U.S. Anthropologists Refuse to Reject Academic Boycott of Israel

American Anthropological Association votes down proposed resolution opposing boycott, setting stage for possible pro-boycott measure next year.

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A BDS demonstration in Melbourne, Australia, 2010.
A BDS demonstration in Melbourne, Australia, 2010.Credit: Mohammed Ouda/Wikimedia Commons

Supporters of the movement to boycott Israel won a victory when the American Anthropological Association voted down a proposed resolution opposing an academic boycott of Israel, an education website reported Monday.

Friday's vote sets the stage for a possible pro-boycott measure that could be brought for a vote at the association's annual business meeting next year, Inside Higher Ed reported.

It said just 52 of about 700 anthropologists at Friday's meeting voted against the boycott.

The defeated resolution, proposed by lead sponsor Paula G. Rubel, a professor emerita at Barnard College and Columbia University and the outgoing president of the group's Association of Senior Anthropologists, urged a resumption of Mideast peace talks.

“Whereas anthropologists have always supported dialogue, and are known for their careful analysis of complex situations, it is hoped that the various panels and sessions relevant to this issue, will present alternative perspectives contributing to broader understanding enabling a constructive reformation of Israeli and American policies toward Palestinians," read the proposal. “Be it resolved that the American Anthropological Association supports an immediate resumption of peace talks involving all parties, and not the negativity of a boycott which would not achieve anything.”

Even other opponents of the BDS movement, which advocates boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel, suggested that Rubel withdraw her proposal from consideration, the report said, adding that she refused to do so.

“I didn’t want to do that because I think that now is the time that people are talking about the boycott,” said Rubel.

The American Studies Association endorsed the academic boycott of Israel a year ago, by a two-to-one margin, several months after the Association for Asian American Studies did the same.

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