MLA delegates pass measure against Israel denying entry to academics

ben-gurion-airport

Delegates at the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in Chicago passed a measure criticizing Israel’s denial of entries to academics invited to Palestinian universities, a blow to pro-Israel groups who sought to halt the resolution.  At the same time, a last-minute resolution that condemned attacks on the American Studies Association (ASA) failed to pass the delegate assembly, the body that votes on measures before it goes to the MLA’s executive council for approval.

mla2014-logo60 members of the assembly voted to criticize Israel denying entry to academics, with 53 voting against after a debate that the New York Times characterized as “fractious.”  The original resolution condemned Israel’s “arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U. S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”  But last-minute changes removed the reference to the Gaza Strip, which supporters said was done to clarify the resolution, according to Inside Higher Ed‘s Scott Jaschik.

A number of cases in recent years have brought attention to how Israel sometimes denies entry to Arab- and Palestinian-Americans, as well as those who support the Palestinian cause. Documentary evidence submitted in support of the resolution pointed to Israel denying entry to people like Palestinian-American teacher Nour Joudah and American academic Julie Dylan.

The success of the resolution was slammed by those who said that it singled out Israel. “The proposed resolution was based on false information and misrepresented facts refuted by opponents. Israel does not violate academic freedom and implements reasonable security measures that would be expected by any other country in the world,” Geri Palast, the Israel Action Network’s managing director, said in a statement.

While the passage of the denial of entry measure dismayed supporters of Israel, they were pleased that a last-minute resolution concerning the ASA, an academic group that voted to support a boycott of Israel, was voted down. That measure, which affirmed the ASA’s right “to take positions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against racism,” needed 75 percent of delegates’ support.  It lost by a 59-41 margin.  Still, the executive committee of the MLA will consider the ASA resolution as well.

The MLA also played host to a panel on the academic boycott of Israel on Friday.  The panel was harshly criticized by pro-Israel groups for not including avowed opponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine

{ 31 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. just says:

    Thanks Alex.

    The times they are a- changin.

    • Pamela Olson says:

      On that note, this is one of the more painful things I’ve watched in a while — Prof. David Palumbo-Liu of Stanford (a supporter of the ASA boycott) being interviewed by Mark Golub on Shalom TV.

      Naturally Mr. Golub goes in hard on Prof. P-L with fastball hasbara (a veritable mountain of half-truths and bullsh**), which David handles easily and with infinite class.

      But then at the end, Golub adds a little uncontested epilogue, which is just nauseating — actually, more than that it’s embarrassing. Check it out:

      link to blip.tv

  2. wow, i go offline for 2 hrs and all heck breaks loose. great news. thanks alex.

  3. Mike_Konrad says:

    Do you suggest a boycott of Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian or Saudi Academics?!

    When it comes to tyranny, it is hard to beat Iran or the KSA.

    No one is suggesting that Israel is perfect; but the discrepancy in standard to which you hold Israel is just unbelievable.

    I may not agree with housing demolitions; but many of you are asking the Jewish state to dissolve itself. I do not like to see any people disappear, but if it comes down to any state disappearing I would prefer that Israel (the only Jewish state on the planet) survive in preference to the Palestinian state (one out of 23 Arab nations).

    This may be harsh, but no other solution is possible.

    • Pamela Olson says:

      You crazy. Why you so crazy?

    • Ron Edwards says:

      “the Jewish state dissolve[s] itself” is not the same as “[a] people disappear”

      You seem earnest. I doubt that you are generally obsessive or blithering stupid. Consider the glaring fixed idea I’ve highlighted in your post. Is it really the way you think it is?

    • talknic says:

      Mike_Konrad “Do you suggest a boycott of Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian or Saudi Academics?!”

      Are they illegally ensconced in and/or benefiting from illegal activities in Occupied Territories?

