This forum has been created to enable full discussion of a resolution calling on the MLA to honor the Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions until Israel respects its obligations towards the Palestinian people under international law and norms of human rights. The resolution will be debated publicly at the MLA conferences in 2015 and 2016 and is scheduled for a Delegate Assembly vote in 2017. This will enable members to inform themselves on the issues and arguments and to engage in exhaustive deliberation on the issue. We encourage free and open discussion on this forum, though expect that the normal rules of etiquette will be respected by all contributors, despite the controversial nature of the topic.

The discussion in the group is open to all readers, but only logged-in MLA members may contribute. Please see also the discussion taking place in the group Scholarship, Censorship, Exclusion.

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BDS and the Inversion of Victimhood

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    David C. Lloyd

    Submitted by faculty members in MLA-related fields at Israeli universities

    This statement, at MLABoycott’s website, is presented anonymously by Israeli academics who support the boycott of Israeli universities.  The faculty are forced to sign anonymously because of a 2011 law passed by the Israeli parliament that prohibits support for BDS among Israeli citizens.  According to the New York Timesthe law “effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense. It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.”  (NYT July 18, 2011)

    Our Israeli colleagues write:

    “Palestinian academics have been working and living under harsh conditions for decades. Israel has systematically isolated and stifled the Palestinian academe by preventing academics from accessing their campuses, traveling to conferences, and welcoming international guests at their home institutions; by persecuting individual scholars; and by shutting down, attacking, and invading campuses. For Palestinians these have been daily realities that directly limit their ability to engage in academic activities.

    <span id=”more-4553″></span>By contrast, under the emergent boycott, Israeli academics have faced neither the kind nor the degree of unfreedom that Palestinians have been experiencing, nor will BDS ever subject us to anything remotely similar. Nonetheless, most Israelis are concerned with academic isolation only in relation to their own imagined (present and future) difficulties under the threat of boycott.

    The victimhood strategy is an effective tool in Israel’s anti-BDS campaign particularly when it emanates from self-proclaimed progressives within Israeli academy. It promotes the claim that the academic boycott will alienate precisely those progressive Israeli forces who should be supported so they could influence Israeli society from within. But time and again—in the face of systematic violations of Palestinian rights within the academy and beyond it—most progressive academics here have chosen to protect their own institutions and campaign against BDS rather than use their privileged positions to reform these institutions.”  Read more.

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