Activists from the BDS movement against Israel [File].
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In a massive blow to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction movement, the American Anthropological Association voted to reject a resolution for the academic boycott of Israel, it was announced Tuesday.
The resolution, which sought to officially adopt a boycott to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions – not including collaborations with individual academics – was narrowly defeated by 2,423 votes against and 2,384 votes in favor.
The full body of the association, comprising some 10,000 members, was encouraged to vote on the resolution over the course of the past six weeks.
The association reported that 51 percent of its eligible members voted, the largest turnout in the organization’s history.
“The membership has spoken and we hear them,” said Alisse Waterston, American Anthropological Association’s president.
“We appreciate this was a difficult vote on an important and contentious issue. I’m especially proud that our members participated in knowledgeable, thoughtful, respectful debate throughout the process, and that AAA offers a model for informed engagement on difficult subjects,” she said.
She added: “Now is the time for us to come together as an association steadfastly committed to advancing scholarly knowledge, to finding solutions to human and social problems, to giving voice to the under-served and to serving as a guardian of human rights.”
Prof. Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and head of the Association of University Heads in Israel said this was a “significant achievement” for Israeli universities.
“Thanks to the combined and persistent struggle with the Israeli Anthropological Association we were able to prevent the approval decision,” he said.
“The universities in Israel are determined more than ever to continue to spread the message of Israeli research throughout the world for the sake of the development of science, the promotion of humanity and society,” he added.
The heads of Israeli universities had waged a massive campaign against the BDS resolution in recent months, penning a letter to the American Anthropological Association’s president, calling on her to reconsider the vote for the motion.
In addition, the university heads enlisted the help of their US counterparts to counter the calls for an academic boycott.
Last month, leading universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT, University of Chicago and the ten campuses of the University of California all released statements re-affirming their opposition to academic boycotts and in solidarity with Israeli higher academic institutions.
Israeli politicians and Jewish organizations also praised the association’s decision on Tuesday.
“This is a dramatic change that stemmed from intensive public diplomacy work and ground work with members of the association,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said of the vote.
Erdan added that the association’s vote joins a number of achievements in the struggle against BDS, including the promotion of legislation in a number of countries around the world against boycott organizations and closing the bank accounts of BDS organizations.
“In the past months there have been numerous quiet activities taking place in the field that have led to a string of achievements, activities that weaken the delegitimization organizations that try to harm the state,” he said.
The American Jewish Committee also praised the decision and said that increased collaboration with Israeli institutions should be a priority for US academia.
“We appreciate the determined efforts of AAA members who are dedicated to academic freedom and the exchange of ideas and rejected this one-sided, counterproductive, and dangerous [proposed] resolution,” said AJC’s assistant executive director Daniel Elbaum.
“Boycotting the academic institutions of one of the Middle East’s only democracies shouldn’t even be a subject to debate, certainly not in academia,” he said.