Following a referendum of its members, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA)—the leading scholarly organization of its kind in North America—decided to boycott universities and scholars in the Jewish state. To Martin Kramer, this development has been eight years in the making, and has coincided with plummeting membership. He writes:
I’m not a member or a well-wisher of MESA. I’m pleased it’s finally been exposed for what it’s mostly become: a pro-Palestine, anti-Israel political society whose members just happen to be academics.
I’m not the only one who saw it coming. MESA has a category for institutional membership—mostly university Middle East centers, which pay $1,100 a year for the privilege. A growing list of institutional members has always been a badge of prestige for the association. In 2013, MESA’s institutional members included 53 North American universities and university-based programs. As of this moment, there are no more than 31, and maybe less.
MESA was founded in 1966 by 51 distinguished scholars of diverse backgrounds, who knew that politics would poison their plan. . . . But by 2017, the tide had turned. MESA’s membership approved by referendum the deletion of “non-political” from the mission statement. This is where the seasoned veterans should have made a heroic stand, because it’s there that MESA finally crossed the line. A political MESA is antithetical to its original purpose