Middle East Studies Association academics back pro-Palestine BDS vote in blow to Israel

Middle East Studies Association academics back pro-Palestine BDS vote in blow to Israel
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has voted in favour of a resolution condemning Israel for its 'systematic violations' against Palestinians and calling for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israeli institutions.
3 min read
23 March, 2022
80 percent of MESA members voted in favour of the resolution calling for BDS against Israel [Getty]

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) voted on Wednesday in favour of a resolution supporting Palestinian calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. 

The resolution -  supported by 80 percent of MESA's participating members - called for an "academic boycott of Israeli institutions for their complicity in Israeli’s violations of human rights", such as providing assistance to the Israeli military and intelligence establishments. 

The US non-profit academic society said in a statement following the vote that BDS was a "way to hold the [Israeli] government accountable for ongoing human rights violations". 

"Our members have cast a clear vote to answer the call for solidarity from Palestinian scholars and students experiencing violations of their right to education and other human rights," said MESA President Eve Troutt Powell. 

MESA's one-page resolution acknowledged Israel's "systematic violations" against Palestinian - which both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said amount to the "crime of apartheid" - and criticised the US for "shield[ing] successive Israeli governments". 

"Systematic violations include restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians; isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing Palestinian professors, teachers, and students," the resolution read. 

MESA, which describes itself as "committed to supporting struggles against racism", has more than 2,800 members. 

During a 50-day voting period from 31 January to 22 March, all 2022 members were asked to cast their vote electronically for the resolution. 768 voted in favour and 167 against. 

The debate over whether the organisation should support BDS against Israel, according to MESA’s president, has been ongoing since 2005. 

"We affirm our commitment to academic freedom for Palestinians, and for all scholars in all countries throughout the region," the president said. 

The resolution made clear that it would not target individuals but institutions. It also emphasised the right of members to choose whether or not they wish to participate in the boycott. 

It added that its board of directors will work in consultation with its Committee on Academic Freedom to "give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution" in a way that complies with MESA bylaws and US laws. 

BDS is a Palestinian-led movement, launched in 2005, that calls for global action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. 

The movement urges states, companies and communities to withdraw their support of "Israel’s apartheid regime", divest from "the State of Israel and all Israeli companies", and asks international governments to place sanctions on the Israeli government. 

The New Arab contacted the Israeli foreign ministry for comment on the new resolution but received no response by the time of publication.