      “the discrepancy in standard to which you hold Israel is just unbelievable”

      Whether we agree with them or not, harsh regimes or not, non of the countries you mentioned are illegally acquiring other folks territory, illegally annexing other folks territory or illegally settling and illegally exploiting territory outside their Internationally recognized sovereign extent

      ” I do not like to see any people disappear, but if it comes down to any state disappearing I would prefer that Israel (the only Jewish state on the planet) survive in preference to the Palestinian state (one out of 23 Arab nations)”

      An oxymoronic statement if ever there was one

      “This may be harsh, but no other solution is possible”

      Israel could abide by International Law and withdraw from ALL non-Israeli territories for the first time in its short history. It’s never been tried

    • Donald says:

      We could compromise here, MK. Let’s have the MLA give Israel favorable treatment and the US government treat Israel the way it has treated Iran. Perhaps we could negotiate, while imposing extremely harsh sanctions and not ruling out military strikes unless Israel eliminates its nukes.

      I’m not actually in favor of US military strikes against Israel and I don’t favor extremely harsh sanctions on anyone, but somehow the utterly trivial and mainly symbolic actions of the ASA and other groups (possibly including the MLA in the near future) seem to upset you more than the blockade on Gaza or the sanctions on Iran. The discrepancy in your standards is unbelievable.

    • RoHa says:

      You keep saying that Israel is the only Jewish state on the planet. Why is this important?

      “I would prefer that Israel … survive in preference to the Palestinian state”

      Why?

    • talknic says:

      @ Mike_Konrad “Israel (the only Jewish state on the planet) … the Palestinian state (one out of 23 Arab nations)”

      Irrelevant. Israel was recognized as it asked to be recognized link to trumanlibrary.org . What remained of Palestine link to pages.citebite.com after Israel was declared independent of Palestine, is still Palestine no matter whether it’s Arab

      Since proclaiming its borders and being recognized, Israel has not legally acquired any further territory.

    • amigo says:

      “Do you suggest a boycott of Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian or Saudi Academics?!” con rad

      Since when have they been marketing themselves as “The light unto the Nations” or being the only Democracy blah blah blah.

      Go back to sleep mike.Your blather is tiresome.

    • eljay says:

      >> I do not like to see any people disappear, but if it comes down to any state disappearing I would prefer that Israel (the only Jewish state on the planet) survive in preference to the Palestinian state (one out of 23 Arab nations).

      Of course you would – you’re a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist.

      I’d rather see a secular, democratic and egalitarian Israel – a state of and for all Israelis, equally, established within its / Partition borders – survive alongside a secular, democratic and egalitarian Palestinian state – a state of and for all Palestinians, equally.

      >> This may be harsh, but no other solution is possible.

      There are other solutions. Unfortunately for hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists like you, they don’t involve you and your kind continuing to enjoy the fruits of your supremacist ideology and ((war) criminal) labours.

  4. Good outcome to a reasoned approach to the subject of selective, even random denials of academic freedom by Israeli authorities to people seeking to participate in the same “global academy” Dr. Kenneth Waltzer was so adamant about defending here last week. Hope he shows up at this thread to voice some of those same arguments he so fervently posed.

    link to mondoweiss.net

    • ritzl says:

      +10 But he isn’t likely to do that.

      It’s just so hard to argue FOR Israeli academic rights while knowing full well (At least by now. He professed ignorance the other day.) that Palestinian academic freedoms are being denied by Israel and the very Israeli institutions with which he seeks to preserve unfettered relationships.

      Amazing stuff…

      • MHughes976 says:

        What about the argument that:
        1. Academic freedom does not extend to plotting and scheming the downfall of colleagues or damage to their careers
        2. Conferences arranged by universities in Palestine are, whatever their ostensible subject, bound to be places where Palestinian and Western boycott supporters make plans: these plans amounting to plots of the sort mentioned
        3. Threats to damage the careers of colleagues are a threat to free speech; if the colleagues selected are overwhelmingly Jewish then they are also a demonstration of anti-Semitism: both features occur in this case
        4. The correct response to anti-Semitic, anti-free speech plots includes censorship, silencing and as much subtle disruption as can be managed
        SO 5. We conclude that rather unpredictable exclusions of western academics involved in these activities are part of the correct response to what they do, which since it keeps open the channels linking Israeli to world academia is a contribution to Israel’s security.
        QED – or not?

