Saturday, January 07, 2017

MLA delegate assembly rejects motion for boycott of Israel

Today the MLA delegate assembly voted against the academic boycott of Israel, 113-79. 

From Haaretz:
The resolution was proposed by a group called MLA Members for Justice in Palestine. A decision on the initiative has been postponed for several years.

The vote followed a dramatic discussion. Rebecca Comay, the author of the boycott proposal, told the audience that "Palestinians are stripped of the rights we ourselves take for granted."

One member arguing against the boycott said: "It's not only racism and anti-Semitism, it smacks of McCarthyism." Another argued that it is "the same as boycotting those in this room for actions of Cheney and Bush."

Gabriel Brahm, of Northern Michigan University, said: "Institutions are like Soylent Green in the old  Charlton Heston movie, they're made of people. You can't target the institutions of a nation and not discriminate on the basis of nationality. That is certainly not our mission as MLA members, scholars or humanists."

Peter C. Herman, a San Diego University professor who opposes the initiative, told Haaretz: “A vote against the boycott is not a vote for the Netanyahu government. However, this boycott targets exactly the people who speak for dissent."

In addition to rejecting the Israel boycott resolution, the 300 members of the MLA's delegate assembly adopted a resolution to oppose all boycotts, and voted to indefinitely postpone a motion to condemn the suppression of academic freedom in Palestinian universities in Gaza and the West Bank.

Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen was in favor of the boycott, as were renowned philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler and Israeli Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin. 
Israeli scholars opposing the boycott released a plea to MLA members to reject the resolution. 
MLA Members for Justice in Palestine haven't yet published anything about their defeat on their website.

Update: New York Times article on the MLA vote:

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