A Open Letter by Cary Nelson on the forthcoming BDS Campaign in the Modern Language Association (MLA)

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Dear SPME Members:

As many of you are no doubt aware, an important vote on a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities will be taking place at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA) this Saturday. The resolution document produced by the resolution’s proposers is astonishingly hostile toward Israel. It presents a picture of Israel as a monstrous, evil regime without any positive motivations or achievements. It is the only written communication members are supposed to have before voting.

We want first to give you an opportunity to read several letters contributed by MLA members concerned about the resolution. Above the letters you can link to a petition about the resolution and read the names of over 400 members who have signed it. If you know other MLA members, please encourage them to sign it as well.

A brief video has been produced by Israelis opposed to the boycott resolution. Please circulate it to friends. We have no way to send it to all MLA members.

You can also read Myths Versus Facts at the MLA, a fact sheet disputing each one of the claims MLA Members for Justice in Palestine has used to represent their cause. We have prepared a concise flier listing specific arguments against academic boycotts.

We offer in response to the pro-boycott documents two thoroughly researched and recently published commentaries on the issues raised by the resolution. The first, published in the December issue of Telos, “Academic Freedom in Palestinian Universities,” incorporates many months of research and on-site interviews, based on the expectation that this issue would surface in Philadelphia. It shows that the major threats to academic freedom come from Palestinian political and paramilitary groups and the Palestinian Authority itself. The second, “The BDS Disinformation Campaign in the MLA,” just issued by the British journal Fathom, addresses the boycott resolution’s major accusations pertaining to Israel within its pre-1967 borders. If you know MLA members, perhaps you might urge them to read these things. It may take them a few hours, then they will be able to make a better informed decision. The Telos essay is the first academic paper to address the issue of academic freedom in Palestinian universities.

What You Can Do

Only elected Delegate Assembly members will be voting on Saturday. But you can encourage MLA members to reach out to DA members and explain why academic boycotts are a terrible strategy.

Thanks in advance,

Cary Nelson, PhD
Jubilee Professor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Affiliated Professor, University of Haifa

A Open Letter by Cary Nelson on the forthcoming BDS Campaign in the Modern Language Association (MLA)

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Cary Nelson

Cary Nelson is Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the coeditor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel . He was president of the American Association of University Professors from 2006-2012.

Read all stories by Cary Nelson