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June 8, 2016 5:34 pm

Behind the Scenes: How the Anti-BDS Vote Within the American Anthropological Association Ballooned

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Members of the American Anthropological Society narrowly voted down a BDS resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel. Photo: Wikipedia.

Members of the American Anthropological Association narrowly voted down a BDS resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel. Photo: Wikipedia.

Opponents of the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) recently defeated anti-Israel boycott resolution were able to increase their voting power seventeen-fold since November, when a pro-BDS referendum passed, a leader of the AAA’s opposition movement told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

David Rosen, co-founder and member of the Steering Committee of Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel and Palestine (ADIP) — which promotes the use of anthropological theories and methods for seeking peace and social justice in the region — made his comment in light of a narrowly defeated AAA resolutionwhich called for an academic boycott against Israel. The results were 2,423 votes against the resolution, and 2,384 in favor. 

Following the AAA’s annual business meeting in November — during which a small subset of members voted overwhelmingly in support of an academic boycott resolution (1,040 to 136) — Rosen said, “We were not certain that we could win, but we were confident that we could do better with a membership-wide vote.” It was thus that in April, AAA opened up voting for all members.

“The Association’s business meeting was dominated by forces loyal to the BDS movement and we lost very badly. We always believed that the business meeting was targeted by BDS supporters not representative of the AAA as a whole, and that the larger membership of the association would have a more balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

Rosen and his colleagues launched a widespread campaign that he said “provided a thoughtful and anthropologically grounded counter-narrative to BDS propaganda.” The central feature of the campaign, Rosen explained, was “to put a human face on Israeli anthropologists, and to show how harmful and repellent a boycott was to anthropological values.” Tactics included writing articles for anthropology focused media; having opposition members post against the resolution on their individual websites; creating Facebook pages opposing the resolution; distributing short videos of Israeli and American anthropologists explaining why they oppose the boycott; and producing a major critique of an AAA report on Israel and “Palestine” used by BDS leaders as a platform for their anti-Israel efforts.

“We showed that this resolution was ideologically motivated, devoid of any scientific merit, that it constantly misconstrued crucial data and reduced the discussion of Israel and Palestine into a series of highly biased, stereotypic, erroneous and negative images of Israel,” Rosen told The Algemeiner.

With the defeat of the resolution this week, “clearly we were more successful,” he said. “BDS forces in anthropology were able to more than double their vote from 1,040 to 2,384, but we were able to multiply our vote by more than 17 times.”

According to Rosen, support for the BDS movement within the AAA came from a surprising place. “I and others were completely unaware of how deeply BDS had influenced the AAA’s leadership,” he said, adding that anti-Israel efforts “clearly received the blessing of the AAA leadership…who were behind these efforts claiming ‘something had to be done’ about Israel.”

Despite AAA members signaling to the organization’s leadership that they oppose an academic boycott against Israel, the AAA still plans to take a series of actions against Israel, the group said in a statement, including:

Issue a statement of censure of the Israeli government…policies and practices that: restrict freedom of movement for Palestinian academics and foreign academics going to the West Bank; restrict access to publications on the West Bank; inflict damage on Palestinian academic life; deny full accreditation for Al-Quds University; deny freedom of expression to Palestinian and dissenting Jewish faculty and students at Israeli universities; and obstruct payment of salaries to West Bank faculty…

Issue a letter to relevant authorities in the US government…[that] will identify the ways in which US government resources and policies contribute to policies in Israel/Palestine that violate academic freedom and disenfranchise Palestinians…

AAA will issue a statement reiterating its socially responsible investment policy…pointing out that AAA has no investments in any company anywhere that does not fit this criterion, including Israeli companies…

Following the defeat of the resolution, AAA President Alisse Waterston said in a statement, “The consensus within the AAA remains and that is that there are serious human rights problems that exist in Israel/Palestine as a result of Israeli state policy, practices and the occupation and that AAA must take a course of action.”

Rosen slammed Waterston’s comments, saying, “The leadership of the AAA continues to promote the BDS agenda by claiming that there is a consensus about Israel. No such consensus exists. The AAA is radically divided on all these issues. The leadership has absolutely no mandate from the membership of these issue. It is purely self-directed.”

