The Middle East Studies Association Reaps the Fruit of Its Own Politicization

Last year the Middle East Studies Association (MESA)—long the major academic organ for its field in North America—formally endorsed the boycotting of Israeli institutions of higher learning. Martin Kramer examines what’s happened since:

At that moment, MESA transformed itself from an academic association to a political advocacy group. That raises an acute question. MESA has a category of institutional members which (so it claims) “share MESA’s commitment . . . [to] defending the rights of scholars and academics around the world.” How many of these members have continued their membership in MESA, given that the association has violated the rights of Israeli scholars and academics?

We now have a clearer answer to that question. Numbers tell part of the story. At the end of 2022, there were 43 institutional members. At present there are only 31. The downward trend has been evident for a while: in 2010, MESA had 62 institutional members. But the most recent drop has been swift and steep. Still, it’s the qualitative deterioration that’s truly remarkable. Some of the nation’s leading Middle East centers no longer appear on the membership rolls.

Given the timing, one suspects that MESA’s boycott resolution is responsible for the flight, at least in part. These veteran Middle East centers are precisely the ones that compete for federal funding as “national resource centers.” Having their names associated with the aims of a BDS organization may be perceived as a risk. Better just to leave the MESA renewal notice in the “to-do” box or toss it out.

Read more at Sandbox

More about: Academic Boycotts, BDS, Middle East Studies Association

 

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security