The Call to Boycott,  2023

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Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (Anthroboycott) are asking the full AAA membership to reconsider an academic boycott and answer existing calls by AAA members and scholars specializing on the region, many of whom have long studied U.S. support for Israel’s colonial practices and violent suppression of the Palestinian people. We do so in 2023, the 75th anniversary of the Nakba – the catastrophic events of 1948 that led to the mass expulsion and displacement of Palestinians from their homes. This will be five years after the Israeli government enshrined in 2018 the principle of Jewish supremacy in a law stating unequivocally that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.”

Anthroboycott joins a majority of AAA section executive boards that endorsed the 2021 Middle East Section (MES) Statement on Palestine,* which called on our colleagues in their classrooms, universities, and beyond to:

*The following AAA sections and affiliated groups endorsed MES's 2021 Palestine statement: Association of Black Anthropologists Executive Board; Association of Latina/o & Latinx Anthropologists Executive Board; Society for Cultural Anthropology Executive Board; Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Executive Board; Association for Feminist Anthropology Executive Board; Society for the Anthropology of North America Executive Board; Anthropology and the Environment Executive Board; Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology Executive Board; The Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Executive Board; American Ethnological Society Executive Board; Society for the Anthropology of Europe Executive Board; Society for Medical Anthropology Executive Board; Society for the Anthropology of Religion Executive Board; Association for Africanist Anthropology Executive Board; Association for Queer Anthropology Executive Board; Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges Executive Board; Anthropologist Action Network for Immigrants and Refugees Steering Committee; Editorial Collective of American Anthropologist; Editorial Collective of Footnotes.

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An Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions: The Basics

What is BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)? 

A Palestinian-led nonviolent movement aimed at pressuring the state of Israel to cease violating the rights of Palestinians and to comply with international law. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations launched the BDS global campaign in 2005 as a way to hold the Israeli government accountable for ongoing human rights violations. Answering the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions of Israeli institutions complicit in these human rights violations allows people of conscience the world over to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice, equality, and freedom.

Is there really an international consensus about Israel operating an apartheid regime?

As the 2021 MES Statement on Palestine points out, this follows a growing consensus among human rights organizations about the Israeli state operating an apartheid regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the internationally recognized state of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. On April 27, 2021, Human Rights Watch issued a landmark report, characterizing the Israeli state’s systemic discrimination and violence as inflicting “deprivations… so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” A similar conclusion was reached by the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem in January 2021. Palestinian activists have long made this argument. It reflects how foregone the reality of the Israeli Apartheid system is that mainstream international human rights organizations now find themselves forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation on the ground, despite tremendous political pressure from the state of Israel and its supporters.

What would an AAA sponsored boycott look like?  

As an academic organization, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is being asked to answer a specific call for solidarity from Palestinian scholars and students experiencing violations of their right to education and other human rights. A narrow focus on academic Israeli institutions, but not individuals, will ensure that an academic boycott is upheld without undermining the free exchange of ideas and scholarship. Should AAA members pass a resolution in support of academic boycott, this would require the AAA as an organization to suspend official ties with Israeli academic institutions – but NOT individual Israeli scholars and students. For example, this would involve the AAA not running ads or promotions for academic programs at Israeli institutions, such as Haifa University, which has been criticized for its collaborations with the Israeli military and involvement in human rights violations against Palestinians.

What is the history of this campaign at the AAA?  

In October 2014, nearly 1200 anthropologists signed “Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions” to support the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. There have been two prior campaigns – in 2015 and 2021 –  to consider the academic boycott of Israeli institutions within the AAA community. On November 20, 2015, a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions was endorsed by a vote of 1040-136 at the American Anthropological Association business meeting. It was subsequently forwarded to the full membership for an electronic ballot and narrowly missed adoption by a razor-thin margin of 39 votes (2,423 against and 2,384 for). Following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in May 2021, anthropologists of the Middle East voted overwhelmingly to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In a special referendum held June 2-11 by the Middle East Section (MES) of the American Anthropological Association, a boycott resolution passed 157 to 11, with 71% of the membership participating. 

Have other academic associations endorsed academic boycotts of Israeli institutions?

Several academic associations have passed boycott resolutions, including: The Middle East Studies Association; the British Society for Middle East Studies; the Middle East section of the AAA; American Studies Association; the Association for Asian American Studies; the National Women’s Studies Association; the Arab American Studies Association; the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association; the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

These boycott resolutions have been met with fierce opposition from the Israeli government, which has ramped up efforts to penalize residents and citizens of Israel who publicly support the BDS movement, with potentially serious ramifications for membership organizations like Insaniyyat, The Society for Palestinian Anthropologists. (Learn more about the 2022 Israeli Supreme Court Decision.) 

Why should AAA members reconsider an academic boycott now?  

We call on our colleagues across the discipline to reconsider academic boycott now for several reasons. 

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Ten Reasons to Support the Boycott

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Correcting AAA Misinformation

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Where Can I Learn More?

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