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April 1, 2022 3:25 pm
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NYU ‘Deeply Disappointed’ in MESA, Urges Reversal of Academic Boycott of Israel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The New York University campus. Photo: Cincin12/Wiki Commons.

New York University on Wednesday denounced the Middle East Studies Association’s recent endorsement of an academic boycott of Israel.

The school joined growing calls for MESA to reverse its embrace of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which was approved by members of the scholarly association in a vote earlier this month.

“NYU rejects and is deeply disappointed by the Middle East Studies Association’s recently passed resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel,” university spokesperson John Beckman said in a statement issued Wednesday. “NYU’s opposition to academic boycotts is longstanding and is grounded in the belief that academic boycotts are at odds with the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.”

Beckman also cited several examples of NYU’s opposition to BDS, going as far back as 2013, when President David McLaughlin expressed “disappointment, disagreement, and opposition” to an American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott Israel. NYU rejected BDS again in 2016 after it was endorsed by the NYU Graduate Student Union, and in 2018, when the NYU Student Government Assembly passed a pro-BDS resolution accusing Israel of “ongoing violation of [Palestinians’] human rights.”

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“For the sake of academic freedom, we urge MESA to reconsider its ill-advised resolution,” Beckman continued.

Last Thursday, Brandeis University said the association’s support for BDS has led it to dissociate from it “as a matter of principle,” while a leading civil liberties group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), voiced concerns about restrictions on “the free exchange of ideas.”

MESA has not responded to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment on universities, including Florida State University, that have ended their memberships since the vote to consider an Israel boycott was first initiated last year.

When that vote passed on March 23, MESA President Eve Troutt Powell said the group would seek to “ensure that the call for an academic boycott is upheld without undermining our commitment to the free exchange of ideas and scholarship.”

A web page listing MESA’s institutional members — where NYU and Brandeis University were enumerated as of last Tuesday — recently appeared to have been removed.

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