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January 12, 2014 11:00 am

MLA Delegates Approve Resolution Condemning Israel

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Cary Nelson, an Modern Language Association (MLA) member and University of Illinois professor who spoke on a panel across the street from the MLA convention on academic freedom in Israel. The panel was arranged as an alternative to an MLA convention session that included supporters but no opponents of the BDS movement against Israel. Photo: Sage Ross via Wikimedia Commons. At the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in Chicago Saturday the MLA delegate committee passed Resolution 2014-1, which condemned Israel for alleged denials of entry for U.S. academics into the West Bank, in a 60-53 vote. The delegate assembly declined to consider an “Emergency Resolution in Support of the American Studies Association,” proposed by an MLA caucus on Friday. The American Studies Association recently endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.

Seventy-five percent of MLA convention delegates needed to approve the resolution before it could be debated and voted on, but only 41 percent actually did. However, the issue may be referred to the Executive Committee for consideration.

Resolution 2014-1 originally condemned Israel for “arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.” But the words “Gaza” and “arbitrary” were removed prior to voting.

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“Knowing that MLA members do not support their agenda of demonizing Israel and undermining a two-state solution to the conflict, this narrow resolution was watered down to focus solely on Israel’s alleged “arbitrary” denials of entry to US academics to the West Bank. These allegations were refuted in a document provided to the Delegate Assembly by the MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights,” said Israel Action Network (IAN) Managing Director Geri Palast in a statement.

The resolution now moves to the MLA Executive Committee for a vote. If passed there, it will go to a vote among MLA members.

“There is no understanding or explanation for Israel’s defense and opponents of the Resolution are given only one minute to unwind a tangled web of misinformation, unsubstantiated anecdotes which are presented with no context,” Peggy Shapiro, Chicago community coordinator for the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs and a member of the MLA, told the delegates at the voting session.

“For example, removing the word Gaza because the resolution presenters were not even aware of the simple fact that the entry to Gaza is in Egyptian and not Israeli control. What else did they not tell and what else do we need to make an informed decision? They also said there is a State Department warning not to visit Israel. Not true, the warning is not to visit Gaza because its run by a terrorist organization,” she said.

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