Last week, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA)—the leading professional organization for American academics in the field—announced that its members had voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to impose a boycott on Israeli universities, on the ground that they are “imbricated” in “systematic violations” of Palestinian rights. Asaf Romirowsky and Alex Joffe comment:
The MESA resolution . . . calls for American academics to punish the most liberal sector of Israeli society, indeed, the one that has done the most for Palestinian integration and education. It [articulates for its members a] political framework [for understanding] the Israel-Palestinian conflict in which Israel is vilified, and implies that members should create a system of exclusion on American campuses, ostracizing Israelis and supporters of Israel, not a few of whom are Jews.
Boycotting Israel encapsulates everything wrong with academia, namely its close-minded censoriousness, aloof cruelty, and eagerness to play politics. It also goes without saying that MESA and its members boycotting Israel will do nothing for the Palestinians, except empower their leaders’ rejectionism further into the 21st century.
The irony is that MESA’s move comes as Israel’s relations with Arab states are expanding still further. The Abraham Accords brought decades of informal political and economic cooperation into the light. These relationships have expanded to include Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, and the UAE, and perhaps soon, Saudi Arabia.
MESA is thus out of step with the region it purports to study.