A renowned American-Israel historian told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that the vote earlier this month by members of a US academic society to remove the term “non-political” from its bylaws indicates that it is preparing to pass a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution.
Martin Kramer, founding president of Jerusalem’s Shalem College and author most recently of The War on Error: Israel, Islam, and the Middle East, said that the March 17 Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) vote — which garnered 81% approval — was an obvious prelude to “pushing MESA into an academic boycott of Israel.”
Kramer noted that though MESA “avoided mention” of BDS explicitly, in a Feb. 2 letter, 11 of its former presidents cited engagement in “advocacy” on Israel-related issues, as well as those having to do with Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the Gulf states, as the impetus for the move.
Kramer said mention in the letter — whose signatories included Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, who said in January that Zionists would “infest” the Trump administration — of countries beyond the Jewish state was intentional, to make the campaign seem not “Israel-centric.”
“The [bylaw] change would allow the association to defend academic freedom more generally, in places like Turkey and Egypt, and in the America of Trump,” he said. “But let’s see how many motions there will be for an academic boycott of Turkey or Egypt or Iran. I predict: none.”
Kramer also assessed, “When [BDS is] passed, Israeli scholars will leave, and others will decamp in solidarity.”
“Fortunately, there is an alternative to MESA,” he said, referring to the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). “I predict that MESA will shrink, and its alternative, ASMEA, will grow, until they reach parity. It might happen faster than MESA thinks.”
Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, concurred, calling the passage of a MESA BDS resolution “inevitable.”
“BDS is in the organization’s DNA,” he told The Algemeiner. “The bigger question is, when a boycott goes through, what happens to MESA’s Israeli members? Would that mean their own associations will be boycotting them personally?”
As The Algemeiner reported, the American Historical Association recently rejected two anti-Israel motions, while a BDS resolution failed at the Modern Language Association’s national conference in January.
MESA members behind the campaign to change the bylaws did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.