This past weekend, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) held its annual conference, the first since its members voted to boycott Israeli universities. Martin Kramer comments:
I imagine there are hundreds of people in MESA who recoil at this sort of politicization, and think it is a travesty. But I only imagine it, because they haven’t spoken up. Where are the scholars with the courage of their convictions? The majority of MESA’s members didn’t cast a vote in the boycott referendum. Do they think that is sufficient? Do they believe that such self-imposed silence is a counterweight to the boycott vote?
If so, they delude themselves. In the words of Yeats, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” That’s why the center of Middle Eastern studies hasn’t held, and I fault not the militants, but those others who failed to stand their ground. They allowed an association founded with high scholarly purpose, built with sweat over decades, to be hijacked by rabid Israel-haters who have shackled it to their agenda. MESA is meeting in Denver. Perhaps next year it should meet in Damascus. MESA has become a place not where the Middle East is studied, but where the worst of it is replicated.