At the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) last weekend, a motion to impose an academic boycott on Israel was defeated by a sound margin. Jonathan Marks gleans some lessons from this small but significant victory:
First, there is still an audience for the view that the integrity of scholarly organizations demands that they avoid becoming vehicles for political activism. . . . Or as David Hollinger of the University of California, Berkeley, said, “The AHA isn’t a progressive organization or a conservative organization. It’s a professional organization.”
Second, scholars on the left deserve credit for their work against these sorts of resolutions. . . . Conservatives are greatly outnumbered in the humanities and social-science fields in which these resolutions have been taken up. Associations like the AHA would long ago have been lost to the determined efforts of anti-Israel activists were it not for the willingness of scholars on the left to engage, year in and year out, in a strenuous and unpleasant fight against the ongoing campaign to use their organizations to delegitimize Israel.
Third, . . . conservatives should not give up on our colleges and universities. It does not typically make headlines when teachers and scholars demonstrate their integrity. But as the vote at AHA suggests, there is more integrity to appeal to than a reader of the headlines might guess.