        • ritzl says:

          @MHughes976- I hope I get your meaning, so, Yeah, I suppose one can always argue. What you describe sure seems to be the circular/QED blinkered/self-absorbed argument. It doesn’t stand up to the mirror test though, imo.

          I’d say the #1/premise you posed, only applied to Palestinian academic freedom, is a demonstrated reality in Israel. There has to be some reason for lack of Palestinian participation in Israeli academe. It isn’t ability.

          And lest the mirror test devolves into some sort of chicken-egg circularity, Israel is the one actually doing it now. The what if (or “Palestinians are…” projection) attempt at argumentation is a hypothetical posed against an ongoing, known, documented reality.

          In liberal-amounts-of-whiskey-solve-all-the-world’s-problems mode, it might be fun to what-if that hypothetical out, to bracket a perfect world. But it’s a real, ongoing problem for Palestinians onto which Dr. Walker sought, imho, to apply a zero-sum overlay, if not a precondition. It’s classic.

          Please forgive me if I went off on a tangent.

          • MHughes976 says:

            No tangent there, ritzl! I’d add that scholars seeking to visit Palestinian colleagues are being impeded rather unpredictably but on grounds that surely have something to do with their expressed opinions, which means that the most basic kind of assault on academic freedom is taking place.
            Since Professor Walzer was not joining us this time I was trying to put an argument from his point of view as fairly as I could, though as you know in my real belief all argument from that pov contains flaws. The flaw in the first step depends, in my real opinion, on attributing a malevolent intention to people whose true purpose is not to limit academic freedom but to restore it.

  5. Krauss says:

    A last-minute resolution concerning the ASA, an academic group that voted to support a boycott of Israel, was voted down. That measure, which affirmed the ASA’s right “to take positions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against racism,” needed 75 percent of delegates’ support. It lost by a 59-41 margin. Still, the executive committee of the MLA will consider the ASA resolution as well.

    Two things. First, a question. Will the executive committe consider the same resolution that ASA passed or did I get it wrong? And when will it consider it? Before the next convention a year from now or before it?

    Second, a comment. It’s interesting to note it needed 75% to pass. I wonder if this is customary for MLA resolutions or something inserted in the last minute(since the resolution itself was last-minute, did the exec committee add that poison pill to avoid controversy or did they bend to someone’s will?).

    And it’s also interesting that it got a 41% minority. That suggests that support for the ASA is knee-deep among the MLA core. In other words: it’s only a matter of a few years, not decades, before the MLA joins ASA in the moral minority which will soon become the moral majority(sorry Falwell, but our usage of the term is far better) among academics.

    • Ira Glunts says:

      I think that the executive committee will consider the passed resolution shortly for the purposes of presenting it for a vote of the full membership. This could be interesting.

      From the NY Times article quoted above:

      After nearly three hours of fractious debate and procedural maneuvering, the group’s delegate assembly voted 60 to 53 to adopt the resolution, which will be submitted to the group’s nearly 28,000 members after review by its executive council. If it is approved, the Modern Language Association would be the fourth, and by far the largest, such group to endorse a measure critical of Israel in the past year.

  6. I see Palast could only fall back on the same old cliches of denial and the absurd ‘singling out’ defence. Perhaps she could tell us who else is denying scholars academic freedom, and I am sure the ASA will mount a similar protest, so they will be in good company and not singled out. If that is the level of their defence, with the usual inflated hysteria, then they clearly don’t have an answer when confronted with the facts (no change there, then). Maybe the debate will move on to the lack of freedom of Palestinian scholars and academics, which is at the heart of the matter, and not (as usual) their preferred self-aggrandising victimhood parade, as if it’s all about poor old them, people who have access to whatever they want, but deny the same privileges to their colleagues who happen to be born to the wrong parents.

