Saturday, September 27, 2014

American Anthropological Association to consider the academic boycott of Israel

The AAA will be debating BDS at its yearly meeting in December. Haaretz has published a depressing article about the increasing scope of the BDS movement, including details about the AAA meeting, which will have several panels with only pro-BDS speakers, including Omar Barghouti, who is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, who is executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a vigorous supporter of BDS. JVP played an important role in persuading the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three companies that sell construction equipment to Israel. JVP also supports the academic boycott. Only one panel will have anti-boycott speakers.
Harvey Goldberg chairs the Israeli Anthropological Association. “Almost all Israeli anthropologists are employed in institutions that are funded by the state,” he wrote in a letter to the AAA. “A boycott would stigmatize and cause concrete harm to these individuals, whatever their political opinions. 
“Israeli anthropologists – like others around the world – are not accountable for their governments’ decisions. The academic boycott movement claims that Israeli academics ‘are furnishing the ideological justification and technical means for the occupation to continue.’ 
“That is,” Goldberg added, “a serious misreading” which “reveals a true disconnect from knowledge of the situation on the ground.”
Eric Alterman, one of the founders of the AAC (Academic Advisory Council) of the Third Narrative, said:
“BDS has taken over the left and is taking over the universities,” Alterman says. “I would support a nonacademic boycott dedicated to getting Israel out of the territories. But this BDS is pining for the destruction of Israel.”
And while BDS advocates say they are anti-Zionist and disavow anti-Semitism, those who have opposed their efforts say that, in practice, there is no such distinction.
“It’s reawakened liberals like myself to the enduring reality of anti-Semitism. There is anti-Semitism in BDS – quite a lot of it of a nasty variety,” notes Alterman. “I am shocked by its vituperative character and the movement’s unwillingness to even admit it.” 
He has never been so personally attacked as he has been for writing about BDS, he adds, and it saps his energy for the fight. “I am writing less about BDS and Israel in The Nation, because I just don’t need the tsuris. My students come up to me and say ‘I hear you’re a racist white supremacist.’ I’ve been in fights my whole life and have never experienced the level of personal abuse that I have from the BDS crowd.”
In my personal experience arguing with anti-Israel and pro-boycott individuals, I have been accused of supporting genocide (a friend, now a former friend, who accused me of this on Facebook and Twitter). In another exchange with antisemitic overtones, I was charged with suppressing the voice of Palestinians and doing my best to emphasize their powerlessness. Because of my anti-boycott position and my work to bring a anti-boycott speaker, another person accused me of being afraid of having the local community listen to pro-BDS arguments.

And on Twitter, I've received insults from both the far left pro-BDS types who accuse me of hating Palestinians and supporting genocide, and from extreme right-wing Zionists who accuse me of being a hater of Israel. A number of years ago my name was added to a list of supposed haters of Israel by an organization called Masada 2000 (the website doesn't appear to exist any longer, but it's available on the internet archive -

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