Anthropologists assess whether a boycott of Israel is necessary

Jas Chana

NEW YORK (JTA) — The American Anthropological Association released a report that assessed whether an academic boycott of Israel is appropriate.

The report issued earlier this month levels severe criticism at Israeli policy in the occupied territories and claims that Arabs are discriminated against at Israeli universities, Haaretz reported. The document left a number of potential options for action up in the air.

One option the report suggests is an academic boycott of “selected” Israeli institutions. Other suggestions included a refusal to allow representatives from Israeli universities to attend conferences held by the American Anthropological Association, or AAA; a ban on AAA members serving as visiting professors at Israeli universities; a refusal to work on academic projects funded by the Israeli government; and to encourage AAA members to refuse to give faculty at Israeli universities letters of recommendation.

Outside of a direct boycott, the report also suggested offering scholarships to Palestinian lecturers and students; issuing a statement of censure to the Israeli government; lobbying the U.S. government to push for changes in Israeli policy; and providing travel bursaries for visiting scholars at Palestinian universities.

The report was compiled after 1,100 anthropologists signed a petition to boycott Israel in August of last year. In describing their reasons for signing, the Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions cited “Israel’s ongoing, systematic, and widespread violations of Palestinian academic freedom and human rights.” The AAA then set up a task force to determine whether the organization should take a position on the matter and if so, what action should be taken, Haaretz reported.

“The main complaint of Palestinian academics within Israel about their Jewish colleagues in anthropology is not that they have actively collaborated with the occupation, but that they have done little to explicitly oppose it, especially as a collective community,” the report stated. However, it also mentioned that in June the Israeli Anthropological Association adopted a resolution that condemned the occupation, as well as the boycott.

The report also acknowledged that AAA members looking to complete anthropological research in Israel and Palestine would be “significantly affected.”

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