MLA votes to criticize, but not boycott, Israel

Delegates to the Modern Language Association’s annual convention upheld a resolution accusing Israel of keeping Palestinian American academics from entering the West Bank, but rejected another expressing solidarity with academics who boycott Israel.

After an hour or so of acrimonious debate in Chicago Jan. 11, the MLA’s delegate assembly approved, on a 60-53 vote, a resolution calling on the State Department to “contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

The resolution goes to the MLA’s executive committee for consideration next month. If approved by the executive committee, the measure goes to the full membership.

Another MLA resolution referred to a vote last month by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities, as well as its aftermath in which more than 180 American universities rejected such a boycott.

The resolution, which was defeated 59-41, “condemns the attacks on the ASA and supports the right of academic organizations and individuals, free from intimidation, to take positions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against racism.”

The resolution did not specify what intimidation the ASA had suffered as a result of its vote.

The MLA convention this year featured, among about 800 events, a panel of scholars who favor the boycott. Another panel opposing the boycott, convened too late to be included in the official program, was held in a nearby hotel.

The Israel Action Network and the Israel on Campus Coalition organized the pro-Israel panel. — jta