Professors of languages and literature of the Modern Language Association (MLA) have voted to reject the boycott of Israeli universities.
MLA members voted decisively — 1,954 to 885 — in favor of a resolution to “refrain from endorsing the boycott” of Israeli academic institutions advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, according to the MLA.
The MLA is a leading academic umbrella group with some 24,000 members in over 100 countries, and its vote on BDS is influential.
In a posting on the MLA decision, Cornell Law professor William A Jacobson said, “This represents a staggering defeat for the boycotters. MLA has almost five times the membership of the American Studies Association, the largest academic group in the U.S. to have adopted academic BDS.”
“Needless to say, supporters of the boycott are very unhappy with the vote result, and again are threatening to engineer mass resignations,” he noted.
The pro-BDS MLA members were threatening just that. After the vote on Wednesday, they tweeted, “Principled resignations and principled continuance [are] both good responses to ratification of anti-boycott res. MLA will support BDS eventually.”
The resolution stated: “Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature; Whereas the boycott’s prohibition of the evaluation of work of individual Israeli scholars conflicts with Resolution 2002-1, which condemns boycotts against scholars; and Whereas endorsing the boycott could curtail debates with representatives of Israeli universities, such as faculty members, department chairs, and deans, thereby blocking possible dialogue and general scholarly exchange; Be it resolved that the MLA refrains from endorsing the boycott.”