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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Resolution to Endorse the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

2 replies, 2 voices Last updated by  David C. Lloyd 5 years, 9 months ago
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    David C. Lloyd

    To all MLA members:

    This October, MLA Members for Justice in Palestine submitted the following resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions to the Delegate Assembly for its consideration, together with the posted document furnishing evidentiary support for the statements made in it. The resolution is in line both with the guidelines of the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and with resolutions recently passed by several academic organizations.

    * * *

    MLA Resolution to Endorse the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

    Whereas the MLA reaffirmed in 2009 its commitment to academic freedom, stating “When academic freedom is curtailed, higher education is compromised”;

    Whereas the US materially supports Israel’s ongoing breaches of international law;

    Whereas Israel systematically denies Palestinian scholars and students academic freedom and educational rights;

    Whereas Israeli universities are complicit in the Occupation and the dispossession of Palestinians;

    Be it resolved that the MLA endorses Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions;

    Be it further resolved that the MLA affirms the right of faculty and students to advocate for this academic boycott, free from retaliation.

    (Resolution submitted to the MLA by Rebecca Comay and David Lloyd)

    * * *

    Our resolution was submitted at the same time as another resolution opposing academic boycotts and these resolutions were deemed by the MLA’s legal counselors to be contradictory and therefore incompatible.  We understand that if one had been voted in, the other would have been null.  Both sides were invited therefore by the DA’s Organizing Committee to withdraw the resolutions and instead hold public debate this year and next, and re-present the resolution[s] for MLA 2017.  In the meantime, no other resolutions on the issue will be considered by the DA.

    We decided to accept this proposal.  It allows for a full and hopefully productive airing of the reasons to support the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions. In opening this page for debate, MLA Members for Justice in Palestine urge all members of the Modern Language Association, as, indeed, we would urge all scholars, to inform themselves of the conditions under which our Palestinian colleagues are forced to work by a regime of occupation, blockade and dispossession that is both systematic and ongoing. The evidentiary document attached to this page furnishes some notion of the constant infringements not only of Palestinian academic freedom, but also of their most basic human rights, including the freedom of movement, the right to unhampered access to education, and even access to the most basic necessities of life, including food, water and shelter. Since we drafted it in October, those conditions have only deteriorated in every part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and within Israel itself.

    The boycott resolution responds to the call of over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including all the major academic, teachers’ and students’ unions. In the face of the continuing occupation and blockade, ever-expanding and illegal settlements, and a peace process that has become a self-evident sham that only offers cover for the unstinting dispossession of Palestinian lands, these organizations have determined on the course of non-violent resistance embodied in the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel until it meets its obligations under international law and human rights conventions. We believe that it is our responsibility as scholars belonging to an Association that is committed to the upholding of academic freedom as a universal right to honor that call and in particular the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

    We stress that this is a boycott of institutions that is not directed at any individual scholar on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or national origin. It is directed at Israeli academic institutions not merely symbolically, but because, without exception, they are systematically involved in and uphold the regime of occupation, blockade and ethnic and religious discrimination that daily infringes upon Palestinian academic and other freedoms. The attached document provides extensive evidence of this and could easily be amplified.

    Passage of the resolution would commit the MLA as a body to withholding its consent to any organizational collaboration with Israeli universities or to any formal or official ties with Israeli scholarly associations that act as representatives of the Israeli state. It would not seek to prevent individual scholars from traveling, researching or attending conferences or infringe on any individual academic freedom. The guidelines and the safeguards to individual academic freedom are made extremely clear at

    The boycott has quite specific ends, consistent with human rights conventions and international law, and can be short-lived.   The dispossession of the Palestinian people threatens to be permanent and irremediable.


    Margaret Hanzimanolis

    I am assuming that the agreement that this group made with the DAOC does not bind “other” groups or individuals from advancing a resolution similar to this one. How can the DA say that it will not entertain any resolutions before 2017 based on this agreement with a small group? Is that sort of pre-emptive maneuver not a violation of democratic protocol? There may be other groups with an interest in this question.



    David C. Lloyd

    Hi Margaret,

    It is my understanding from DAOC that any pro-boycott resolution would come up against the counter-resolution that is also still on the table and would be subjected by the DA to the same process, as explained in our opening remarks on this forum.  That may be frustrating to many of us, but hopefully in the course of debate over the next year or so, those who might wish to propose a similar resolution will engage in productive deliberation on this resolution and on the BDS campaign in general as a means to advance justice for Palestinians.  If amendments are advisable to the resolution as currently proposed, that can be hammered out over the next period also.

    In the meantime, I hope that this forum will be primarily of value in clarifying the terms and the rationale behind pursuing a boycott resolution, about which many members of the MLA may yet be unclear.

    David Lloyd


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