Veteran U.S. Academic Association Votes on Resolution Criticizing Israel

Resolution calls on the U.S. State Department to 'contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by American. academics.'

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Campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 30, 2012.
Campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 30, 2012. Credit: AP

The Modern Language Association of America, a veteran organization devoted to the study of language and literature, has completed a vote by its full membership on a resolution criticizing Israel for denying academics entry to the West Bank.

The results have not been released to the public. At least 10 percent of the full MLA membership of 30,000 was required to participate in the six-week-long voting cycle online that ended Sunday to make it official.

The vote was accompanied by an intense and often vitriolic debate over the motives behind the resolution and the correct role of the MLA. Portions of the debate, much of which was waged on an internal MLA website, were leaked and published last week on

“I am pleased to see the tactfulness of the Palestinian resolution, as I’m tired of Zionists constantly carping at those who support Palestinian rights … such as this Jewish American,” wrote Richard Pressman, a communications professor at St. Mary’s University in Texas.

Another MLA member, identified by Mondoweiss as Elizabeth Jane Ordonez, who teaches in Denver, wrote of “Zionist attack dogs” and “the Zionist lobby,” which, she said, “railroads its way through Congress, universities and civil society.”

The full membership was voting on a resolution passed in January by the MLA’s delegate assembly. The 60-53 vote approved a measure calling on the U.S. State Department to “contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by American. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

Resolution opponents noted that countries with abysmal records on human rights and academic freedom were not singled out for condemnation like Israel.

“This resolution rightly targets only Israel given the humongous influence that Jewish scholars have in the decision making process of Academia in general,” wrote Alessio Lerro, an adjunct assistant professor of comparative literature at Temple University.

In a Facebook post on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lerro questioned the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust, sparking accusations of Holocaust denial.

“6 million? mh…. we all know (or should know) that the counting of Jews is a bit controversial,” Lerro wrote in the post, which has since been deleted. “This said, without the death toll of the USSR, we would all speak German now.”

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