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New York University opposes academic boycott of Israel

New York University (NYU) on Friday denounced the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) endorsement last month of a full academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

“It is regrettable that the AAA, a scholarly organization meant to promote the advancement of knowledge throughout the discipline, an organization that has reaffirmed its commitment to academic freedom, has taken a step seemingly at odds with those objectives,” said a statement issued by NYU president Linda G. Mills and interim provost Georgina Dopico. “We urge them to reconsider.”

This isn’t the first time that the school has disavowed academic boycotts of Israeli institutions of higher education. It did so in March 2022, when the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) passed a boycott resolution, and nearly ten years ago in Dec. 2013, when the American Studies Association did as well, an action against which NYU expressed its “disappointment, disagreement, and opposition.”

Just 37 percent of AAA’s approximately 10,000 members participated in the referendum on the resolution via electronic ballet, with 71 percent voting in favor and 29 percent voting against. In announcing the results the organization said Israeli institutions will be barred from being listed in the organizations “published materials,” advertising in its publications, attending the AAA graduate school fair, participating in AAA conferences, and republishing and reprinting AAA written works from its journals.

A white supremacist with a long history of threats against Jews, communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community has been...

AAA’s decision was criticized across academia, with AMCHA Initiative executive director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin saying it represented “a dark day for higher education and, far worse even, a truly dangerous day for all students, especially Jews.”

Miriam Elman, executive director of Academic Engagement Network (AEN), said in a statement shared with The Algemeiner, “Throughout the voting period, supporters of the resolution continued to push the absurd claim that its application is limited to ‘institutions’ — as if it’s possible to boycott universities and colleges without harming the actual people who work and study in them. In fact, as we all know, there are many ways that individuals will be negatively impacted.”

With the resolution’s approval, AAA, established in 1902 and based in Arlington, Virginia, became the second major academic professional association to endorse the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in just over a year. It considered boycotting Israeli universities before, but the idea was rejected in Nov. 2015, when a measure similar to this year’s was defeated by razor thin margin of 39 votes, with 4,807 votes cast.

Launched in 2005, the BDS campaign opposes Zionism — a movement supporting the Jewish people’s right to self-determination — and rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation-state. It seeks to isolate the country comprehensively with economic, political, and cultural boycotts. Official guidelines issued for the campaign’s academic boycott state that “projects with all Israeli academic institutions should come to an end,” and delineate specific restrictions that adherents should abide by — for instance, denying letters of recommendation to students who seek to study in Israel.

Dion J. Pierre