SPME http://spme.org Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Mon, 19 Jun 2017 23:51:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Everyone Lost at Dartmouth http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/everyone-lost-dartmouth/23996/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/everyone-lost-dartmouth/23996/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 23:51:37 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23996

In May 2017, N. Bruce Duthu, an associate dean and faculty member in Native American studies at Dartmouth College, announced that he would not be accepting the appointment he had been offered to become dean of the faculty. An enrolled member of the United Houma Nation and an authority on Native American law and public policy, Duthu had been serving as associate dean of the faculty for international studies and interdisciplinary programs; he thus had a track record as an administrator responsible for a range of faculty interests and curricular programs crossing disciplinary boundaries. Faculty members from a number of programs had direct experience working with him and had developed considerable confidence in his judgment and abilities. It was a widely popular appointment.

One issue, however, became a subject of both local and national debate: in 2013, as treasurer and a member of the executive committee of the national Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Duthu had helped draft and thus co-author the organization’s statement calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, as part of what is referred to as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Alan Gustman, an economics professor at Dartmouth, this year circulated a letter arguing that those actions made Duthu unsuitable to be dean of the faculty: “In view of Dartmouth’s anti-Semitic history and Professor Duthu’s endorsement of the anti-Semitic BDS document, Dartmouth must not simply appoint Duthu to the position of dean of the faculty and ignore the implications of that appointment.”

He did not claim that Duthu was anti-Semitic himself, but he did insist that unless Duthu proceeded to “publicly disavow the full ramifications of the BDS positions he has publicly endorsed,” Dartmouth would remain entangled with its earlier anti-Semitic history. The message seemingly implied that Dartmouth was perfectly comfortable appointing a dean who was in favor of the anti-Semitic BDS movement and was unaware of or unconcerned with the contradictory public positions he had taken with regard to his obligations as dean of the faculty. In effect, Gustman was saying he had hoped that the specter of past anti-Semitism had left Dartmouth, but now he was no longer so sure.

The statement went viral, and individuals and groups joined the debate, both defending and attacking Duthu. In the end, Duthu decided the controversy had gotten in the way of his doing the job and withdrew, simultaneously resigning as associate dean.

Although intense hostility to Israel in Native American studies is not uncommon, and in some cases it has resembled anti-Semitism, Duthu himself, his colleagues testify, has never spoken in any such way. As Dartmouth faculty member and Jewish studies head Susannah Heschel wrote to the Alliance for Academic Freedom, here quoted with permission, “I have never heard anything from him that I would consider even remotely problematic about Israel, and I believe several of my Jewish colleagues who are far more right-wing than I feel the same way. We were united in our enthusiasm for him.” She added, “Why did we support him? Bruce helped me, as chair of JWST, with our student exchange program with Israeli universities, set up two courses per year on Israel [and] bring visiting faculty to teach at Dartmouth — including Hillel Cohen, director of the center for the study of Zionism at Hebrew University; Israel Yuval, a professor of medieval Jewish history at Hebrew University and director of Scholion and of the Hebrew U’s humanities center; and Jeremy Cohen, a professor of medieval Jewish history at Tel Aviv University — all teaching at Dartmouth within the space of two years. In each case, Bruce arranged everything quickly and enthusiastically — and believe me, no dean has ever been as efficient and supportive. Plus, Bruce has been invited to lecture at Hebrew University and accepted with enthusiasm. Truth: he is no boycotter.”

Part of what is important about these comments is that they testify to Duthu’s past practices. Such evidence can be a better guide to future actions than declarations and promises. That is perhaps not less true for faculty members than it is for politicians.

Moreover, before his withdrawal, Duthu rejected academic boycotts, thus rejecting the official NAISA position. He wrote, “I continue to believe in the right of private citizens to express criticism of any country’s government policies. At the same time, I do not believe that a boycott of academic institutions is the appropriate response.” He added that he had embraced Dartmouth’s institutional opposition to academic boycotts and would continue to do so as dean of the faculty.

The problem begins with how we understand what occurred in 2013, which requires some historical context. Based on the historical experience of European colonization throughout the Americas, Native American studies faculty tend to accept the related ill-informed claims that Palestinians are the only authentic indigenous people of Palestine and that the state of Israel was founded as a European settler-colonialist enterprise. BDS has been promoting these arguments for years, ignoring or disparaging the important historical and genetic evidence to the contrary. The BDS arguments are by no means universally accepted in nonacademic Native American communities, but they represent the perspective of many, if not most, outspoken and organized Native American faculty.

We may never know whether NAISA understood that there has always been an indigenous Jewish population in Palestine. Some Native Americans recognize a fraternal relation with Israelis: Jews in Israel, like American Indians in the United States, are trying to reclaim their sovereignty on a small part of their former land. But that view does not hold sway in some academic disciplines.

Native American faculty members who lecture or perform in Israel can be subjected to fierce critique and both local and national shunning. So it was to be expected that the NAISA executive committee would vote as it did. The statement they endorsed was reportedly a more moderate one than that they had been considering, and that may have encouraged Duthu to support it. Many progressive faculty members were frustrated with the failure of peace negotiations to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and some accepted the need to criticize and isolate the more powerful of the two parties involved. In any case, we are never likely to learn details about the confidential discussions about the resolution on the NAISA executive committee. But Duthu has made clear he no longer shares the position adopted in the NAISA statement.

Was it necessary or appropriate for Duthu to speak to the issue of academic boycotts? Is the very specific testimony about his prior practices at Dartmouth relevant? The American Association of University Professors in 2005 made it clear that academic boycotts are an assault against the principle of academic freedom that is the bedrock of higher education. While an individual faculty member can reject that argument, an administrator with the responsibility to evaluate or oversee joint programs with Israeli universities cannot. Administrators are at-will employees; they can be relieved of their administrative responsibilities for any reason. They can debate policies under consideration, but they are expected to help implement them once they are adopted. Administrators do not have the same level of academic freedom as faculty members.

Some faculty members can maintain a clear separation between their political opinions and their campus academic decisions and practices; some cannot. A number of prominent supporters of academic boycotts of Israel teach classes that excoriate Israel and write books and essays that do the same. Some quietly make hiring and promotion decisions on that basis as well. Academic freedom gives faculty wide latitude in these areas, but administrators do not have the same latitude. They are bound by the general principles the campus has adopted and must not make decisions based on their personal political biases.

It was perfectly reasonable, therefore, for Dartmouth faculty to want to believe that Duthu could be counted on both to support Jewish studies and to give a fair and sympathetic hearing to well-argued proposals for faculty travel to Israel or research and pedagogical collaborations with Israeli universities. Given Duthu’s role in organizing and signing an academic boycott resolution, the concern was warranted. But Duthu’s own statements and the personal history Heschel recounts provide those assurances. Once we know he now rejects academic boycotts and know as well what kind of dean he would have made, we really do not need an account of the personal processes he went through in 2013 and since.

One might have welcomed a more full-throated denunciation of academic boycotts, given that the principles involved are so fundamental, but such a demand crosses the line into a political litmus test. It is not as if really good administrators grow on trees or lie scattered among the grasses on the quad. No one benefits from discarding one.

Those members of the Jewish community, among them Dartmouth’s persistent economics professor, who intervened to excoriate Duthu, did not help their cause, either. Many outside Jewish groups chose to remain silent while the debate was ongoing, believing that most academic decisions should proceed without outside interference. There are occasions when a public outcry is appropriate, but cautious consideration and reticence are essential components of any outside political intervention in academic matters.

Moreover, given that Duthu had the courage to distance himself publicly from the small and relatively close-knit NAISA community by rejecting academic boycotts, his deanship offer gave the Jewish community an opportunity for outreach and solidarity. That is a far better strategy than holding someone eternally responsible for boycott advocacy they later withdraw. It is a better model for how to educate the many weak BDS advocates.

While those leaders of the BDS movement who urge the dissolution of the Jewish state have embraced an anti-Semitic project, it is not uncommon to find students and faculty members who have signed BDS petitions while privately admitting they don’t actually know much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They have responded to social and political peer group pressure and done what they believe is surely the politically correct thing to do. An endorsement of a BDS resolution does not justify claiming a person has knowingly made an anti-Semitic alliance. It does justify an effort to educate someone about why an effort to deny six million Israeli Jews any right to political self-determination is anti-Semitic in effect, however confused its intent may be.

The bottom line is that applying any such considerations to an administrative appointment has to apply principle on a case-by-case basis that gives great weight to past practice. Who a candidate is as a person cannot be ruled irrelevant, although both supporters and detractors of Duthu chose to do so. Of course making careful personnel decisions is messy and inconvenient and makes grandstanding undesirable, which ruled out a good deal of the debate in this case.

The impression that some Jewish constituencies on and off campus treated a person unfairly, finally, does not do service to the cause of Jewish studies or Israel studies. Nor does it help discredit the worst impulses of the BDS movement, impulses dear to the hearts of BDS leaders here and abroad. Uncompromising political partisanship on either side of the debate damages the potential for campus discussion here and political negotiation in Palestine. Properly honored, academic freedom can help reverse both trends. Our strong impression is that Bruce Duthu has had a long-standing commitment to the sort of civility that fosters academic freedom.

We consequently view Duthu’s withdrawal and resignation as a defeat for all sides: for those seeking clarity about the status of academic freedom for administrators; for those who believe that strong majority facultywide sentiment should be honored in approving administrative appointments; for those who believe university appointments should not be influenced by outside pressure; for those seeking to strengthen both Jewish studies programs and cooperative engagement with Israeli universities; for those welcoming the advancement and influence of Native American faculty; for those concerned about the number of recent anti-Semitic incidents on campus. If any of these constituencies are celebrating those events as a victory, we believe they have misjudged the long-term consequences.

David Greenberg, Rebecca Lesses, Jeffry Mallow, Deborah Dash Moore, Sharon Musher, Cary Nelson (chair), Kenneth Stern and Irene Tucker are members of the Alliance for Academic Freedom, which issues this statement.

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The British Medical Journal The Lancet ​Eyes the Israeli Health System ​ http://spme.org/resources/faculty-forum/british-medical-journal-the-lancet-%e2%80%8beyes-the-israeli-health-system-%e2%80%8b/23995/ http://spme.org/resources/faculty-forum/british-medical-journal-the-lancet-%e2%80%8beyes-the-israeli-health-system-%e2%80%8b/23995/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 22:01:49 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23995 Dear Colleagues:

A few positive developments have occurred over the past few weeks that are worth ​noting.​ For starters, due to the hard work of many of our colleagues at the Modern Language Association (MLA), the association voted by a significant margin to reject ​the call to ​boycott Israeli universities.

Consequently,  MLA members voted 1,954 to 885 to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Secondly, the British medical journal The Lancet published a special issue on health in Israel, outlining its achievements in striving for universal health coverage for its diverse population ​while a the same time acknowledging ​the challenges that remain as ​a result of the ​conflict​.​

Our colleague Prof. Mark Clarfield from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev was one of the driving forces behind the series. Clarfield states that, “Israel has made strong progress on health, but challenges remain…The slow, but increasing privatization of services, and stagnating national expenditure on health must be addressed so as to ensure the country is able to continue providing good quality health care for its citizens. Given that health care delivery and representation in the health professions represent areas of the greatest equality among population sectors in Israel, residual troublesome disparities in health outcomes among population and regional groups reflect inequalities in the socioeconomic underpinnings of health and well-being.”

Historically, the issue’s series of articles was imagined back 2014, after Lancet’s editor in chief Richard Horton​ published ​an open letter that accused Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza. Horton later wrote that he regretted the polarization ​it ​caused, but did not retract it.

As always, we welcome your feedback and article submissions.


Asaf Romirowsky, PhD

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Pitzer College Board of Trustees Overturns Student Government Pro-BDS Vote http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/pitzer-college-board-trustees-overturns-student-government-pro-bds-vote/23991/ http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/pitzer-college-board-trustees-overturns-student-government-pro-bds-vote/23991/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 17:17:15 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23991

The Pitzer College board of trustees announced on Friday that, following “careful consideration,” it had decided to “rescind…and declare…to be of no effect” a student government vote held during Passover to add an anti-Israel boycott into its bylaws.

