Professional associations have responded cautiously to the Palestinian call for boycott against Israel, despite thorough investigations by major human rights associations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own B’Tselem which concluded that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians under its control amounts to apartheid. Perhaps this is mainly due to fear of dividing their membership, to the fierce resistance of a minority of members whose sympathies lie with Israel, or for some other reason. But at any rate the trend now seems to be clear. In December 2013 the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) braved the predictable onslaught of antisemitism charges by declaring its support for boycott. In the next few years attempted acts of solidarity by the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) proved premature; the AAA’s resolution on boycott being defeated by a mere 38 votes. But in June 2019 the British Society for the Study of the Middle East (BRISMES) voted overwhelmingly to support BDS. In March 2022 the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the American-based organisation with a large international membership, adopted a similar resolution. And just this month the American Anthropological Association, undertook a second survey of its over 10,000 members, and this time voted decisively to boycott Israeli institutions. We don’t know which professional associations will be next, but that there will be others now seems almost certain.

The AAA’s resolution is published below, followed by an explanatory statement. The original of the resolution can be accessed here, and the explanatory statement here.


March 2023

Whereas, in 2005, 175 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), issued a call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state, in support of the Palestinian struggle for human and political rights, including the basic right of freedom;

Whereas, the Israeli state operates an apartheid regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the internationally recognized state of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, and the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime against humanity. (See also, and further links below).

Whereas, Israeli academic institutions are complicit in the Israeli state’s regime of oppression against Palestinians (and see also and also), including by providing research and development of military and surveillance technologies used against Palestinians;

Whereas, Israeli academic institutions do not provide protections for academic freedom, campus speech in support of Palestinian human and political rights, nor for the freedom of association of Palestinian students on their campuses;

Whereas, Israeli academic institutions have failed to support the right to education and academic freedom at Palestinian universities, obstructing Palestinian academic exchanges with academic institutions in the US and elsewhere;

Whereas, in 2018, the Israeli government enshrined the principle of Jewish supremacy in a law stating unequivocally that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people” and that “Jewish settlement is a national value,” mandating that the state “will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development,” thus further codifying the second-class status of Palestinians within Israel and normalizing the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank;

Whereas, from the onset of the Nakba, the catastrophic events of 1948 that led to the mass expulsion and displacement of Palestinians from their homes, Palestinians—including activists, artists, intellectuals, human rights organizations, and others—have documented and circulated knowledge of the Israeli state’s apartheid system and ethnic cleansing;

Whereas, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have confirmed that Israeli authorities are committing apartheid against the Palestinian people, and have documented the institutionalisation of systematic racial oppression and discrimination, which has been established to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another. These reports corroborate Palestinian knowledge of the Israeli state’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians;

Whereas, the United States funds, arms, defends, and otherwise plays a decisive role in enabling and sustaining the Israel state’s apartheid regime (and see also and also), including the Israeli state’s military occupation of the West Bank, its building and expansion of settlements throughout the West Bank, which international law defines as illegal, and its ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip;

Whereas, U.S. academic institutions facilitate the complicity and normalization of Israeli apartheid by engaging in academic exchanges with Israeli universities, and otherwise maintaining close, extensive and privileged ties with Israeli universities;

Whereas, the Middle East Studies Association, the leading learned society concerned with the region, has extensively debated an academic boycott resolution and passed it, with a super-majority of 80% of its voting members supporting the resolution, indicating a broad scholarly consensus of area experts on this matter;

And whereas, the AAA is a leading U.S.-based learned society;

And, Anthropological frameworks and methods, ethnographic and archaeological, are actively used by the Israeli state to further its system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing;

And, the AAA’s Statement of Purpose affirms a commitment both to “take action on behalf of the entire profession” and to “promote the… constant improvement of professional standards in anthropology;”

And, the AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states, “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation;”

And, the discipline of anthropology, as the study of humanity, bears a distinct and urgent responsibility to stand against all forms of racism and racist practices;

And, members of the AAA have organized various forums, over many years, for discussion and debate of Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS against the Israeli state, in full embrace of the AAA’s deep commitment to academic freedom and open debate;

Now therefore,

Be it resolved that the AAA as an Association endorses and will honor this call to boycott Israeli academic institutions until such time as these institutions end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law; and

Be it further resolved that the AAA leadership, in accord with the governance procedures of the Association’s bylaws, is charged with implementing this boycott and determining how to do so with reference to the Association’s own mission; and

Be it further resolved that this boycott pertains to Israeli academic institutions only and not to individual scholars, and also that individual anthropologists who are members of the AAA are free to determine whether and how they will apply the boycott in their own professional practice; and

Be it further resolved that in implementing this boycott, the AAA will support the rights of all students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Palestine and Israel and in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Explanatory Statement

AAA Membership Endorses Academic Boycott Resolution

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) membership has voted to endorse a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. An all-member referendum took place by electronic ballot between June 15 and July 14. Thirty-seven percent of AAA’s eligible members voted, with 2,016 members (71% of the votes) supporting the resolution, and 835 members (29% of the votes) voting to oppose it.

“This was indeed a contentious issue, and our differences may have sparked fierce debate, but we have made a collective decision and it is now our duty to forge ahead, united in our commitment to advancing scholarly knowledge, finding solutions to human and social problems, and serving as a guardian of human rights,” said AAA President Ramona Pérez. “AAA’s referendum policies and procedures have been followed closely and without exception, and the outcome will carry the full weight of authorization by AAA’s membership.”

AAA’s academic institutional boycott is limited to AAA—as an association—refraining from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions. The resolution pertains only to Israeli academic institutions, and not to individual scholars and students affiliated with these institutions. The Association remains steadfastly committed to the protection of academic freedom and the dissemination of anthropological knowledge. With this in mind, the Executive Board has approved the following set of actions aligned with the Association’s core values and mission, barring Israeli academic institutions from:

  • being listed in AAA’s published materials, including AAA’s AnthroGuide to Departments
  • advertising in AAA publications, websites, and other communications channels, including the AAA Career Center
  • using AAA conference facilities for job interviews
  • participating in the AAA Graduate School Fair
  • participating in the AAA Departmental Services Program
  • participating in joint conferences or events with AAA and its sections, and
  • where within AAA’s control, republishing and reprinting articles from AAA publications in journals and publications owned by Israeli institutions.

The AAA academic institutional boycott does not prevent:

  • individuals affiliated with Israeli academic institutions from registering for and attending AAA conferences, even if their institutions have paid for their expenses
  • articles published in AAA journals from being reprinted or republished in journals not owned by Israeli institutions that are edited by individuals affiliated with Israeli academic institutions
  • individuals affiliated with Israeli academic institutions from serving as journal editors or Section / AAA elected officials, even if their institutions have paid for related expenses (their institution would be identified as being subject to an institutional boycott)
  • individuals affiliated with Israeli academic institutions from publishing in AAA journals, even if their institutions have paid for their expenses, and
  • Israeli university libraries from subscribing to AAA journals, including AnthroSource.

The resolution authorizes the Executive Board to come up with an implementation plan, which includes specifying the process by which the Board will consider lifting the boycott. The AAA will lift the institutional boycott when it can be established by a consensus of a group of experts commissioned for this purpose that Israeli academic institutions have substantially ended their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law. The Executive Board will monitor and evaluate the situation at least every five years, or more frequently as deemed appropriate, and determine whether the boycott should remain in place.

“By means of these actions, AAA will contribute to raising critical awareness of the dynamics of peace and conflict in the region, draw attention to the disproportionate suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the Occupation and what can be done about it, and expand the space for dialogue on these sensitive and important human rights and academic freedom issues,” Pérez added. “We believe that these actions can contribute to the enrichment of the health and welfare of all citizens in the region, increase circulation of anthropological scholarship, ease restrictions on scholars’ travel, increase freedom of expression for Palestinian and Israeli anthropologists, and increase dialogue about how archaeology is used in political arguments.”

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