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


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

Mick Taussig on #anthroboycott: “A Moment of Truth”

[this essay originally appeared on Savage Minds]

by Mick Taussig

Yesterday an ex-student forwarded me an apparently widely diffused email against the boycott from my friend Michael Fisher. Echoing an argument central to the debate, Michael thinks the boycott is likely to have a deleterious effect on Israeli anthropologists critical of the Israeli state and that it goes against the principle of academic freedom. These are tough issues which everyone I know supporting the boycott takes very seriously.

I myself don’t see why the boycott as defined should hinder critical work by Israeli anthropologists and some have come out in favor of the boycott anyway. I wish to support them as much as I can.

As for academic freedom, to my mind the boycott would actually strengthen it, emerging as it does from all that is praiseworthy in US anthropology with its concern, especially since the war in Vietnam, with colonialism and state coercion. Academic freedom remains a mindless mantra unless exercised against oppression and censorship. To me the boycott is the most effective way anthropologists in the USA can draw attention to the terror exercised daily by the Israeli state against Palestinians, with, be it noted, the connivance of the US government, Congress and mainstream media. As regards the latter, consider the amazement and consternation that Bernie Sanders’ recent remarks have caused in the US despite their mildness. Continue reading

Ghassan Hage: Why I Have Voted in Support of BDS

[this essay originally appeared on Savage Minds]

by Ghassan Hage

2013-ghassan-hage-02From the 15th of April and until the end of May members of the American Anthropological Association will be voting on whether to endorse the proposal to boycott Israeli academic institutions as part of offering to support the Palestinians’ call for a Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestments (BDS) movement against the state of Israel. I have voted in support of the resolution. As the vote has been an occasion whereby AAA has initiated and encouraged a more public discussion of the pros and cons of the BDS movement, I wish to share my understanding of the nature of the opposition between those who are for and against BDS and why I personally, as a AAA member, support it. Continue reading

Why Voting Matters: The American Anthropological Association’s Upcoming Vote to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions

[this post originally appeared on the Huffington Post]

Junaid Rana & Nadine Naber

In two weeks, the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) nearly 10,000 members will begin voting on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. It might just pass, if judging by preliminary voting at last November’s AAA business meeting is any clue. Scanning the large hall, in which some 1500 hundred members attended, well beyond capacity, it was impossible for us not to feel victorious over the explicit support for Palestinian liberation and self-determination and to feel that there was a major changing of the tide within anthropology, and within academia at large. Not only was this the largest turnout in recent memory; it was also a massive shift in demographics. The meeting made clear that the AAA is far more diverse than it was even just a few decades ago; that recent generations of young scholars and graduate students are far more willing to participate in conversations regarding social justice than ever before; and that women anthropologists continue to lead some of the most urgent conversations of our times. Yet what is not clear, despite the unprecedented turnout of that business meeting, is exactly how many AAA members will vote on the actual resolution starting April 15. While academic association voting percentages are often dismally low, some might wonder whether voting matters at all and whether an academic boycott has any relevance to the Palestinian condition.

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Acknowledging the Palestinian Public Health Crisis: Why Signing onto the Academic Boycott Makes Sense for Medical Anthropologists

[this letter originally appeared on the Somatosphere blog]


Dear fellow medical anthropologists,

We have learned that medical anthropologists are currently under-represented, as compared to other sub-fields, in their support for the AAA academic boycott resolution.[1] We write to ask you to seriously consider joining us in signing on. Let us explain why we see this as an issue over which medical anthropologists should be concerned. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza face tremendous health challenges that are directly attributable to Israel’s occupation regime.[2] These include permanent disabilities secondary to political violence, high rates of malnutrition, anemia, stunted growth, and acute post-traumatic stress disorder.[3] The systematic demolition of homes and infrastructure has severely impeded access to potable water, sanitation, fuel supplies, and electricity.[4] Amid regular violence, the Israeli separation wall and the checkpoints impede access by patients and caregivers to work, family, sites of worship, and health-care facilities.[5] Poverty rates are high, and almost half of Palestinians are now dependent on food aid, and the operation of basic health services are significantly compromised. A 2012 study published in the Lancet on the Global Burden of Disease demonstrates the health discrepancy for Israelis and Palestinians: Israeli men ranked 9th and Israeli women ranked 12th in the world for life expectancies, while Palestinians ranked 86th for men and 97th for women.[6] A report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in September 2015 warns that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020, if current economic trends persist.[7]These conditions constitute a public health emergency.

