In an electronic referendum held in June and July, members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) voted 2,016 to 835 for a resolution boycotting Israeli academic institutions. The resolution’s text and the debate surrounding it are all too typical of the movement in the universities to ostracize the Jewish state, its citizens, and its sympathizers. Miriam Elman and Raeefa Shams respond:
If the boycott is indeed implemented, the AAA will have devolved from an academic association ostensibly committed to open intellectual inquiry into an advocacy group mandating political and ideological orthodoxies. It will push away many of its own members who do not want to be associated with discriminatory policies, and it will face legal challenges for pursuing such policies, particularly in states with anti-BDS laws on the books.
In the meantime, anthropologists who wish to take a stance for academic freedom and against double standards have a range of options. They can reach out to senior administrators on their campuses to ensure that they maintain or even expand joint programs with Israeli institutions. They can present about contemporary Israel, Jewish identity, and anti-Semitism at conferences, providing AAA members the opportunity to hear new perspectives. They can encourage their campuses to disaffiliate from the AAA, and drop their own membership, as long as it continues its policy of boycotting Israeli institutions.
The passage of the boycott resolution at the AAA will unfortunately serve as inspiration for ideologues at other associations to pursue similar campaigns. It is up to responsible scholars to demonstrate that discrimination has consequences.