In Close Vote, Anthropological Association Decides Against Israel Boycott

The American Anthropological Association, one of the largest organizations to vote on an academic boycott against Israel, decided against a boycott in a very tight vote. As an alternative, the association has taken steps to raise its members' concerns with the Israeli government.

If 40 more members of the American Anthropological Association had voted for a academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the headline on this story would be very different.

But in the end, the closely watched vote leaned in favor of the status quo, with 2,423 AAA members voting against the academic boycott, and 2,384 members voting in favor of it. The vote, which took place over a six-week period in April and May, attracted responses from slightly more than half of the group’s members, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The boycott resolution was put up to a member vote after more than 1,400 AAA members took part in a business meeting, where most attendees voted in favor of such a call.

But while the most powerful statement the group planned to take against Israel has been blunted, the association’s executive board is still taking steps to emphasize the displeasure with the Israeli government shared by many of its members.

Last month, the executive board approved a series of actions against Israel, including a statement of censure against the Israeli government and letters to both Israeli and American officials regarding member concerns about the Middle Eastern country’s treatment of Palestinians.

The group will also work with other associations on the issue and has pledged to “establish fellowships to enable the travel of Palestinian and/or Israeli academics to AAA conferences, and of academics and/or visiting scholars in anthropology to act as teachers, mentors or research collaborators with colleagues in the West Bank and Gaza, assuming financial feasibility and/or successful fundraising efforts.”

The vote keeps AAA from becoming the largest organization to call for an academic boycott of Israel and may ease some of the concerns felt by Israeli academic groups, which spoke up on the issue earlier this year.

The vote also comes at a time when many large universities, including each of the University of California Board of Regents, representing the system’s 10 universities, have issued statements reaffirming opposition to academic boycotts.

Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, noted to the Jerusalem Post that the AAA vote came about after months of aggressive lobbying by the country.

“This is a dramatic change that stemmed from intensive public diplomacy work and ground work with members of the association,” Erdan told the newspaper.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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