    • Naftush says:

      You’ve gone beyond the “you have to start somewhere” reasoning to the ultimate: that Israel and it alone, among the world’s nations, denies scholars academic freedom. At least you’ve come clean with it, insinuating that ASA and others should start somewhere and end somewhere at the same somewhere.

  7. Basilio says:

    Well, Israel has banned Norman Finkelstein, who’s Jewish, from entering Israel for 10 years, and they gave Noam Chomsky, who is also Jewish, a hard time. It is not supporting academic freedom. Many of Israel’s supporters say that Israel is being singled out while Israel is singled out to have the most foreign aid in the world when it’s not a poor country. It is singled out as America’s most important ally though England has provided troops in 2-3 wars America launched in the past 20 years or so. Yet, it wasn’t singled out as America’s major ally. Israel was. The point is if you’re violating human rights, then you have to change your behavior.

    • they just banned “high-profile member of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party ” activist Gary Spedding for 10 years because of his tweets! link to 972mag.com

      my bold:

      He said that on this visit he had been expecting to meet with Palestinian and Israeli activists and officials, including MKs, to discuss a variety of projects, with a particular emphasis on Northern Ireland’s transition from armed conflict to political process.


      Israel has deported and banned dozens of solidarity activists over the past decade, from ISM members to international activists picked up at Palestinian demonstrations. To my knowledge, no explanation has ever been given for any deportation or ban, except the oblique “security risk.” No evidence implicating any deported activist in any violence has ever been produced.

      On Friday morning, the British embassy was told Gary was a threat to Israel because he was very popular on the social networks and could start demonstrations if allowed into the country.

      israel has no moral right or authority to determine who can and cannot visit palestine. they can’t even have a conference and invite guests without israel clearing each and every one. it’s a grotesque system.

  8. Daniel Rich says:

    Q: The success of the resolution was slammed by those who said that it singled out Israel.

    R: Will the Apartheid State and its retarded ardent supporters ever stop playing the ‘victim’ canard?

  9. pabelmont says:

    The FoI contest the resolutions, saying “Why are YOU being so tough on Israel, why don’t you just ignore [whatever you are complaining about].”

    To this I’d ask, “Why are YOU being so defensive of Israel, why don’t you just ignore this resolution?”

    The FoI acts as if DEFENSE of Israel is natural (and OK) whereas BLAME against Israel is unnatural and NOT OK.

    Something rotten in this double standard.

    • MHughes976 says:

      Why do I single out Israel? If I do this, and I’m not sure it’s correct to say that I do, it is because in some sense I do single out Zionism. In what sense? I consider it a false proposition and I deny its truth, therefore regret its consequences, which are many. I do not single it out in the sense that there is no other false proposition that I deny. I do consider it more important to deny this proposition than to deny some others – such as that the moon is made of green cheese – because it seems to me that despite its objective falsehood it is very widely believed: that’s the sense in which I single it out, but singling out in that sense seems to be quite rational.
      Is there another widely accepted proposition highly comparable to Zionism? I don’t really think so, though this could be debated. If one such were identified I presume that Zionists would to some extent praise it, since they would recognise its logic or morality. I presume that I would disagree with it just as I disagree with Zionism.
      Zionists sometimes seem to present us with ideologies they consider comparable to Zionism – Manifest Destiny is perhaps the favourite – yet often seem to expect us to reject them, which is odd on their part. Perhaps someone will say that both Manifest Destiny and the Zionist enterprise were clearly justified things and indeed justified on the same grounds, though I haven’t seen any diligent presentation of this case. It could be discussed though I think it would be hard to make any case for irrational singling out on this basis.