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November 22, 2016 4:53 pm

Expert: Blatant Anti-Israel Slant ‘Suicidal’ for Reputation, Continuity of Mideast Scholars Association

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Interview
Martin Kramer. Photo: Washington Institute.

Martin Kramer. Photo: Washington Institute.

A prominent Jerusalem-based historian likened the anti-Israel efforts of a controversial academic body to a “suicide belt that kills only the bomber, causing its death to be self-inflicted.”

Dr. Martin Kramer, a scholar at the Shalem College, was referring to the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), which decided on Friday to take steps to change the bylaws governing its mandate as a “non-political” entity. Kramer told The Algemeiner that this step, taken at the organization’s annual conference, will clear the path to its open adoption of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions against the Jewish state.

Over the last several years, MESA has come under scrutiny for promoting a virulent anti-Israel slant in the field of “Palestine studies,” which Kramer said has been indistinguishable from advocacy. Its scholars, he said, teach that “Israel is illegitimate — a form of settler-colonialism born in sin and destined to disappear — as well as the source of all the region’s ills. In addition, the Middle East cannot prosper until Israel — the state of usurper Jews — is diminished and ultimately dismantled.” 

However, according to Kramer — who conducted a study of MESA papers published from 2009 to 2016 — there are indications that academics outside of the “closed echo chamber” of Palestine studies have begun to lose interest in MESA because of its constant bullying of the Jewish state. 

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This decline, Kramer said, is happening as interest in general Mideast studies is on the rise, as is the transformation of MESA into a “less scholarly and more political organization, infiltrated by all sorts of third-rate pseudo-scholars and propagandists who do not adopt a stance of objective distance from their subject.”

“Imagine what people would think if an ostensibly scholarly association of Russian studies endorsed President Vladimir Putin and called for a boycott of Ukraine,” he said. “That would be deemed a blatant corruption of scholarship. Palestine studies have been corrupted. The best young minds won’t ever enter a field that has been compromised, so the field is shrinking in proportion to the work done on the Middle East.” 

Through its anti-Israel activity, Kramer told The Algemeiner, MESA has greatly harmed its reputation, and its latest decision highlights how it is “moving towards BDS, not away from it.”

“There is a reasonably good chance of pushing through a BDS resolution and at that point, MESA will begin to unravel and all that will be left is anti-Israel studies,” he said. “A BDS resolution at MESA would end the pretense that it is a scholarly association. This won’t make any difference to Israel. But it will damage the association, probably beyond repair.”

An official vote on whether to keep or remove the phrase “non-political” from MESA’s bylaws will be presented to all its members in early 2017. Passage of the resolution requires a two-thirds majority.

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