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MESA’s Shameful Betrayal of Academic Freedom

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Unsurprisingly for an organization whose membership has been perennially hostile to Israel, members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) voted at their recent annual meeting to advance a resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israeli academics to a full membership vote in 2022.

The sententious language of the MESA boycott resolution, which ironically purports to protect academic freedom, asserts that there is evidence of “successive Israeli governments’ systematic violations of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli direct or indirect control” and that these so-called “systemic violations include restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians; isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing Palestinian professors, teachers, and students . . ; and maintaining inequality in educational resources between Palestinians and Israelis.”

But MESA’s notion that Israeli universities are “imbricated in these systematic violations” is flawed in at least two respects. It, first, exonerates academics in any country other than Israel for any misdeeds committed by their own governments, for which, by the same standard that the boycotters apply to Israel, they as concerned citizens and scholars should have to answer. The notion that Israeli academics should, or could, be held responsible for the actions of their own government was at best hypocritical, and at worst yet another example of how, where Israel is concerned, the standards applied in measuring its actions are impossibly high.

Secondly, making Israeli academics complicit in the actions of their government ignores the reality that, as is the case on European, Canadian, and American campuses, many Israeli professors veer to the Left politically and many, incredibly, share the same virulent anti-Israel, anti-Zionism sentiments so proudly touted by the boycott supporters.

In fact, MESA President Dina Rizk Khoury ludicrously claimed that the boycott would not only help Palestinian scholars whose rights are allegedly denied by Israel but would also help insulate anti-Israel Israeli academics, too, academics she contends face imaginary “attacks” from their peers within Israel. “Today’s vote clears a path for our full membership to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students,” Khoury proclaimed, “not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.”

So, MESA thoughtfully will look out for those “good” Jews in Israel who share their own animus to the Jewish state and suffer so-called attacks from the government for their anti-Israel activism. But Khoury, like her fellow travelers in the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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