The decision, made public in an email sent to the campus community, overturned the student senate amendment prohibiting the use of Student Activities Funds “to make payments on goods and services from any corporation or organization associated with the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as first delineated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” Those companies included Caterpillar, SodaStream, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard and Sabra.

As The Algemeiner reported, Jewish students felt “ambushed” by the vote, particularly given that many concerned parties were off campus to observe Passover and Easter.

The Pitzer trustees explained their decision in their email:

We note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the most complex, emotional and divisive issues of our time, and is one on which the College has not taken a position. Students and other members of the Pitzer community, from all faiths and backgrounds, represent the full spectrum of viewpoints on this challenging issue…

Student Activities Funds are derived from mandatory fees the College levies upon all students. Consequently, the Board expects the Student Senate to remain neutral in determining the organizations it recognizes and funds, the amount of funding allocated to each organization, and any restrictions imposed on such funds.

[The BDS amendment] however, applies a particular point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in restricting the use of Student Activities Funds by all Student Senate-approved student groups. In so doing, [the amendment] inappropriately curtails the funds usage rights of all such groups, including those that may have a different perspective.

In Pitzer’s 54-year history, the Board has consistently supported Student Senate autonomy over the funds allocated to it by the College. However, the Board will not permit College assets to be restricted in order to endorse a point of view that is not the College’s and that, in the Board’s opinion, does not align with Pitzer’s commitment to inclusion and respect for diverse viewpoints.

In the days immediately before the start of the Passover holiday, the student government at Tufts University also passed a pro-BDS motion in a landslide vote, leaving some in the Jewish community feeling “betrayed” by their peers. Tufts’ trustees also announced soon afterwards that the resolution would have no effect on the university’s endowment.

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German mayor cancels BDS events due to antisemitism http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/german-mayor-cancels-bds-events-due-antisemitism/23989/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/german-mayor-cancels-bds-events-due-antisemitism/23989/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 19:01:59 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23989 BDS

Mayor Jürgen Krogmann of the northern German city of Oldenburg pulled the plug Wednesday on two events slated to call for boycott of the Jewish state.

The events were canceled because of concerns that “a large number of the supporters of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] hold antisemitic positions,” the municipality said in a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post.

“So long as it cannot be clarified that the BDS movement officially and publicly does not question Israel’s right to exist, such events cannot take place in city facilities,” Krogmann stressed.

BDS speakers were slated to appear at the PFL Kulturzentrum PFL cultural center next week and speak about “Palestinian suffering and how the injustice can be stopped,” and “Israel’s military industry.”

The mayor expressed annoyance about the failure of the Internationales Fluchtmuseum association – a museum about refugees that organized the event – to make clear the BDS content of the talks, saying “I feel deceived.”

The city government titled its statement: “City gives no platform to anti-Israel lectures.”

The city informed the event organizer on Wednesday that the contracts with the association holding the event were rescinded.

The mayor said even if the anti-Israel event can rely on freedom of speech protections, the BDS events are unacceptable because they would strain Oldenburg’s relationship with Israel and its partnership with the Mateh Asher Regional Council in the Western Galilee.

Oldenburg maintains exchange programs with the Mateh Asher regional.

Christoph Glanz, a public school teacher in Oldenburg, along with the executive board of the GEW teacher’s union local branch, have pushed for a comprehensive boycott of the Jewish state. Glanz played a role in the organization of the canceled BDS events.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Social Democratic Bundestag deputy Michaela Engelmeier said Glanz is an antisemite. When the Post telephoned Glanz for a reaction, he hung up. He did not immediately answer an email query.

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Roger Waters hits back at Thom Yorke after Radiohead lead singer slammed BDS activists http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/roger-waters-hits-back-thom-yorke-radiohead-lead-singer-slammed-bds-activists/23987/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/roger-waters-hits-back-thom-yorke-radiohead-lead-singer-slammed-bds-activists/23987/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:58:06 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23987

It’s Pink Floyd vs Radiohead – at least when it comes to performing in Israel.

A few days ago, Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke, in a Rolling Stone interview, defended his upcoming show in Tel Aviv, responding to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists urging him to cancel.

But on Monday, also in Rolling Stone magazine, Roger Waters, one of the most prominent artists to call for a boycott of Israel, hit back at Yorke.

“I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation,” Waters wrote. “Not to talk is not an option.”

Waters added that “today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel…. The BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad.”

In his interview, Yorke had expressed his frustration at the activists – more than 50 of whom signed a letter urging Radiohead to cancel.

“It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public,” Yorke said last week. “It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme.”

Waters, however, responded that he tried to engage Yorke directly in dialogue but was rebuffed.

“I sent an email [in February] expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel.” Waters wrote. “A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again.”

Radiohead has performed eight times in Israel in the past, most recently in 2000.

Yorke said his bandmate, guitarist Johnny Greenwood, “knows most about these things… he has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who’s an Arab Jew.”

The singer said it has been so offensive to all of them to hear all of the things people are saying, “just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word ‘apartheid’ around and think that’s enough…. It’s such an extraordinary waste of energy, energy that could be used in a more positive way.”

While the issue has been percolating for months, Yorke said he felt the need to speak out this week.

“Part of me wants to say nothing, because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers,” he said. “But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us, and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It’s extraordinary.”

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On Linda Sarsour’s Politics of Hate and the Pathos of Her Jewish Enablers http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/linda-sarsours-politics-hate-pathos-jewish-enablers/23985/ http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/linda-sarsours-politics-hate-pathos-jewish-enablers/23985/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:48:12 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23985

Linda Sarsour is a progressive-media darling. One of Essence magazine’s “Woke 100 Women,” Sarsour was named a leader of the Women’s March that followed President Donald Trump’s inauguration, despite declaring that “nothing is creepier than Zionism”—though her wish to “take away” the “vagina” of clitoridectomy victim and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, upholding Saudi Arabia as a bastion of women’s lib, embrace of the terrorist murderer Rasmea Odeh, and claim that “Shariah law is reasonable” because “suddenly all your loans & credits cards become interest-free,” are all—at least in my humble estimation—definitely creepier.

Yet Sarsour’s ride on the media wonder-wheel continues—thanks in part to Jewish individuals and organizations who embrace the idea that haters like Sarsour can’t actually hate them. Recently, the “homegirl in a hijab,” as a fawning New York Timesprofile described her, delivered the commencement address at the City University of New York’s School of Public Health. It was a strange choice on the part of CUNY, not least because Sarsour has zero professional experience in the field. Prior to the event, critics, many of them Jewish, called upon CUNY to rescind its invitation in light of Sarsour’s rhetoric and associations. A group of progressive Jews released an open letter in defense of Sarsour. “In this time, when so many marginalized communities in our country are targeted on the streets and from the highest offices of government” the letter solemnly declared, “we are committed to bridging communal boundaries and standing in solidarity with one another.”

Also coming to Sarsour’s defense was the Anti-Defamation League, which presumably stands against the defamation of women, Jews, and the Jewish state. “Despite our deep opposition to Sarsour’s views on Israel,” its head Jonathan Greenblatt said, before offering the following non sequitur, “we believe that she has a First Amendment right to offer those views.”

No one, of course, disputes Sarsour’s legal right to spout whatever vicious nonsense she wants. But there is nothing in the First Amendment that says Sarsour has a “right” to speak at CUNY, or appear on CNN, or publish an op-ed in the New York Times. As an organization ostensibly committed to fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, the ADL was under no obligation to defend a Jew-baiting, demagogic, foul-mouthed, sectarian bully—someone who, in fact, asserted that anti-Semitism is “different than anti-black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic.” Not systemic? Tell that to the survivors of the most systematized effort at extermination in human history. If there is a more utterly mendacious claim that perverts the truth about humanity’s oldest, deadliest and very much “systemic” hatred, I’m not sure what it could be.

Still, Greenblatt—whose organization was once devoted to combating anti-Semitism—decided that it was better to side with his fellow progressives in public than risk his position on the team. Why?

This is an important question for Jewish Democrats, since the weird combination of communal masochism and personal arrogance that characterizes Sarsour’s self-appointed “Jewish allies” also makes for a particularly ineffective form of coalition politics—at least for the Jewish side of the equation. “Bridging communal boundaries,” as the open letter in defense of Sarsour declared, is apparently a one-way street; Sarsour has unequivocally insisted that Zionism is incompatible with feminism (this, from a woman in an arranged marriage). Jews and women are simply expected to put up with vituperative—and irrelevant—attacks on the Jewish State in exchange for the pleasure of being in the same room with a cry-bully.

Taken to its logical conclusion, Sarsour’s mode of thinking (whereby Zionism = Islamophobia, and anti-Zionism = feminism) renders anti-Semitism a political virtue: to be a good progressive, by her lights, one must stand four-square against Jewish self-assertion and national aspirations. Indeed, Sarsour and her ilk are engaged in nothing less than a concerted effort to redefine anti-Semitism. Her rise, and the celebration of her by progressives as one of their own, demonstrates how clearly and phenomenally Jews and Jewish concerns are being written out of the progressive movement.


Part of the explanation for this phenomenon may be that the “Jewish values” or “Jewish communities” that many of Sarsour’s supporters claim to represent are of only secondary or tertiary importance to them. Consider New York City Councilman Brad Lander, Linda Sarsour’s chief Jewish “ally.” A reform Jew married to a non-Jewish woman, he uses a reform synagogue in Brooklyn as a progressive political-organizing platform. While now publicly identifying himself as a “Zionist” in his defense of Sarsour, it wasn’t long ago that he was doing weird things like reportedly using his son’s circumcision ceremony to denounce Israel. “We are thrilled to pronounce you a Jew without the right of return,” Lander pronounced to his 8-day-old child. “Your name contains our deep hope that you will explore and celebrate your Jewish identity without confusing it with nationalism.”

Last month, in an interview with The New York Times about the CUNY controversy, Lander remarked that, “One terrible feature of the Trump regime is that it threatens to tribalize all of us,” casting aspersions on his fellow Jews who had the temerity to speak out against a publicly funded institution’s decision to honor a bigot who targets Jews for opprobrium and exclusion.

The strategy is a familiar one. In left-wing milieus across the Western world, Jews are simultaneously told that the (often violent) bigotry directed against them is but a figment of their hysterical, oversensitive imaginations. The most recent attempt to exterminate them en masse, in the form of the Holocaust, was not a uniquely insidious event, as Jews were merely one among many victim groups. And today, because they are “white,” Jews cannot be victims of the “systemic” oppression endured by women, Muslims, ethnic minorities, queer people et cetera and ad infinitum. Paradoxically, the existence and nature of Jewish historical suffering is fully acknowledged only when it can be used to further other causes and concerns (“the African Holocaust,” “Syria’s Anne Frank,” etc.). As for when Jews mention actual Jewish suffering in defense of other Jews, they are painted as extremists who exploit the Shoah. Yet the people making these accusations are always willing to retail Jewish pain and victimhood whenever it suits them—namely, when the victims in question aren’t Jews.

Lander is absolutely right that one effect of the Trump “regime” has been the further balkanization of American civic life—but not only in the way that he thinks. For it isn’t merely Trump and his bigoted and delusional supporters on the right who “threaten to tribalize” our country with Manichean rhetoric about Mexicans, Muslims, and the “real America,” but progressives like Sarsour, whose ascendance is the lodestar of a conscious effort to disintegrate the Jewish community’s own interests and safety and subsume them within the progressive party line—an effort that is leading Jewish organizations to champion a Muslim anti-Israel activist who slams doors in their faces. “If what is being asked of me by those who pronounce themselves and call themselves Zionist is that I, as a Palestinian American, have to somehow leave out a part of my identity so you can be welcomed in a space to work on justice, then that’s not going to be the right space for you,” Sarsour proclaimed in April at an event supporting the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement against Israel. “We, as Palestinian Americans, as Arab Americans, as Muslim Americans, we will not change who we are to make anybody feel comfortable.”

Sarsour has been nothing if not honest about who she is and what she’s doing. Either she leaves the progressive movement or the “Zionists” do. She is able to get away with her crude intolerance—against Jews, women, “whites” and anyone else who doesn’t embrace her hatreds—because in the victimhood Olympics that overdetermines so much of today’s left-wing politics, Muslims are agreed to rank highest. In their quest to locate “authentic” Muslim leaders, progressives all too often behave like the “Orientalists” they claim to despise, settling on individuals like Sarsour to the exclusion of genuinely progressive Muslims, that is, those who don’t call for ripping out the vaginas of people with whom they disagree. And like many a self-appointed community “spokesperson,” Sarsour is starting to behave like a huckster, recently using her social media platform to raise tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of a Muslim woman in Ohio who claims to be the victim of a hate crime, an assertion at variance with that of the police. Sarsour’s sketchy behavior, furiously casting aspersions on the cops while tweeting “no one knows exactly what happened,” earned her a Twitter rebuke from Courtney Love, who called Sarsour “a vile disgrace to women and all mankind” as well as an “anti-Semite, anti-American fraud.”

As is her wont, Sarsour accused Love of “veiled anti-Muslim rhetoric”—illustrating how the accusation of “Islamophobia,” veiled or not, has become a catchall term promiscuously deployed against anyone who raises concerns about hate and bigotry, no matter how vile, on the part of Muslims, or criticizes any of the regressive attitudes and behaviors toward Jews, women, gays and other minority groups that are prevalent in Muslim countries and communities. The point of the term “Islamophobia” as used by Sarsour and her sympathizers is very often a self-interested and dishonest one—namely, to delegitimize critics by lumping them in with fringe racists and bigots. “Feminist activist Linda Sarsour has become one of the far right’s favorite targets,” declares Newsweek. The Times, meanwhile, characterizes her “critics” as “a strange mix, including right-leaning Jews and Zionists, commentators like Pamela Geller, and some members of the alt-right.” All this is being done in an effort to excuse Sarsour’s own extremism.

Whatever her personal views or her level of historical ignorance, the consequence of Sarsour’s comments is political: leveraging minority resentment against Jews by depicting them as selfish grievance-mongers who hog the world’s sympathy from more deserving victims—namely, Muslims and people of color. For Sarsour and others of her ilk, it is crucial to claim that Jews can’t be real victims of discrimination because they are “white,” and in the world of “woke” progressive activists, there’s no such thing as anti-white racism. (With its cultish promise of enlightenment, the social-justice left’s fixation on “wokeness” pays eerie and unintentional tribute to Scientology’s “going clear.” Both distinguish between an elite few who have attained a transcendental state of being and the masses who wallow in ignorance.)

But to tribalist progressives like Sarsour, Jews are more than simply another flavor of “white.” The investiture of Jews, as a people, with moral authority derives from a sense that their long history of oppression has endowed them with an almost mystical power. Among those who believe in this power can grow a sense of victim or oppression envy. In his book The Future of a Negation, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut explores how this resentment led to the disturbing phenomenon of left-wing Holocaust minimization and denial—a species of pseudo-historical anti-Semitism usually propagated by the far right.

To Holocaust-minimizing leftists, the widespread, ritual acknowledgment of Jewish suffering obscured the miseries endured by workers at the hands of capitalists. The millennia-old story of anti-Jewish oppression, culminating in the Holocaust, overshadowed the real drivers of human history: class struggle and resistance to imperialism. The Jew, therefore, came to be seen as a marker of “value: as the gold standard of oppression,” Finkielkraut observed, one that needed to be devalued so that all the world’s worthier victims could garner the sympathy due to them. Anguish over the fate of the Jews is thus considered a parochial, bourgeois concern that unfairly competes with the proletariat for the sympathy of enlightened mankind. The fate of the Jews is an obnoxious, even perfidious diversion, particularly as it relates to Muslims—reigning champions in the progressive hierarchy of victimhood for reasons that are hard even for progressives to explain with any reference to liberal values like free speech, LGBT equality, or women’s rights.

Sarsour’s rise, and the celebration of her by progressives as one of their own, demonstrates how clearly and phenomenally Jews and Jewish concerns are being written out of the progressive movement.

For progressives of a more “anti-imperialist” stripe, Holocaust memory and the persistence of anti-Semitism distracts from the main event: first-world oppression of the “global south.” It also, annoyingly, justifies the continued existence of the Jewish State. Attacks against Jews qua Jews by Muslims, whether in Israel or increasingly in Europe, must, therefore, be construed as ultimately not being about anti-Semitism. Sure, on some surface level, individual Jews may be physically attacked or murdered because they are Jews, but it really all boils down to imperialism and its particular manifestations in the Middle East. Sarsour can lend her name to a fundraising effort on behalf of a vandalized Jewish cemetery in Missouri because it gives her Jewish supporters something to tweet about, and because Missouri is Trump country—so the public automatically assumes that the perpetrators were white neo-Nazis. But as for the anti-Semitism that expresses itself in Sarsour’s calling Zionism “creepy” or praising Louis Farrakhan or hugging an unrepentant murderer like Rasmea Odeh? That’s not anti-Semitism, according to her supporters. It’s a justified response to the stubborn failure of the Jews to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a conflict pitting Western settler-colonialists against an occupied, Third World subaltern.

A recent ADL poll on anti-Semitism in Europe demonstrates the reluctance many progressives feel addressing the anti-Semitic views that now play an uncomfortably large role in Western societies and for which progressive movements are now acting as both midwife and nurse. The poll reports significant declines in the number of people holding anti-Semitic views in France and Germany and no statistical change in Britain. But as any cursory reading of newspaper headlines could tell you, these numbers are deceptive: Jews would not be leaving France in record numbers if they felt secure, nor would a figure like Jeremy Corbyn prove so successful were anti-Semitic attitudes not becoming normalized in the UK. More importantly, (and revealing of the ADL’s inhibitions), the poll does not break down respondents by their religion—so there is no way of knowing the degree to which anti-Semitic attitudes are held by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, atheists etc. There are hints in this direction, such as the claim that anti-Semitism is “more common among the more religiously observant,” but the degree to which this assertion applies to devout German Lutherans or French Muslims is left unsaid.

Relatedly, while asking respondents about the prevalence of anti-Semitism on the political right and left, the ADL left out the third, and deadliest, form of Jew-hatred in Europe today: Muslim anti-Semitism. Instead, the ADL reverses the clear link between Muslim anti-Semitism and murderous violence against Jews in France and other European countries and claims instead that “not surprisingly, there are strong ties between anti-Semitism and prejudice against Muslim refugees.” The ADL comes to this benign conclusion by conflating agreement with the statement that countries have “let in too many immigrants” with “anti-Muslim prejudice.”

The anxiety most Europeans appear to have regarding Muslim immigration, however, is not predicated upon hostility to Muslims as individuals per se but rather unease over the broader social phenomena attendant with their settling in large numbers. For even among those Europeans who believe that their country has accepted “too many immigrants,” the poll finds that the vast majority has no problem living alongside Muslims as neighbors. Meanwhile, a majority of respondents in all three countries agreed with the statement that Muslims prefer to remain “distinct from our society as a whole” rather than “adopt our customs and ways of life.” In other words, what bothers these European “bigots” is not “Muslims” in the abstract or the individual case, but the formation of parallel societies and the importation and reinforcement of regressive social attitudes on matters ranging from female equality to acceptance of LGBT people.  In fact, the ADL also found that majorities of Europeans in all three countries associate Muslim immigration with increased anti-Semitism, a not unreasonable conclusion given the ADL’s own public-opinion surveys in the countries from which these people are emigrating—74 percent of those living in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the ADL, hold anti-Semitic views. (As for migrants in Europe, it took a German organization to ask the question the ADL wouldn’t: A poll conducted by the Hanns Seidel Foundation discovered that “More than half of Muslim asylum seekers showed clear tendencies of an anti-Semitic attitude pattern.”) As one European Jewish journalist recently told me about her country’s social democratic party, “They embrace immigrants. We’re collateral damage.” (This same person also told me, “I’m very happy that I don’t have children.”)

For a specific example of what European Jews are worried about, consider a recent story in the London Times, which is hardly an isolated case. A 14-year-old Jewish boy—the grandson of Holocaust survivors—was “beaten and abused by Muslim classmates at a leading school in Berlin because he was Jewish.” Confronted by the boy’s parents to address this bullying, teachers replied that “his tormentors could not be blamed for their actions, which they said were the result of views expressed in their homes.” Rather than suspend the offending students, “teachers finally asked [the victim] not to enter the same classroom as one bully so as not to provoke him.”

Here we have a tragic example of how people who consider themselves to be progressives are downplaying if not ignoring violence against Jews so as not to offend the sensibilities of communities that proclaim themselves to be hostile both to Jews and the wider panoply of liberal values. It is indicative of a broader reluctance in many quarters to talk honestly about how Islam is changing Europe, a reluctance that stems in part from fear of being labeled “Islamophobic.”

One sees this mentality at play in the ADL’s skirting the question of Islam entirely in its poll on European anti-Semitism, in the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that the people murdered at a Paris kosher supermarket by an avowed Islamist in 2015 were victims of a “random” assault on “a bunch of folks in a deli,” in the French hesitation to acknowledge the anti-Semitic motives that animated the Muslim murderer of a 67-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, in the 204 American writers who signed an open letter denouncing the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo as racists. And it can also be seen now in the fact that so few on the left are willing to call out the people in their midst who are, unashamedly, bigots in progressive clothing.

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Why Linda Sarsour Is A Fake Feminist http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/linda-sarsour-fake-feminist/23984/ http://spme.org/campus-news-climate/linda-sarsour-fake-feminist/23984/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:41:28 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23984 Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist and a co-organizer of the Women’s March on Washington, has shaken the Jewish world with a few freakish remarks on Zionism and feminism. In an interview, “Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No”, in The Nation in March, Sarsour declared: “You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinian, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

Had she said “the rights of all women, including Israeli, Palestinian or Kashmiri,” one might be inclined to believe that Sarsour really cares about the conditions of women everywhere. However, the fact that she demands feminists to condemn Israel, not Palestinian incitement, nor Indian military control of Kashmir, raises serious questions about her motives. This, combined with tweets such as “Nothing is creepier than Zionism” and her active campaign for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanction movement, makes it clear that Sarsour wants to warn women that Zionism and feminism are incompatible.

Nevertheless, The City University of New York invited Sarsour to deliver a commencement address June 1, spurring controversy about whether she is fit to serve as an inspiring role model to graduating students.

The Sarsour anomaly represents a worrisome sign, not so much for her winning an undeserved commencement podium at CUNY, but primarily for the reaction of the Jewish community to her vitriolic anti-Israel rantings.

Do not get me wrong, there have been indignant reactions to Sarsour from offended Jewish feminists, all saying in effect: “Why, Linda? Why do I have to choose between my Zionism and my feminism?” What I find absent is an assertive feminist voice protesting: “Excuse me, sister Linda, it is Zionophobia and feminism that are incompatible.” After weeks of waiting for such reaction, I began to wonder whether our feminist sisters have lost the fighting spirit of their legendary predecessors.

For clarification, I use the term “Zionophobia” to denote the irrational fear of Zionism — that is, the rejection of Zionism’s aim of securing a homeland for the Jewish people in some part of historical Eretz Israel. It purposely rhymes with “Islamophobia,” to emphasize the racist commonalities of the two (see my Los Angeles Times piece “Is anti-Zionism hate?”.

Among the many pro-Sarsour letters that I have read, the one that disappointed me most was a letter signed by “prominent Jewish leaders” who came to Sarsour’s defense before her CUNY speech. Here in a nutshell is how the leaders exonerate Sarsour from wrong doing: “We may not agree with Sarsour on all matters…. With Sarsour and others, we work as allies on issues of shared concern and respectfully disagree when our views diverge. We will not stand by as Sarsour is falsely maligned.”

 Here’s my response to the signatories of that letter.

I respectfully disagree with you on whether Linda Sarsour is falsely or rightly maligned. I have tried to carefully examine the entire list of allegations voiced against her; permit me to report my findings. While some of the allegations may indeed be based on hearsay or on her impulsive tweeting, much of what Sarsour is criticized for is solidly documented and should be taken seriously, not only by Jews, but also by every person of good conscience. To put it bluntly, Linda Sarsour is a fake feminist and an incurable Zionophobe.

Sarsour is a fake feminist because she excludes important communities of women from her politically driven definition of womanhood. There are millions of Muslim women who view Sarsour’s interpretation of Sharia Law as an obstacle to their struggle for equality and as an endorsement of their subjugation under male-dominated authorities. If you have not yet had a chance to speak to progressive representative of these women, I urge you to do so, as I have done. Please speak to Asra Nomani, Qanta Ahmed, Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Irshad Manji. It was one of these brave women who taught me the expression “fake feminist” when the name Linda Sarsour came up.

But I have a Jewish reason for labeling Sarsour a “fake feminist” — her exclusion of Israeli women. There are more than 3 million Jewish women in Israel; some are left-leaning and some right-leaning, yet most are uniformly proud Zionists who created an exemplary feminist movement. Sarsour and her anti-Zionist supporters now wish to eject these women from their newly defined, exclusivist vision of the feminist tent.

Lets take a closer look at these women. Despite 70 years of wars and besiegement, living under the shadow of 150,000 Hezbollah rockets and traumatized by the fear of finding their children blown to pieces, Israeli women have scored unprecedented achievements of gender equality. They have in fact become a beacon of equality in the Middle East and beyond. Linda Sarsour now questions their compatibility with feminism, and some Jewish leaders rush to her defense, in the name of building coalitions “on issues of shared concern.” Can we look at the eyes of our Zionist daughters and granddaughters and tell them they have been expelled from their movement on the altar of those more pressing issues?

Certainly, we need to “work as allies on issues of shared concern and respectfully disagree when our views diverge.” But we do not trade or bargain with issues that are at the center of our identity as a people. From everything that I have learned, the right of Jews to a homeland is one of those central issues of Jewish identity. Some of our sages even went as far as weighing it higher than other Mitsvot in the Torah (Shekula Keneged Kol Ha-Mitsvot,Sifrei, Parashat Ree). So, it is certainly not a peripheral matter that we can “respectfully disagree” about, and then brush aside in order to gain a seat on Sarsour’s bandwagon.

If there is one thing I respect in Linda Sarsour, it is her candid, uncompromising stand for tenets that are central to her identity — namely, Zionophobia. We saw it in Chicago on April 2. Speaking side by side with convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, Sarsour proudly proclaimed, “If what is being asked of me by those who pronounce themselves and call themselves Zionist is that I, as a Palestinian American, have to somehow leave out a part of my identity so you can be welcomed in a space to work on justice, then that’s not going to be the right space for you”

“We, as Palestinian Americans…we will not change who we are to make anybody feel comfortable. If you ain’t all in, then this ain’t the movement for you,” she said (JTA, April 2).

Back to our “leaders,” I believe many people in your constituencies would have liked to hear from you, however mildly, that we, too, have values and principles that define who we are, and we too do not trade these values just to make anybody feel comfortable. I would even venture to predict that your leadership stature in the coalitions that you aim to create would stand taller if you speak candidly to Sarsour and answer her in her own style:

As heirs to a justice-driven Jewish heritage and the teachings of our prophets we believe that “justice, freedom and dignity” apply to all people, including Israelis, and including American Zionists. Your Zionophobic stance betrays this heritage and compels us to sadly conclude that you are not qualified to lead a feminist movement. Zionophobia, unfortunately, is incompatible with the kind of feminism as we understand it.

Judea Pearl is a Chancellor professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org), which promotes press freedom and East-West understanding. He is a co-editor of “I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl” (Jewish Light Publishing, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Read more: http://forward.com/opinion/politics/373847/why-linda-sarsour-is-a-fake-feminist/


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Modern Language Association members pass ANTI-BDS resolution by 2-1 margin http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/anti-bds/modern-language-association-members-pass-anti-bds-resolution-2-1-margin/23983/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycotts-divestments-and-sanctions-bds-news/anti-bds/modern-language-association-members-pass-anti-bds-resolution-2-1-margin/23983/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:34:24 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23983

In a severe blow to the anti-Israel academic boycott movement, the 18,000 member Modern Language Association has passed a Resolution explicitly rejecting the academic boycott of Israel.

The academic boycott of Israel had been termed a grave threat to the academic freedom of everyone and the free exchange of ideas by over 250 university presidents and numerous prominent university organizations. Nonetheless, the academic boycott, which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, is a focal point of anti-Israel activist professors and graduate students.

We have highlighted this MLA Resolution in prior votes, including a recent post, Tables turned: Modern Language Association in midst of voting on Anti-BDS Resolution:

We have previously covered the never-ending saga at the anti-Israel obsession of some members of Modern Language Association (MLA).

Those members have engaged in a years-long attempt to get MLA, the largest academic society in the humanities, to boycott Israel and to officially join the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.

After the radicals’ massive defeat at the MLA business meeting at the annual convention in Philadelphia in January, they are on the defensive: not only was their resolution to boycott Israel (2017-2) defeated by the Delegate Assembly, but a counter-resolution (2017-1), calling on MLA to reject academic boycott, was approved and placed before the general membership.

For background and previous Legal Insurrection coverage of the MLA see:

The anti-BDS Resolution provided as follows (emphasis added):

Resolution 2017-1

Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature;

Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars; and

Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs, and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange;

Be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.

When Resolution 2017-1 passed the MLA business meeting at that Annual Meeting allowing a full membership vote, there was fury from the boycott supporters, and threats to boycott the MLA.

The membership vote results were just announced by MLA, and the anti-BDS resolution passed by a 2-1 margin (emphasis added):

Resolutions forwarded to the membership must be ratified by a majority vote in which the number of those voting for ratification equals at least ten percent of the association’s voting membership. All members in good standing as of 17 April who were also members on 7 January, the date of the Delegate Assembly meeting, were eligible to vote. The number of eligible voters was 18,279, so 1,828 votes were required for ratification of the resolutions. The first resolution, which calls on the MLA to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions promoted by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was ratified by a vote of 1,954 yes and 885 no.

This represents a staggering defeat for the boycotters. MLA has almost 5 times the membership of the American Studies Association, the largest academic group in the U.S. to have adopted academic BDS.

Needless to say, supporters of the boycott are very unhappy with the vote result, and again threatening to engineer mass resignations:


If the pro-BDS members of MLA do resign, MLA will be a stronger organization as those who seek to undermine academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas will be gone. They can take their subversive, hateful and bigoted ideology elsewhere.

Significant credit for passage of the anti-BDS resolution goes to MLA Members for Scholars Rights (MMFSR), which faced daunting odds in the face of a multi-year, well-organized boycott group.


MMFSR members argued against the academic boycott with great enthusiasm and grace at the Annual Meeting. [You may recall that my posting the audio below led MLA to get our YouTube Channel taken down with frivolous copyright claims. We got the Channel back after we contested the claims. MLA recently hired a new Executive Director, who hopefully will be more prudent than her predecessor.]

That debate also revealed the malicious underbelly of the boycott movement:

MMFSR members also mounted a campaign once the Resolution went to a membership vote, producing several highly educational videos, such as these:

There are many lessons from this defeat against the academic boycotters.

One lesson is persistence. The key to BDS efforts is to wear good people down. At MLA and elsewhere, the boycott push is a multi-year, ongoing effort.

Another lesson is to educate people. BDS, as all hate, prevails where propaganda is unchallenged. MMFSR members produced fact sheets and other factual information to counter the false narratives and ahistorical arguments of BDS.

A third lesson is not to be passive. Bringing the anti-BDS resolution before the MLA was a risk. It might have undercut a prime argument that academic, scholarly organizations should not take positions on political issues. But that shipped already had sailed at MLA and elsewhere. The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.

Congratulation to MLA, which has salvaged its integrity.

[This post has been updated and expanded]

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US academic group overwhelmingly rejects BDS http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/us-academic-group-overwhelmingly-rejects-bds-2/23981/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/us-academic-group-overwhelmingly-rejects-bds-2/23981/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 23:23:18 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23981 Academics from the elite Modern Language Association (MLA) voted by a significant margin on Wednesday to reject a boycott of Israeli universities.

MLA members voted 1,954 to 885 to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. MLA has a total of 18,279 eligible voters and 1,828 votes were required to ratify the resolution, wrote Anna Chang on the MLA website blog.

The resolution’s anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) language stated: “Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature; Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars; and Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs, and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange; Be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.”

Writing on the website of Legal Insurrection, the Cornell Law professor William A Jacobson, said, “This represents a staggering defeat for the boycotters. MLA has almost 5 times the membership of the American Studies Association, the largest academic group in the US to have adopted academic BDS.” He added, “Needless to say, supporters of the boycott are very unhappy with the vote result and again threatening to engineer mass resignations.”

Jacobson, an expert in BDS who has written extensively on academic BDS, wrote the key takeaways from the MLA row over BDS are: “One lesson is persistence. The key to BDS efforts is to wear good people down. At MLA and elsewhere, the boycott push is a multi-year, ongoing effort.

“Another lesson is to educate people. BDS, as all hate, prevails where propaganda is unchallenged. MMFSR [MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights] members produced fact sheets and other factual information to counter the false narratives and ahistorical arguments of BDS. A third lesson is not to be passive.”

He added, “The boycotters, whose entire identities revolve around boycotting Israeli Jews, cannot let go of the issue and seek to insert it into unrelated organizations.”

The pro-BDS group MLA Members for Justice in Palestine, which advocates within the Modern Language Association for “international solidarity with Palestinians” and the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – tweeted on Wednesday: “Principled resignations and principled continuance both good responses to ratification of anti-boycott res. MLA will support BDS eventually.”

Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), told The Jerusalem Post, “MLA’s latest vote rejecting BDS is very encouraging and positive proving that there are those who see the intellectual dishonesty of the BDS movement and how it would have damaged the MLA. Above all it shows that there is an understanding that scholars boycotting other scholars goes against everything a university stands for.”

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Another Stunning Loss for Anti-Israel Academics http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/another-stunning-loss-anti-israel-academics/23980/ http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/another-stunning-loss-anti-israel-academics/23980/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 18:19:41 +0000 http://spme.org/?p=23980 In January, I wrote about a surprising and heartening turn of events at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, an academic organization devoted to the study and teaching of language and literature.

Well, not so fast. The MLA has occasionally taken a stand on political matters, and for many years a group of determined anti-Israel professors has been attempting to hijack the organization to serve the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Most recently, in January, members put a resolution before the Delegate Assembly calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In a sign that the BDS crowd had worn out its welcome, the Delegate Assembly voted resoundingly, 113 to 79, to reject that resolution. Moreover, longtime opponents of BDS, MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, had proposed another resolution, explicitly rejecting the boycott. Because, among other reasons, endorsing the boycott “contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature,” the resolution called for the MLA to “refrain from endorsing the boycott.”

That this resolution passed the Delegate Assembly 101 to 93 was stunning. While a number of academic organizations have voted down BDS resolutions, I know of no professional academic organization that has voted up a resolution rejecting BDS.

Yet the resolution to reject BDS had another high hurdle to clear, a full membership vote. The MLA, in order to prevent tiny minorities from speaking for the whole organization has a rule that resolutions require an affirmative vote of at least 10 percent of the entire membership to pass. Since only a small percentage of members typically bother to vote, it is very hard to muster that 10 percent, particularly when facing determined opposition. Moreover, insofar as humanities scholars lean even further left than the rest of the academy, one might expect them to be susceptible to the argument boycott advocates were making. To vote to reject BDS would be positively . . . Trumpian! As one prominent pro-BDS academic subtly puts it, “in a climate of rabid right-wing suppression of minority rights, of Trumpian chants to ‘build walls’ and ban Muslims, of egregious bigotry and hatred, any gesture curtailing political expression is a political disaster and a gift to reactionary zealots.”

But it turns out that even in the present political atmosphere and among left-liberals, the ritual invocation of Trump cannot disguise how contrary an academic boycott is to the spirit of scholarship and teaching the MLA claims to stand for. It cannot disguise how distasteful the BDS movement, which has flirted with anti-Semitism even in the course of otherwise staid MLA discussions, is. And it cannot disguise how harmful an endorsement of the anti-Israel boycott would be to the MLA’s reputation. The resolution to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” passed overwhelmingly, 1954 to 885.

Naturally, the boycotters plan to continue the struggle. They are not deterred that their attempt to pass a pro-BDS resolution has resulted instead in an anti-BDS resolution. Evidently the only thing worse than suffering a humiliating defeat is the idea of going back to teaching language and literature.

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