U.S. Anthropologists Vote Down Boycott of Israeli Universities by a Hair

Israeli academics say previous decision by American Anthropological Association to boycott Israeli universities aimed to 'incite and introduce hatred' into Israeli academia.

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Boycott Israel sign (illustration)
Boycott Israel sign (illustration)Credit: Dreamstime
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

The American Anthropological Association has voted down plans to boycott Israeli universities by a small margin, with 2,423 members voting against a boycott and 2,384 voting in favor. A record 51 percent of association members took part in the electronic vote, which opened on April 15 and closed on May 31.

The AAA is the largest professional organization of anthropologists in the world. In December, the Israeli Committee of University Heads called on the AAA to block a boycott resolution adopted by delegates the association’s annual conference in November 2015. The university heads said the initiative is “absurd” and aims to “incite and introduce hatred and racism” into Israeli academia.

Peretz Lavie, the president of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and chairman of the committee, said that the fact that the motion was ultimately rejected is “a significant achievement for Israeli universities and a failure for BDS and other opportunist elements leading a false campaign against Israel.

“The fruits of Israeli research belong to everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, sex and sexual orientation,” he said. “Academicians belonging to this organization or another must understand this before signing off on a decision to boycott us.”

In November 2015, delegates to the AAA’s annual conference overwhelmingly passed a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, before asking the association’s members worldwide to approve or reject the decision.

The resolution emerged after three years of harsh internal debate. About six weeks ago a committee released a comprehensive report criticizing Israel’s policy in the territories and discrimination against Arabs in Israeli universities, and proposing a number of possible actions, including boycott.

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