For some years, a small group of anthropologists, the Anthroboycott Collective, have argued the case for boycotting Israeli institutions among fellow members of the American Anthropological Association. They have confronted all the usual objections to such a boycott and set out brilliantly lucid responses on their website. In a separate interview published by the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), members of the Collective explain how they carried out their campaign which culminated last month with a ballot of AAA members and over 70 per cent voting for the boycott resolution.

The AAA resolution can be found in a separate posting on the BRICUP website. The original statement of the Anthroboycott Collective’s arguments for boycott can be found here and here. The original of the MERIP interview can be found here.


                     “But, what about…”


“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions but I don’t want to boycott individual Israeli scholars.”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called for a boycott  that targets academic institutions only. The boycott does not apply to individual Israeli scholars

The boycott of Israeli academic institutions entails a “pledge not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.” Cooperation and exchange with individual scholars is encouraged, so long as it does not happen on the grounds of or through the auspices of an Israeli academic institution.

Under the boycott, individual Israeli scholars can still be invited to international conferences, publish in international academic journals, and the like. Israelis are not being called on to boycott their own institutions, an Israeli scholar with state funds can still be invited to a conference abroad. Rather, the boycott is directed at the Israeli universities themselves. For more information, see PACBI’s guidelines..

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions, but cannot in principle boycott academic institutions.”

Academic boycotts are not new. An international boycott was enacted against universities in South Africa, in which many academic associations and universities in the United States took part. We hold that academic boycotts can be legitimate tools for social change and wish to convince colleagues that this is such an instance.

We are boycotting Israeli academic institutions because they are an extension of a state whose policies we wish to affect and because we take as a starting point for change our own professional location as anthropologists.

Israeli universities are very much part of the state, including its military-security complex. Israeli universities are directly complicit in and at times willingly support violations of Palestinian rights and academic freedom. Some, like Ariel University and parts of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, are built directly on occupied Palestinian lands. Tel-Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, and the Technion develop the technological capacities and military doctrines that are used in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzilya has set up programs where students gain course credit for defending the state’s wars and policies to an increasingly skeptical public. Among the targets of these doctrines and technologies are Palestinian universities.

Israeli academic institutions actively discriminate against their own Palestinian students. Israeli universities provide preferential admissions, scholarship, and even housing on the basis of military service. Because the vast majority of Palestinians do not perform military service, they experience de facto discrimination at all educational levels.

Israel enjoys close ties at the governmental and non-governmental levels with the United States and many countries in Europe, including academic ties. As anthropologists, we are in a position to disrupt those relationships as a means of signaling to Israel that its actions are not legitimate and that we refuse to carry on “business as usual” under these circumstances.

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions, but a boycott would undermine attempts to change Israeli society from within because many Israeli scholars are critics of the state’s actions.”

There are courageous scholars in Israel who oppose their state’s actions and have joined the international movement for Palestinian rights. We wish to support these allies and the boycott does not preclude collaboration with them.

Israeli academic institutions have overwhelmingly summarily ignored the call from Palestinian civil society to sever ties with the Israeli security state or to meaningfully oppose Israeli settler colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid. Israeli academia is not only part of the state but acts to defend it against outside critique. So far, the Israeli Anthropological Association’s most notable action regarding Palestinian rights has been to attack the American Anthropological Association merely for permitting panels that discuss the boycott. As an important dissenting letter by Israeli colleagues points out, “the IAA [Israeli Anthropological Association] has never, as a body, dissociated itself from the Israeli society-military complex.”

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions, but this boycott is unbalanced since both sides have done wrong.”

There is a profound imbalance of power between Israelis and Palestinians. The state of Israel exercises supreme authority over all Palestinians, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, through a regime widely recognized as apartheid. Israel subjects Palestinians to occupation, exile, or second-class citizenship, violating their fundamental, inalienable rights..

Moreover, the United States government has for decades entrenched Israeli state violence by providing Israel with advanced weapons, unconditional diplomatic support, and billions of dollars of annual assistance, far more than it does to any other state. Indeed, Israel’s attacks on Palestinian universities are conducted with aircraft and bombs supplied by the United States.

Israeli universities enjoy the legitimacy of close ties with their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe. Palestinian universities must contend with siege, arrest raids, and aerial bombardment by Israeli forces with U.S. military and political assistance. The academic boycott is a protest against this state of affairs.

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions, but boycotts violate academic freedom.”

This boycott involves individuals exercising their right not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions or participate in their activities. This does not violate the academic freedom of individual academics.

