Last year, the American Historical Association (AHA) has tried to pass an anti-Israel resolution. As the IAM post in September indicated, pro-Israel advocates took great pride in defeating the BDS proposition. It is not surprising, however, that boycott supporters will try again during their upcoming annual convention in January 7-10, 2016.
Like before, the driving force is the Historians Against the War, a group of radical scholars who, like their peers in other disciplines has nothing bad to say about the Islamic jihadists, including ISIS. But they had plenty to say about Israel in a 2014 letter to President Obama signed by many of their like-minded colleagues. The letter accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Protective Edge, demanded a cut-off of all U.S. aid to Israel and asked the president, acting as the Commander in Chief, to end the naval blockade of Gaza. The letter never mentioned Hamas and its contribution to the conflict, but quite faithfully reproduced its demands.
The upcoming annual convention hosts a number of anti-Israeli sessions such as "Palestine, Boycott, and International Solidarity" by Ilana Feldman and "Solidarity as Imminent Critique: Uniqueness, Complicity, and the Argument for Boycott" by Jon Soske.
Historians Against the War has drawn a boycott proposal for the convention. The resolution states, among others, that "the AHA calls for the immediate reversal of Israeli policies that restrict the freedom of movement required to exercise this right, including denial of entry of foreign nationals seeking to participate in educational programs; and... the cessation of attacks on Palestinian educational institutions, including raids on campuses, which undermine and deter education and endanger historical records."
No criticism of the Palestinians here but this is not surprising, the HAW homepage shows a picture of late Howard Zinn, a leading Marxist historian, with the caption: "Howard was a near-icon among anti-war historians, and HAW was proud to have him as a keynote speaker at our first national conference, in Austin, Texas in February 2006. We join his legion of friends and admirers worldwide who will miss his eloquent and principled voice."
"I think the Jewish State was a mistake, yes. Obviously, it’s too late to go back. It was a mistake to drive the Indians off the American continent, but it’s too late to give it back. At the time, I thought creating Israel was a good thing, but in retrospect, it was probably the worst thing that the Jews could have done. What they did was join the nationalistic frenzy, they became privy to all of the evils that nationalism creates and became very much like the United States—very aggressive, violent and bigoted. When Jews were without a state they were internationalists and they contributed to whatever culture they were part of and produced great things. Jews were known as kindly, talented people. Now, I think, Israel is contributing to anti-Semitism. So I think it was a big mistake."
Of course, the American Historical Association and individual scholars have the right to express their political opinion. But following the dictates of the discredited Historians Against War and their shrill critique of Israel that often smacks of anti-Semitic tropes would compromise the AHA legitimacy and tarnish the image of historians as objective stewards of history.
Palestine, Boycott, and International Solidarity
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:40 AM
Grand Ballroom A (Hilton Atlanta)
Ilana Feldman, George Washington University
This presentation will reflect on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as a strategy of international solidarity in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle against occupation and dispossession. It will give particular attention to the academic boycott of Israeli institutions as a part of this larger strategy, reflecting on the role that scholars and scholarly associations can play in this campaign. Drawing on my twenty-five years of experience working on and in Palestine, the paper will trace shifts in international practices of support for Palestinian people. Just as the structure of the Oslo Accords (the agreements that established the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza and shifted the conditions of occupation) produced a shift in Palestinian politics from mass movements to NGO-building, so too did a lot of international action in these years become more focused on “aiding” and “helping” Palestinians. With BDS emanating from a call by Palestinian civil society organizations, supporting and joining an academic boycott can productively shift this action unto the plane of solidarity – enhancing horizontal connections in a struggle for justice, rather than hierarchical relations in a project of development.
Solidarity as Imminent Critique: Uniqueness, Complicity, and the Argument for Boycott
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:00 AM
Grand Ballroom A (Hilton Atlanta)
Jon Soske, McGill University
In his 2010 Nelson Mandela lecture, Chilean author Ariel Dorfman remembered when the name of Mandela first acquired special significance in his life. Following the 1973 coup that overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende, Dorfman went into exile as the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet came to power. South Africa and Chile were allies linked by both Cold War anti-Communism and U.S. support. In this context, Mandela became a symbol of resistance for many Chileans, both in exile and at home. With details amended, this story could be repeated many times over regarding the growth of the international anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s and 80s: the campaign was successful, in large part, because participants linked opposition to apartheid with their experiences of Cold War dictatorship, racism in countries like the United States and U.K., and early neo-liberalism under the Regan and Thatcher governments. Yet if the campaign drew its strength from these transnational networks of repression, resistance, and identification (and sometimes misidentification), antiapartheid rhetoric often made the case for international isolation based on South Africa’s “unique” status as a racial state in the postcolonial global order.
Drawing on this background, this paper will reflect on a tension that exists between two kinds of arguments made for the boycott of Israel: first, the argument that Israel is, uniquely in the world today, an apartheid state and, second, a mode of argument that links the U.S. and Canadian government’s support of Israel to legacies of settler colonialism, the “War on Terror,” and institutionalized racism in North America. Reflecting on the fraught rhetoric of uniqueness in the 1980s and today, I will argue that the most rigorous argument for BDS begins with a self-critical accounting of those aspects of U.S. and Canadian culture that have subtended popular and official support for Israel.
