American Jewish group deplores anthropologist boycott of Israel

November 22, 2015  

The AJC – Global Jewish Advocacy group on Saturday denounced a decision by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) endorsing an academic boycott of Israel.

“The AAA’s mission is ‘advancing knowledge and solving human problems,’” Dan Elbaum, AJC Assistant Executive Director and Director of Regional Offices, said in a statement.

“In Denver AAA members lost sight of their mission, determining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved by boycotting the colleges and universities of the Middle East’s only democracy. Only Israel’s schools of higher education, where Jews and Arabs study together, merit AAA condemnation,” he continued.

The resolution passed by a vote of 1,040 to 136, making the AAA the largest American academic organization to support boycotting Israel.

In his statement, Elbaum praised the 136 AAA members who voted against the boycott resolution, and noted the introduction of a second motion that, while critical of Israeli policies, opposed BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel. The resolution against BDS was defeated 1,173 to 196.

Elbaum pointed out that significant academic organizations, notably the American Association of University Professors, have steadfastly rejected the idea of academic boycotts. “Increased collaboration with Israeli institutions should be an American academic priority,” said Elbaum.

“The AAA has mistakenly succumbed to the whims of the BDS movement leaders, who have no interest in a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and consider Israel itself an illegitimate entity that has no place in the community of nations,” he added.

In 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to boycott Israeli institutions. The head of the ASA, Curtis Marez, later admitted to the New York Times that many nations, including many of Israel’s neighbors, have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s but said that “one has to start somewhere.”

The ASA’s boycott decision was controversial even among its members. No universities actually came out in support of the boycott and at least four universities subsequently quit the organization in protest of the boycott.

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