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March 29, 2022 1:48 pm
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MESA Partner Web Page Down as Schools Cut Ties Over Israel Boycott

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The University of Haifa campus. Photo: Zvi Roger – Haifa Municipality/Wikimedia Commons.

A website listing institutional members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) linked to an error page as of Tuesday, days after another of its partners withdrew from the group to protest its academic boycott of Israel.

The page was live as recently as March 25, according to an archived version of the site, when it listed 45 “Institutional Members” that work with MESA, which promotes scholarly study of the Middle East.

The previous day, Brandeis University became the latest institution to sever ties with MESA over its vote last week to endorse the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The Boston-area school said it dissociated from the group “as a matter of principle” and because of the threat BDS poses to academic freedom.

The apparent removal of the page listing MESA members was seized on by the AMCHA Initiative, an antisemitism watchdog that has called the BDS resolution “reprehensible and incredibly dangerous.”

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“MESA removed their list of online institutional members,” the group tweeted on Monday, sharing an archived version of the page. “Maybe they got scared their egregious endorsement of academic BDS would cause many universities to revoke their institutional memberships. They are right, and it’s okay, it’s cached.”

MESA did not immediately respond to a request by The Algemeiner to clarify the page’s status and whether the change was linked to the exit of institutional members.

Brandeis’ decision to leave MESA adds it to the list of schools, including Florida State University, that have ended partnerships with MESA since the association first voted in December to consider endorsing the BDS campaign.

“All institutional members of MESA should follow the lead of Brandeis University and dissociate after it ratified a BDS resolution boycotting Israeli academic institutions,” the Anti-Defamation League declared on Sunday. “This resolution is antithetical to academic freedom & discourages productive dialogue.”

Launched in 2005, the BDS campaign rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation-state, seeking to isolate the country comprehensively with economic, political, and cultural boycotts.

Since MESA’s 50-day voting period for the measure began, it raised legal questions for public universities in states that have passed anti-BDS laws. Florida State University’s decision not to renew its MESA membership for 2022 came after a warning from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that the public university would likely not be permitted to participate in an Israel boycott, due to state law prohibiting the use of public funds to support BDS.

Several other MESA institutional partners, including California State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Michigan, are also in states that have adopted measures against using public funds to support BDS.

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