The anthropological community is split about whether to boycott Israel’s academic institutions in the midst of a growing decolonization movement.
The biggest academic organization of anthropologists in the United States will meet this week to vote on whether or not to impose a boycott on Israeli academic institutions due to their complicity in the treatment of Palestinians.
The poll, which will be conducted online between June 15 and July 14, is a part of a rising US anthropological campaign to reform the discipline away from its allegedly racist and colonial beginnings. The rationale for this vote, according to the resolution’s backers, is that Israeli colleges are involved in what rights groups have called the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
The resolution has also been a contentious topic. With many anthropologists believing it inappropriate for a group of academics to weigh in on a political issue, regardless of whether a government or country is discriminating against a group of people, the last vote in 2016 was defeated by just 39 votes.
In accordance with the resolution, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is forbidden from cooperating with Israeli universities, including by holding conferences together and putting on joint programming.
The resolution’s text states, “Be it further resolved that the AAA as an Association supports and will uphold this call to boycott Israeli academic institutions until such time as these institutions cease their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.”.
If approved, the group’s board of directors will determine how the boycott will be implemented and the conditions necessary to lift the boycott.
Jessica Weinger, a sociocultural anthropologist at Northwestern University, told the Middle East Eye, “Anthropology has never been given sufficient consideration for how it contributed itself to colonialism. It’s a science,” he said.
“And now is the chance for the club to really stand on the right side of history, on the side of academic freedom, on the side of anti-racism, on the side of decolonization.”
A contentious issue
Weinger, an AAA member for 25 years, said she herself has supported the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement since its inception in 2005, and said her anthropological work has helped her research. The decision was easy, he added, as it prompted a call to action. conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Similar to the successful boycott campaigns of apartheid South Africa, the BDS movement is a non-violent initiative that seeks to challenge Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights through economic, cultural, and academic boycotts.
Several Israeli universities have campuses or buildings on occupied land and are complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine by maintaining close ties with the country’s military and defense industries. The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a think tank close to the Israeli military establishment, is located at Tel Aviv University and has several partnerships with the Israeli military.
When it comes to dealing with Palestinians and the Arab states that are nearby, the state’s military philosophy was influenced by the INSS.
The Dahiya doctrine, which takes its name from a neighborhood in Beirut that was close to being destroyed by Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, encourages the destruction of civilian infrastructure as a means of supposedly dissuading groups from arming themselves against Israel.
Ariel University, another school in the occupied West Bank, is in a settlement. According to research from the BDS movement, a number of other Israeli universities, including Bar-Ilan University and Haifa University, collaborated with the Israeli military in the fields of defense and intelligence.