Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) vigorously condemns the actions of the membership of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), which has just voted on a resolution that “endorses the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel.”
“As members of NWSA who are committed to justice, dignity, equality and peace,” the resolution reads, “we affirm our opposition to the historical and current injustices in Palestine that we view as part and parcel of the multiple oppressions we study and teach about,” conveniently framing a complex historical clash of two people achieving self-affirmation to a historically-inaccurate and biased view in which Israel is a colonial oppressor of an innocent indigenous people.
“As feminist scholars, activists, teachers, and public intellectuals,” the resolution continues, “we recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression. In the spirit of this intersectional perspective, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba.”
Completing ignoring the current events taking place in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel proper where Palestinian terrorists, armed with knives, guns, stones, and vehicles have been murdering Jewish civilians in random, unprovoked acts of violence, NWSA members, nevertheless, apparently were able to overlook injustice and violence perpetrated by Palestinians on innocent Israeli men, women, and children, and took it upon themselves to target the Jewish state alone for censure and absolve Arab Palestinians of any responsibility for the ongoing conflict.
Moreover, it is inaccurate to characterize the exodus in 1948 of Palestinian Arabs from what became Israel as a “colonial displacement,” since the Jewish state was created legally by the United Nations, and the Arabs who left Israel during the War of Independence, initiated by hostile Arab armies, did so for a variety of reasons, including their own choice, and not as part of an official policy of expulsion.
Most alarming, and breathtakingly inaccurate, is the NWSA’s assertion that they are denouncing injustice and violence, “including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights.” Of the many pathologies of Arab and Palestinian society, as members of the NWSA should well know, none is more troubling and pervasive than the subjugation and abuse of women, particularly the prevalence of so-called “honor killings” in which male family members feel justified in murdering daughters and wives if the females have shamed the family for inappropriate behavior, even for having been raped.
In fact, honor killings in the West Bank and Gaza have grown exponentially. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights has reported, for example, that between 2007 and 2010, 29 women were killed by family members in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the past year the number of women murdered by Palestinian men doubled.
As an academic organization, most troubling to Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is language in the NWAS resolution that targets Israeli scholars for academic boycott based on their perceived culpability in the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The resolution speciously accuses Israeli institutions of higher education, and the scholars who form those respective intellectual communities, of being responsible for the decisions made by the government of Israel. “Israeli institutions of higher learning have not challenged, but instead legitimized, Israel’s oppressive policies and violations,” the resolution reads, and “these violations, which severely impact the daily lives and working conditions of Palestinian scholars, students, and the society at large, are also enabled by U.S. tax dollars and the tacit support of western powers, thus making any taxpayer in the West complicit in perpetuating these injustices.”
SPME deplores the NWSA resolution as it is counter to any acceptable academic discourse and is contrary to the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, academic boycotts are directly in opposition to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution, but only Israel has repeatedly made concessions for peace.
As academics, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East strongly supports the principle of unencumbered scholarly travel. Unfortunately, the NWSA’s pro-BDS resolution engages this topic in a lopsided way, focusing exclusively on Israel. Critiquing only Israel among all the nations on earth—many countries where academics are denied even the ability to study, attend classes, or travel—is both counter-productive and disingenuous, since Israel guarantees individual and human rights of its own citizens and visitors, including its Arab citizens.
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit , grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.
The peace we seek in the Middle East is consistent both with Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders, and with the rights and legitimate aspirations of her neighbors.
Our mission is to inform, motivate, and encourage faculty to use their academic skills and disciplines on campus, in classrooms, and in academic publications to develop effective responses to the ideological distortions, including anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist slanders, which poison debate and work against peace. SPME welcomes scholars from all disciplines, faiths groups and nationalities who share our desire for peace and our commitment to academic integrity and honest debate.
For further information please contact: