Targeting the Israeli Academy: Will Anthropologists Have the Courage to Just Say “No”?The charge of apartheid against Israel is laughable, especially considering both Israel's multicutural democracy, and considering the elitist attempt to exclude Israel from their own "scholarly" enterprise. It would seem that actual Anthropologists would be aware of the reality of the Palestinian promise to wipe Israel off the map and to claim all the region under Islamic Palestine. Given that they cannot understand even that most basic issue, then it is the BDS Leftist faux anthropologists who should be run out of the organization. Hopefully, that is what will happen.
If the proposal to shun and stigmatize Israeli academic institutions becomes official policy they, like the Jews of Germany in the 1930s, will not feel at home in their own society. Some will resign from the AAA, pack up and leave. Some already have. Others will just resign themselves to melancholy reflection on the late great discipline of cultural anthropology, recalling how their profession first gave up on positive science and then exchanged its humanistic soul for the soft porn of partisan identity politics.
The pro-boycott activists are galvanized. They have the courage of their conviction that Israel is a neo-colonial apartheid regime and its academic institutions complicit in the activities of the State. They view anthropology as a platform for political engagement and postcolonial social critique. They argue that Israel is a predacious Goliath undeserving of international support. They are energized by the prospect of receiving a corporate branding and seal of approval for their political judgments from a large academic association. Faced with the reality of Israeli scholars who are members of the AAA, boycott supporters sustain their sense of moral purpose by trying to convince others (and themselves) that their resolution merely discriminates against Israeli academic institutions but will not target individuals. They feel good, even righteous, about the many petty but highly provocative prohibitions in the boycott resolution, for example, the injunction against “granting permission to copy and reprint articles from AAA publications to journals and publications based at Israeli institutions.” There are no tears in their eyes when they advocate a censor’s restriction on the free flow of ideas as just collective punishment.
Those opposing the boycott resolution have the courage of a different set of convictions. They view the call to avoid contact with Israeli academic institutions as an outrageous violation of academic freedom norms, including the principle that participation in the world-wide academy is open to all regardless of nationality, race or creed. They believe the voting process itself is corrosive of academic values, that a professional scholarly association does not need a foreign policy for the Holy Land or anywhere else and should be committed to free thought and disciplined inquiry, not collective political action. When it comes to contestable political and social issues they do not cede authority to the AAA to make corporate declarations about what is right-minded and true. They prefer to speak for themselves, especially since the AAA is not a homogeneous political bloc. It is a disputatious community of scholars who differ in their causal analyses, assignments of blame, and proposed solutions to any political conflict. Collective political branding is viewed by many boycott opponents as an act of institutional violence committed against the intellectual autonomy of those members of the guild who disagree with the proposed party line. They believe that institutional neutrality on hot button social and political issues enables free thought.