Indeed, the boycott seeks to restore academic freedom, not to abridge it. Academic freedom is meaningless if it is enjoyed only by a privileged group. The occupation has made academic freedom and basic educational rights unavailable for students and faculty at Palestinian universities, and has curtailed the rights of Palestinians at Israeli universities. The Israeli government and academic institutions also routinely punish scholars – both Jews and Palestinians – who produce critical research or who criticize the state’s policies.

“Yes, I oppose Israel’s actions, but why aren’t you boycotting the United States or other countries that do bad things?”

One of the biggest myths about boycotts is that they are only appropriate in uniquely egregious situations or that boycotts are not valid if they do not encompass every other comparable situation in the world.

This boycott is a specific tactical call expressed in solidarity with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Supporting this boycott does not automatically entail accepting or rejecting any other boycotts; we encourage everyone to assess each boycott on its own terms. The American Anthropological Association did not examine the record of every hotel or beverage provider in the world before signing on to the Hyatt or Coca-Cola boycotts. Cesar Chavez did not examine every agricultural product in supermarkets before asking us to boycott grapes. When we are called to adopt a particular boycott, we should mainly ask if it is warranted and likely to be effective.

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions but it isn’t fair to demand that Israeli academic institutions act against their own government in order to avoid a boycott.”

This objection assumes that the main problem is how to help Israeli academic institutions, not how to end the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.

The question that animates this boycott is not, “What can the universities do to avoid being boycotted?” but rather, “How can we, as engaged academics, support just outcomes in this situation, and put pressure on this regime?” It is true that boycotts, like strikes, are imperfect forms of collective action because they sometimes impose costs on people who are not directly responsible for the harms at issue – but their intent and effect is to call attention to the fundamental responsibility of those in power. And under the current political configuration, such a boycott would impose legitimacy costs on Israel that are worthwhile as well as on universities for their specific forms of complicity.

Positive actions by Israeli institutions would remove them from the boycott list. They could make explicit statements supporting Palestinian rights in their entirety.  Rather than coming out in support of Israeli military campaigns, as many Israeli universities routinely do, they could make statements condemning such actions. They could stop cooperating and offering training to the Israeli military, stop granting privileges and scholarships to those who have served in the army, and stop employing army officials to teach military strategies. Rather than working to combat the academic boycott, Israeli universities could instead reach out to Palestinian universities under Israeli occupation to ask how they might advocate for their academic freedoms, or meaningfully engage with the demands of Palestinian student activists on their own campuses protesting their systemic discrimination.

It is important to note that the demands of the boycott are purposefully broad because all complicity with the military occupation and discrimination against Palestinians needs to end.

“Yes I oppose Israel’s actions but the boycott’s demands are not feasible. The boycott will be ineffective, since Israeli universities and academics can’t oppose their government.”

No program for political change can predict whether or when it might achieve its goals. This boycott is an attempt to pressure the state of Israel to change its policies. Lack of accountability for Israel’s systematic discriminatory activity and policies is what has allowed Israeli apartheid to persist for over seven decades. This boycott is a demand for accountability. Taking a public stance in favor of this boycott is also a means for opening up conversation about the United States’ unwavering support of Israel’s occupation.

It is incumbent upon universities and their scholars to speak out against their government’s decisions and actions that violate the academic freedom and other rights of Palestinians living under its rule. Israeli universities overwhelmingly and actively support, and materially and practically sustains, the military occupation. This boycott is an attempt to put pressure on those institutions.

                     “Myths & Facts”

Myth #1: The boycott prevents Israeli and U.S. scholars from working together.

Fact: The boycott is not directed at individuals; it is directed at the institutions in which they work. It does not deny Israeli scholars the right to attend conferences (including the AAA meetings), speak at or visit U.S. universities, or publish their work in AAA publications. Nor will boycott prevent U.S. scholars from traveling to Israel. Individual AAA members will remain free to decide whether and how to implement the boycott on their own. The claim that the boycott resolution will prevent or discourage scholars from writing letters of recommendation for students or colleagues is false.

Myth #2: Dialogue is a better way to support Palestinian rights than a boycott.  

Fact: Boycott and dialogue are not incompatible; individuals will continue to dialogue even after this institutional boycott is implemented. But dialogue is not enough. Despite decades of dialogue and diplomacy,  Israel has continued to act with impunity and the occupation has grown only more entrenched and dangerous. Dialogue without justice is a perpetuation of the status quo, and flies in the face of the unanimous conclusion of the AAA Task Force on Israel-Palestine that it is time for the Association to take significant action.