Anti-Israel resolution drawn up by antiwar historians for annual convention next month
An academic group that traces its roots to opposition to the Iraq war is pushing to formally rebuke Israel.
Historians Against the War is circulating a resolution for next month’s American Historical Association meeting in Atlanta, described as advocating “protecting the right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The group tried the same thing last year
, but because it submitted the resolutions too late, the actual vote (which failed) was on whether to suspend the rules to consider the resolutions.
The new resolution
does not explicitly mention the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. It focuses on “Israel’s restrictions on the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank,” says Israel “routinely refuses” to let Gaza students travel abroad, and blames Israel for attacking “fourteen institutions of higher learning” during the Gaza conflict in summer 2014.
The antiwar historians want Israeli policies reversed, “including denial of entry of foreign nationals seeking to participate in educational programs,” as well as end to Israeli “raids on campuses.” If approved, the association would pledge to “monitor Israeli actions that restrict the right to education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
HAW at the AHA
Atlanta, January 7-10, 2016
Resolution to be considered at the 2016 Business Meeting of the American Historical Association
PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
WHEREAS, members of the historical profession support the Right to Education, including the universal access to higher education enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and
WHEREAS, members of the historical profession are dedicated to the docu'mentation of human experience through the collection and preservation of historical information;
WHEREAS, the Right to Education can be exercised only when students and faculty alike have the freedom of movement to teach and study at institutions of their choice; and
WHEREAS, Israel’s restrictions on the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank impede the regular funct'ioning of instruction and university activities at Palestinian institutions of higher learning ; and
WHEREAS, Israel routinely refuses to allow students from Gaza to travel in order to pursue higher education abroad, and even at West Bank universities; and
WHEREAS, the Right to Education is undermined or deterred when educational institutions are damaged, or partially destroyed, and when state authorities raid, and even close, campuses; and
WHEREAS, during its siege of Gaza in the summer of 2014, Israel bombarded fourteen institutions of higher learning, partially or completely destroying nine of them, including the Islamic University of Gaza, which houses the Oral History Center; and
WHEREAS, the Israeli military routinely invades university campuses in Jerusalem and the West Bank and frequently impedes entry; and
WHEREAS, the Right to Education can be exercised fully and freely only when students have access to a broad range of ideas and a faculty of diverse backgrounds; and
WHEREAS, Israel restricts the right to lecture, teach, or attend Palestinian universities by denying entry to select foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, thereby denying Palestinian educational institutions the rich experiences enjoyed in other universities worldwide;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the AHA upholds the rights of all faculty and students, including Palestinians, to pursue their education and research freely and wherever they choose, and therefore,
BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the AHA calls for the immediate reversal of Israeli policies that restrict the freedom of movement required to exercise this right, including denial of entry of foreign nationals seeking to participate in educational programs; and
BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the AHA calls for the cessation of attacks on Palestinian educational institutions, including raids on campuses, which undermine and deter education and endanger historical records;
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the AHA commits itself to continuing to monitor Israeli actions that restrict the right to education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
For detailed docu'mentation, see
“Academia Undermined: Israeli Restrictions on Foreign National Academics in Palestinian Higher Education Institutions,” Report of the Campaign for the Right to Enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 2013.
Who we are
At a meeting on the evening of Friday, January 3, 2003, at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, historians from more than forty colleges and universities agreed to form a new national network, "Historians Against the War." A committee was appointed to draft the following statement, which has been circulated for other historians to sign.
We historians call for a halt to the march towards war against Iraq. We are deeply concerned about the needless destruction of human life, the undermining of constitutional government in the U.S., the egregious curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and the obstruction of world peace for the indefinite future.
Historians Against the War Statement on the U.S. Occupation of Iraq (September 21, 2003)
As historians, teachers, and scholars, we oppose the expansion of United States empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war that have led to the occupation of Iraq. We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history involved in the administration's conduct of a war that violates international law, intensifies attacks on civil liberties, and reaches toward domination of the Middle East and its resources. Believing that both the Iraqi people and the American people have the right to determine their own political and economic futures (with appropriate outside assistance), we call for the restoration of cherished freedoms in the United States and for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Statement by Historians Against the War (April 15, 2009)
As historically minded activists, scholars, students, and teachers, we stand opposed to wars of aggression, military occupations of foreign lands, and imperial efforts by the United States and other powerful nations to dominate the internal life of other countries....
For more information on Historians Against the War, contact:
University of Massachusetts Boston
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Truman State University
Matthew F. Bokovoy
University of Nebraska Press
Central Connecticut State University
Carolyn "Rusti" Eisenberg
John J. Fitzgerald
Longmeadow High School (Retired)
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Franklin and Marshall College
Harvard Divinity School's Office of Ministerial Studies
Worker's Solidarity Club of Youngstown
Edrene S. McKay
OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology
University of Maryland
U. of Massachusetts-Boston
Tallahassee Community College
Illinois Institute of Technology
Wayne State University
University of Waterloo
James L. Swarts
State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo
Concordia University-St. Paul, Minnesota