MESA Academics Endorse Freedom To Boycott Israel

WASHINGTON (AP) -

A key U.S. organization of Middle East scholars voted Monday to protect the rights of members who support academic boycotts of Israeli institutions but stopped short of taking a stand for or against such activities.

By a vote of 256-79, members at an annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Washington agreed to send the resolution to the general membership for a vote in the coming months.

The organization resolved to remain an open forum for discussion of academic boycotts of Israel and rejected attempts to thwart those taking part in such activities.

MESA President Nathan Brown emphasized that the organization was not taking a stand on the moves by many organizations to boycott, disinvest or sanction Israel or Israeli institutions.

MESA has become a key body in American academia, supplying the media with experts, often hostile to Israel, to explain the Israeli-Arab conflict. MESA counts among its members 2,700 scholars, more than 60 institutions worldwide and 39 affiliated organizations.

Ofra Ash, spokeswoman for the Hebrew University, said ahead of the vote on Monday that the school “condemns academic boycotts, which directly violate the principle of academic freedom that underpins higher education. Relations between academic organizations or institutions should be based on academic considerations alone.”