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Why I Support the Boycott — Donald Donham

[this article originally appeared as part of an “emergent conversation” on the boycott at PoLAR: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review online]


I support the proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Boycotts can sometimes be blunt instruments. For example, the boycott of apartheid South Africa was much more broadly cast. The proposed boycott of Israel seems to me finely focused and designed, in fact, to produce academic engagement.

The boycott issues a strong symbolic statement. That statement involves the insistence that we scholars hold the powerful, in this case Israel and the United States, accountable for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The continuing settlement of Palestinian lands must stop.

Universities, though not the primary actors in this conflict, are nonetheless parts of a structure of power that conditions it. As the report to the AAA shows, the links between Israeli universities and the occupation are not hidden. And the plight of Palestinian students and scholars in Israeli academic institutions is a serious one. Continue reading

Why I Signed — Lenore Manderson on the boycott

[this interview originally appeared as part of an “emergent conversation” on the boycott at PoLAR: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review online]


Lenore-2South African universities are signatory to the boycott of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). PACBI has advocated, since 2004, for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions. The boycott makes explicit, at the outset, that the focus is on institutions, not individuals, and it upholds the universal right to academic freedom. The institutional boycott called for by Palestinian civil society does not conflict with such freedom, and instead, allows us to host Israeli speakers in their individual capacity, provided that their institutional affiliations are not included in any advertisement or introduction. See Continue reading

Lila Abu-Lughod: Should We Act on Israel/Palestine, or Not?

[this essay originally appeared in Anthropology News]

abu-lughodI hope people will read the Task Force Report on Israel/Palestine. It represents hundreds of hours of labor by our colleagues. It reflects what is special about our discipline and why most of us are proud to be anthropologists. Based on close listening, careful observation, wide reading, and a search to find the right analytical framework, it fairly presents the situation about which we all now must make a decision. The comparative perspective these anthropologists brought to the task and their acknowledgment of both anthropology’s historic complicity and courage with regard to past and present colonial and neocolonial injustices, shape the report. Those who want to know more should consult the ethnographic work of so many colleagues who have done fieldwork in Palestinian communities (e.g. Lori Allen 2013; Amahl Bishara 2012; Ilana Feldman2008; Rhoda Kanaaneh 2008; Nicola Perugini 2015; Julie Peteet 2005; Susan Slyomovics 1998; and work surveyed by Khaled Furani and Dan Rabinowitz 2011).

The question for us now is: Should we act, or not? A lot of red herrings have been thrown onto the trail to distract us from the basic question of how we might want to meet our ethical and political responsibilities in the face of this unjust—and for many Palestinians, including our academic colleagues—unbearable situation. Continue reading

Israel’s Foreign Policy in Latin America — Another Reason to Take the Call to Boycott Seriously

[this post originally appeared on Savage Minds]

Les Field image[Savage Minds is pleased to publish this essay by Les W. Field. Les is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at U New Mexico. He pursues collaborative research projects in South, Central, and North America, and in Palestine. Field has also co-organized two field schools for UNM undergraduates and graduate students in the occupied West Bank.]

Many Latin Americanist anthropologists and other scholars are unaware of the state of Israel’s substantial, long-term relationships with certain forces and governments in Latin American countries. Yet knowing of these relationships will aid scholars seeking more background information as they consider their position within the AAA debate over whether the Association should boycott Israeli academic institutions. Israel’s involvement in Latin America initiated quickly after its 1948 establishment, after which it built alliances with right-wing and military regimes that have consistently displayed anti-left, anti-indigenous and anti-democratic characteristics. The comparative thrust of the discipline of anthropology should lead Latin Americanist scholars to ask whether Israel’s record in Latin America is consistent with Israeli policies towards Palestinians inside Israel and the Occupied Territories. As an ethnographer of social change in Nicaragua during the 1980s, it was Israeli support for the Contra insurgency that first led me to read widely and critically about the question of Palestine. I came to see important resonances between Israeli foreign policy in Latin America, on the one hand, and the systematic dispossession of Palestinians from their lands and other resources, including the implementation of apartheid-like policies in the lands controlled by Israel, on the other. Continue reading