Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. 71% of the members who voted backed the measure while just 29% opposed it.
“This was indeed a contentious issue, and our differences may have sparked fierce debate, but we have made a collective decision and it is now our duty to forge ahead, united in our commitment to advancing scholarly knowledge, finding solutions to human and social problems, and serving as a guardian of human rights,” said AAA President Ramona Pérez in a statement.
AAA’s referendum policies and procedures have been followed closely and without exception, and the outcome will carry the full weight of authorization by AAA’s membership.
A previous Israeli boycott measure was enthusiastically endorsed at an AAA business meeting 2015, but ended up being defeated in a close vote the following year. In March 2023, over 200 AAA members submitted a petition to the Executive Board requesting a full-membership vote on the issue. The voting took place between June 15 and July 14.
“The Israeli state operates an apartheid regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the internationally recognized state of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank and the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime against humanity,” reads the resolution.
“Israeli academic institutions are complicit in the Israeli state’s regime of oppression against Palestinians… including by providing research and development of military and surveillance technologies used against Palestinians,” it continues.
..Israeli academic institutions do not provide protections for academic freedom, campus speech in support of Palestinian human and political rights, nor for the freedom of association of Palestinian students on their campuses.
Under the resolution, Israeli academic institutions can’t be published in AAA’s published materials, advertise in AAA publications, use AAA conference facilities for job interviews, participate in AAA events, or reprint articles from AAA publications. The resolution only applies to the institutions, not the scholars and students connected to them.
As Palestinians we warmly welcome the historic vote of the American Anthropological Association (AAA @AmericanAnthro) to support our call to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler colonialism & apartheid. #AnthroBoycott pic.twitter.com/eW0iifNebU
— PACBI (@PACBI) July 24, 2023
“This resolution is a meaningful demonstration of solidarity by thousands of scholars standing alongside their Palestinian colleagues, whose work and lives are impacted on a daily basis by Israel’s racist, discriminatory policies and brutal military rule,” said Jessica Winegar, an anthropology professor and member of the Anthroboycott collective, a group that pushed for the measure.
As scholars with a long history of studying colonialism, anthropologists are all too familiar with the devastating harm of Israel’s oppression and theft of Palestinian land. This vote is an important step in showing that support for Palestinian rights goes hand in hand with the AAA’s values of human rights for all.
Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees applauds @AmericanAnthro's overwhelming endorsement of their call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions#Anthroboycott #AnthroTwitter #BDS
cc @PACBI @USACBI pic.twitter.com/MS9ltmtHFP
— anthroboycott (@anthroboycott) July 24, 2023
Alisse Waterston, Professor of Anthropology at the John Jay College and former president of the AAA, detailed why she endorsed the measure in a piece at Mondoweiss earlier this year.
“I recognize that at times certain principles come into contradiction,” she wrote.
If the AAA boycott does any harm to academic freedom, this must be weighed against the dead bodies and ruined houses that are the Palestinian plight. If members drop their association membership and donors withdraw, those who support the boycott ought to pledge to bring in 1-2 members each and to provide financial support to the association above their membership dues. Any other threats or harm to the American Anthropological Association can be met with commitment to stand up on its behalf. If the boycott proves ineffectual, this must be weighed against complicity with the silencing of the condition of Palestinians under apartheid, leaving them isolated, lonely, and invisible.
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss. His work has appeared in In These Times, The Appeal, and Truthout. He is the author of Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC.