Faculty Forum – A Look Back at the 2014 Fall Semester

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As anticipated, the BDS movement has been very active this semester continuing to seek ways to delegitimize Israel while arguing that their views fall under freedom of speech rather than the hate speech they truly represent.

At the recent annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) held in Washington DC, Steven Salaita received a standing ovation for his staunch anti-Israel views and support of BDS. Salaita become celebrated , not for his scholarship, but because of his virulent anti-Israel tweets for example, he was quoted saying, “ ‘Hate’ is such a strong word. That’s why it’s my preferred verb when discussing racism, colonization, neoliberalism, sexism and Israel.”

At the end of the day, his polemics eventually cost him a job at the University of Illinois.

One of the main topics of discussion at the MESA meeting was whether or not the group would endorse BDS. While at the end of the meeting they didn’t, they did defend the right of MESA members to advocate for a BDS.

Middle East scholar Martin Kramer who attended the MESA meeting gives us a firsthand account to MESA’s BDS proposal in addition to witnessing Palestinian-American Noura Erakat announce that, “it’s inevitable that MESA will adopt BDS.”  Her announcement according to Kramer generated many applause.

So clearly it is only a matter of time before MESA will openly support BDS.

Additionally, we have now seen the first union in the United States to vote to support BDS. The UC Student-Workers Union which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) represents “over 13,000 student-workers across the University of California system.”

After the vote, the union announced that its members had voted, 1411 to 749 to “join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” against Israel.

Consequently, Informed Grads filed an appeal contesting the fairness of the ballot. The group also expressed concern that the vote would have negative implications for free speech on campus.

Informed Grads activist Joshua Saidoff stated, “BDS not only aims to stigmatize and marginalize Israel. It aims to stigmatize and marginalize dissenters” 

In August, after UAW 2865 announced its intent to call for a BDS vote, SPME joined twelve other groups in a letter  to Janet Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents urging them to prohibit the graduate students from promoting BDS in the classroom and on the campus square.  And now after the UAW 2865 vote we joined those same groups in writing to the UC Regents asking if the UC policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS in the classroom also apply to UC faculty.

Faculty Forum – A Look Back at the 2014 Fall Semester

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AUTHOR

Asaf Romirowsky

Dr. Asaf Romirowsky is the Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Trained as a Middle East historian he holds a PhD in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King's College London, UK and has published widely on various aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict and American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as on Israeli and Zionist history.

Romirowsky is co-author of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief  and a contributor to the The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.


Read all stories by Asaf Romirowsky

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