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Anthropology

Supposedly “advancing human understanding,” but actually failing to do so in reality, the AAA has voted to promote a resolution calling for the boycott of Israeli institutions. 

Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) attending the Annual Meeting in Denver on Friday voted overwhelmingly in a 1040-36 vote in favor of passing a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions on the organization’s spring ballot in April. Some 30 Israeli anthropologists were present at the vote.

The resolution, considered by more than 1,400 members attending the AAA business meeting, is not final and will now be put to a vote by the organization’s 10,000 members for a final decision. If the resolution passes, the AAA would become the world’s largest professional organization to boycott Israel.

“We provided as much relevant information to our members as we could and used the same approach we apply to everything else, namely utilizing an anthropological framework to understand what the range of positions is and why people hold them,” claimed outgoing AAA President Monica Heller. “We’re encouraged by the turnout and expect our members to continue an informed and respectful conversation regarding the issue.”

The proposed resolution calls for the AAA to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions only and not individual scholars.

The vote came after the Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine issued a report listing recommendations as to how the organization might best engage with these issues. The report included a wide range of measures that could be adopted and strongly urged that the “no action” option be taken off the table.

Professor Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

Professor Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. (Yoav Bachar Photography)

Heads of Israeli universities expressed concern over the spreading phenomenon of these anti-Israel resolutions.

“The phenomenon of academic boycotts have intensified and spread beyond the marginal radical boundaries of academia to leading campuses in the US,” Professor Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and chairman of the Association of University Heads in Israel, stated after the vote. “If the AAA, which is one of the largest associations in the US, endorses the resolution formally, this may affect other associations to take similar declarative decisions. We must recognize this issue as one of national interest and work jointly to stop the spreading of this phenomenon,” he said, adding that such resolutions could also affect Israel’s economy.

Professor Rivka Carmi, President of Ben Gurion University, said that such resolutions could have a broader negative affect on Israel’s academia. “Ultimately, academia relies on collaboration among colleagues. This means letters of recommendation, essay reviews and research grants; we are very dependent on these. There is also the possibility of boycotting Israeli conventions, the refusal to collaborate with Israeli researchers.”

Ironically enough, the American Anthropological Association’s declared mission is supposedly “advancing human understanding and tackling the world’s most pressing problems.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel