Boycotts are an inspiring, time-honored, constitutionally-protected tool used to achieve positive social change throughout recent history and in our current political moment. The Palestinian call for the boycott of Israel is a thoughtful, strategic call for solidarity with the oppressed and for non-complicity with Israel’s regime of oppression. It is relatively narrow in scope compared to the much broader boycott that effectively helped end South Africa Apartheid.
While the Modern Language Association has long professed a commitment to academic freedom for all scholars, the MLA resolution against the academic boycott of Israeli universities serves to reinforce the systematic denial of academic freedom to Palestinians – who are routinely denied access to research, travel, and the ability to speak freely on the occupation – and denies Palestinians this precious nonviolent tool to address the extreme violence waged daily against them. The resolution goes even further to deny academic freedom to MLA’s own members by foreclosing critical discussion and debate.
The resolution effectively aligns the MLA with the Trump Administration, which has attacked free speech and vowed to increase support for Israel’s regime, with its parallel policies of erecting walls, banning refugees, and building on stolen land. The resolution fans the flames of bigotry and Islamophobia rather than listening to targeted communities speaking for themselves.
Those lobbying the MLA to reject the academic boycott cynically purport to have the best interest of Palestinians in mind while ignoring Palestinians’ broad and resounding call for people of conscience worldwide to end our complicity with the institutions (not individuals) that are part and parcel of their oppression, including Israeli academia. Heeding their call is not an act of generosity or heroism; it is a basic moral obligation.
As a coalition of hundreds of organizations nationwide working toward freedom, justice, and equality, we urge the MLA to oppose this anti-boycott resolution – in the name of self-determination and academic freedom for all.