Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) voted on Friday in favor of adopting a motion to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
The resolution, in favor of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), was approved by an overwhelming majority (1040 in favor to 136 against) of some 1,400 members of the association participating in its annual conference in Denver, Colorado.
A final vote is set to take place in April, where over 10,000 members will cast their vote on whether to officially adopt a boycott to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, though not of individual academics.
Some 30 Israeli anthropologists were present at the annual meeting and despite a competing resolution to reject the boycott, failed to stop the vote.
“The phenomenon of academic boycotts has intensified and in recent years expanded beyond the marginal radical borders of academia and onto leading US campuses,” said Prof. Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and head of the chairman of the Association of University Heads in Israel following the vote.
“This phenomenon is likely to cause heavy damage to research, reliant on international cooperation, which in turn will also affect industry, the economy, and the future resilience of the State of Israel,” he said.
Should the boycott resolution pass, it will mark the largest association to date to call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
“As long as the American Anthropological Association, which is one of the largest professional associations in the US, will adopt the decision officially by the organization’s institutions, it may sway other associations to take similar declarative decisions,” said Lavie.
“We must recognize the issue as a matter of national importance and jointly act to halt and prevent the spread of this phenomenon,” he said.
The Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, who pushed for the resolution, welcomed the decision.
“As heirs to a long tradition of scholarship on colonialism, anthropologists affirm, through this resolution, that the core problem is Israel’s maintenance of a settler colonial regime based on Jewish supremacy and Palestinian dispossession. By supporting the boycott, anthropologists are taking a stand for justice through action in solidarity with Palestinians,” they said in a statement.
“Today’s historic result is due to over three years of organizing within the Association to educate and mobilize members to stand against Israel’s widespread, systematic, and ongoing violations of Palestinian rights, as well as to protest the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in these abuses. The vote was also a powerful act of protest against U.S. support for Israel’s actions,” they said.
According to the Association’s website, the vote came following a report by the Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine listing “recommendations as to how the organization might best engage with the issues concerning Israel/Palestine.”
“We provided as much relevant information to our members as we could and used the same approach we apply to everything else, namely utilizing an anthropological framework to understand what the range of positions is and why people hold them,” said outgoing AAA President Monica Heller.
“We’re encouraged by the turnout and expect our members to continue an informed and respectful conversation regarding the issue,” she said.
Founded in 1902 the Association said it is “dedicated to advancing human understanding and tackling the world’s most pressing problems.”