic and civic rights.

Support democracy in the association and in academia and vote in the upcoming AAA elections, which ends in only a few days — May 31st. AAA Members can access their ballots by clicking on this link and entering their login details. If that doesn’t work, go to www.americananthro.org, log in, and look for the “Vote” button on the right-hand side of the screen.


Anthroboycott Calls on the AAA to Condemn New Israeli Anti-Boycott Law

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 necessbuttons_1_mock_up_2_4ary 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.


Supporting the Call to Boycott U.S. Academic Conferences

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions endorses the call for an academic boycott of international conferences held in the United States, acting in solidarity with those affected by the U.S. government’s recent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim measures.

We endorse this boycott because it is a concrete tactic for putting pressure on the unjust regimes under which we live. We see this boycott as complementing our own efforts to oppose U.S. and Israeli government policies.

As scholars who are located primarily within the U.S. academy, we fully support actions taken by our colleagues outside to stand against racist and exclusionary policies. We hope university administrations here will take note of the boycott as evidence of the harms caused by the U.S. government. We urge them to take concrete actions to protect vulnerable students, faculty, and staff affected by the January 27 Executive Order.


World Archaeological Congress Speaks Out on Palestine

The Eighth World Archaeological Congress (WAC-8) recently published a resolution it adopted in Kyoto earlier this year pertaining to Palestine. More than 1,600 colleagues coming from 83 countries participated in the Congress.

Resolution 13: Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in the Palestinian Occupied TerritoriesProposed at WAC-8 by Koji Mizoguchi, Akram Ijla, Ghattas Sayej, Chemi Shiff and Brian Boyd

 It is unethical for Professional Archaeologists and academic institutions to conduct professional archaeological work and excavations in occupied areas possessed by force”.

Resolution 9, passed at the WAC-7, Jordan, 2013.

Since its inception and foundation thirty years ago, the World Archaeological Congress has been proactive in the protection of basic human rights and the promotion of social justice. Palestine-Israel issues, largely caused by the latter’s occupation of the domain of the Palestinian Authority, and recognized as illegal by the United Nations, have been an important agendum for the WAC, and some important resolutions concerning the issues have been discussed and passed by the plenary and adopted as WAC International Congress resolutions (see above citation).

The current political circumstances in the region do not show any sign of immediate amelioration, and the on-the-ground situations relating to the occupation are worsening. As archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals, we cannot overlook the ongoing and relentless erosion of cultural heritage that is happening on a daily basis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We need to take a position on the destruction of the material evidence of human history, and the places and the sources of the self-identification of those who live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Deep cultural connections to this history form an essential element of human well-being, and hence, are a vital component of basic human rights. Continue reading

#Anthroboycott Welcomes Motions Passed at 2016 AAA Business Meeting

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions welcomes the passing of three motions at the Business Meeting of the American Anthropological Association on 18 November 2016. The first motion asks the AAA to condemn the post-election climate of hostility that threatens the personal and intellectual diversity of our community. The second called for the establishment of a Task Force charged with investigating the increasing attacks on anthropologists’ academic freedom. The third motion expressed solidarity with students and scholars under attack in Turkey, Kurdistan, and Kashmir. All three motions were endorsed by the AAA Committee for Human Rights and by an overwhelming majority of those present at the Business Meeting.

As a group of anthropologists dedicated to supporting our Palestinian colleagues facing occupation and apartheid, we recognize these resolutions are in keeping with the shared principles of anti-racism, solidarity, and academic freedom for all scholars that guide our movement. Given the urgent nature of these resolutions, we join our colleagues in urging the AAA Executive Board to take immediate action in response to the approval of these motions.

Alongside expressing our support for the resolutions passed at the 2016 AAA Business meeting, it is our hope that the association take further steps to also protect the academic freedoms of our Palestinian colleagues. In this light, we continue to urge the Executive Board to commit itself to taking action in line with our association’s core commitments.