Protesting Anti-Israel Resolution
Protesting Anti-Israel Resolution
January 12, 2014
JNS — On Saturday, January 11, 2014, the Modern Language Association (MLA) delegate committee passed Resolution 2014-1, which condemns Israel for denying entry of U.S. academics into the West Bank, in a 60-53 vote. The MLA Executive Committee will now need to approve the resolution before it goes to a vote among MLA members.
MLA delegates were also considerting an “emergency resolution” to support the American Studies Association’s passage of an outright academic boycott of Israel, but this was struck down due to technical reasons.
MLA is comprised of 30,000 members, 4,000 of whom participated in the convention. However, only a little over 100 members attended the resolution meeting and participated in the vote.
Additionally, 75 percent of MLA convention delegates are needed to approve the resolution before it could be debated and voted on, but only 41 percent actually did.Therefore, the issue may be referred to the Executive Committee for consideration.
The MLA panel was made up of only boycott sympathizers. They refused participation by opponents, they refused to receive contrary evidence and refused sponsorship of an alternative panel. As a result, a counter-panel was organized off-site, at which Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Prof. Emeritus Ilan Toren was asked to particpate.
“The false issue is the respect for academic freedom,” said Prof. Troen. “Israeli education is based upon academic freedom and has such latitude and openess that there are few systems in the world that can match Israel. You can find at Israeli universities people who hold the most extreme and opposite views who function together and teach at the same institutions. There is no exclusion.”
Alternative session panelist Cary Nelson, an MLA member and a professor at the University of Illinois said, “The speakers at the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] panel have convinced themselves that Israel is the prime source of injustice in the world, despite its being surrounded by utterly undemocratic and repressive regimes… No rational explanations have been offered for why a focus on Israel among all other nations is warranted.”
Despite MLA’s main argument that claims that American adacemics of Palestinian descent were forbidden entry into Israel, a report issued by MLA members opposing the convention’s resoltuion states that in 2012, only 142 Americans were denied entry to Israel and the disputed territories out of 626,000 who wanted to enter, a refusal rate of about 0.023 percent.
The United States restricts entry to its own borders at a much higher rate—5.4 percent in 2012 for Israeli applications for “B” visas, as reported by both the Israeli embassy in the U.S. and the U.S. State Department.
“The chance of an Israeli wanting to come to America and being refused by the American authorities for getting a visa is 200 times greater than that of an American trying to enter Israel,” said Prof. Troen, who is now director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University.
Opponents of the resolution note that only one MLA convention session out of about 800 was devoted to the subject of BDS, which had minimal participation.
“If you take a look at the figures, more and more [research] funds come into Israel because it’s just an extraordinary academic Desert & Water Research… The impact [of BDS on Israeli academia] is really symbolic, not practical,” said Prof. Troen.