The results of the AAA vote — which took place via electronic ballot between April 15 and May 31 — were announced on Tuesday. Some 51 percent of 9,359 eligible-voting members took part in the vote. Had the resolution passed, AAA would have joined other academic institution — such as the American Studies Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, the African Literature Association and the Association for Asian American Studies — in boycotting Israel.

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  • Joseph Feld

    Here in the UK national unions pass loony Left resolutions because only about 5% of members attend national conferences. If the law required a postal vote for all members of a union, there would be much more common sense. Re: The American National Women’s Studies Association voting to boycott Israel. What pathetic creatures! Israel sets the stadard for women’s equality in many areas, while females in the various 24 Arab countries can face female genital mutilation, honour killings, stoning, up to 1,000 lashes for criticising Islamic govt, sex slavery, rape for not being covered up, denied higher education, married against their will to men old enough to be their grandfather, not allowed to drive, not allowed to go out without a male relative . . . . . What do their women’s studies courses say about Islam?

  • These ordinary people willing to believe the so-called “Narrative” without checking need to be Educated of the falseness. Its overwhelming but has gone too long allowing false ideas to take root. These people need to see beyond the Reaction of Israel to WHY this has come about. No one tells them. Not all, but many would not join the Mob is they knew. True, some are die-hard bigots but they cannot be allowed to continue to spread the growing”Narrative” The Why has to be proven Publicly. From San Remo to Jordans creation to the early riots 1920s. 1930s 1940s (that look just like todays) Jordans Illegal occupation and name changing….ECT. Overwhelming but it must be proven, like with Lawyers & politicians.

    (I was not prepared for how gullible Humans could be and how prone to want a fight)

  • how about doing some anthro research into the composition of the organizations leadership?

  • Yaakov

    Has anyone read the dictionary definition of “consensus” lately?

  • ricardo

    It would perhaps be useful for these phony academic institutions to be deserted by those rational members who recognize the deceptions involved in anti-Israel actions and who acknowledge the distraction from the proclaimed goals of those organizations by such malevolent, tendentious, and truly ignorant falsehoods promoted by such acts. New organizations might well arise who espouse goals truly academic in their charters and in their actions.
    It has always baffled me that people can be so smugly certain of their position on complicated issues even when they are demonstrably wrong. Academics seem, regrettably, to be even more predisposed to this than the general public. Especially academics who lack a scientific bent and background.
    The Arabs kill Jews for many decades. Not a whiff of academic concern. The Nazis kill Jews. Ditto. After rejecting a two state solution time, after frequent murders of Israelis and further wars against Israel, the Arabs insisted “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it…” Then there was the ill-fated Arab attack against Israel in 1967, and suddenly Israel had unexpectedly survived and actually regained territory rightfully hers which had been taken by Arab aggression. And since then, there has been increasing verbal and physical attack on Israel, presumably because the Arabs have been unable to wipe her out without assistance from the ignorant, well-meaning, fools who see great evil in Israel while overlooking the sources of the Arab / rest-of-the-world conflict and while ignoring all the true evil and the bloody massacres and oppression which are real in other parts of the world.
    These are not academics. They are parrots. That may even be unfair to avians, who at least have a good reason for their actions.

  • Im not a member of this organization, however I’m appalled that this AAA president is taking an action that is counter to the mandate of the organization she presides over. This action is without authority and thus illegal. Shouldn’t an impeachment or a petition for resignation be developed against the President, Alisse Waterston. What are the bylaws or governance Articles of the AAA state? I’m curious, that with a membership exceeding 4800 members what are the rules? Are there dues?

    Thank you
    Marion Abramowitz

  • Reform School

    Harmful as it may be, BDS is a decoy. Every hour BDS resolutions go back-and-forth, Iran creates more-and-more nukes for roasting infidels. That’s you and me. Because violins were not invented until centuries later, “Nero fiddling while Rome burned” is really highly-unlikely. “When All is Said and Done, More is Said than Done.”

  • stevenl

    The US congress should sanction the AAA for promoting antisemitism and racism!
    How many ME petro$ have gone to the pockets of AAA antisemites?

  • dave

    When I studied anthropology in college, they taught about the Nuer and other tribes in Africa and their relationships with each other and their cows.

    Apparently now these folks are interested in hatred, anti semitism, and Jihad.

    I prefer the old days.