Myth #3: The boycott undermines principles of academic freedom.

Fact: This boycott does not violate academic freedom. It aims to create conditions in which true academic freedom is enjoyed by all scholars in Palestine/Israel equally, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. It is Palestinians whose academic freedom is being systematically violated by the Israeli state and universities through military assaults on Palestinian institutions of higher learning, discrimination against Palestinian students in both Israeli and Palestinian university systems, and censorship on Israeli campuses.

Myth #4: Anthropologists should not boycott universities because this is where critical debate is fostered.

Fact: Critical debate and academic freedom are heavily suppressed by Israeli state and academic institutions. Israeli universities have built branch campuses in the occupied territories, and all Israeli universities supported the 2014 attack on Gaza. Palestinian and Israeli scholars are punished (in different ways) for speaking out against Israeli practices of discrimination and abuse. Israeli universities consistently violate the rights of Palestinians, both citizens and those living under occupation. By challenging the discriminatory practices of Israeli universities, this boycott bolsters both Jewish and Palestinian critics of Israeli state and university policy. See also this letter by 22 Israeli anthropologists who support the boycott.

Myth #5: The boycott is hypocritical because it singles out Israel while the U.S. and other countries also violate human rights.

Fact: The AAA is not singling out Israel with this action. Historically, the AAA has taken numerous positions in support of rights campaigns, participated in boycotts, and issued statements about political matters regarding peoples around the world. Supporting this boycott does not automatically entail accepting or rejecting any other boycott or political action. In this case, we have a special responsibility to act, since the U.S. provides extraordinary political, military, and financial support for Israel’s actions.

Myth #6: The boycott is anti-Semitic.

Fact: Anti-Semitism is discrimination against a people based on their religion and/or heritage. This boycott is a political tactic aimed at the Israeli state and at Israeli institutions that are directly complicit in the systematic discrimination against and violence towards Palestinians. It is not directed at Jews or Judaism. Criticism of the state of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Israel does not speak for or represent all Jewish people, and no government is beyond criticism. The claim that the boycott is a “cover” for anti-Semitism is a tactic used to silence critics, smear boycott supporters, and deflect attention from criticism of institutions complicit with Israeli state violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

Myth #7: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a unique issue that is irrelevant to most anthropologists and therefore the AAA should take no position on the boycott.

Fact: The AAA’s “Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights” states that “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.” Taking a stand for Palestinian rights is especially relevant to anthropology because the Israeli state uses anthropological frameworks and methods — ethnographic and archaeological — to legitimize and consolidate the occupation. As a US-based academic association, the AAA has a responsibility to act because the United States enables the Israeli state’s systematic violations of Palestinians’ basic rights.  

Myth #8: The boycott seeks the destruction of Israel and/or supports a “one-state” solution.

Fact: The boycott opposes Israeli policies and actions, and is based on fundamental human rights principles. It aims to end discrimination against Palestinians, to end the occupation, and to support refugee rights. Boycott supporters hold multiple views about potential future political configurations and the boycott campaign does not take any specific position on these matters.

Myth #9: Academic boycott will not help Palestinians because boycotts are merely symbolic gestures.

Fact: Boycotts are effective. The boycott makes complicity with the status quo more burdensome for Israeli academic institutions. The boycott of Israeli institutions exerts pressure to motivate Israeli academics to demand policy change from their government. The extraordinary efforts to counteract the boycott are signs that it is effective. Israeli leaders and US officials are starting to recognize the pressure of boycotts. Boycotts have been effective in similar justice struggles, as in South Africa and the grape boycott led by Cesar Chavez and migrant farm workers in the United States. Over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations have called for boycott and themselves assessed the costs and benefits of this action.

Myth #10: Endorsing the academic boycott will destroy the AAA.

Fact: There is no evidence that supporting the academic boycott will destroy the AAA. To date, at least six U.S.-based academic associations have endorsed the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, including the American Studies Associationthe Native American and Indigenous Studies Associationthe Association of Asian American Studiesand the Critical Ethnic Studies AssociationAfter endorsing the boycott these organizations have seen stable or increased membership numbers and revenues.

Myth #11: Adopting the Academic Boycott Will Create Legal Problems for the AAA

Fact: The boycott resolution is perfectly lawful, notwithstanding attempts by opponents of Palestinian liberation to weaponize the legal system to limit the academic freedom of Palestinians and allies in the U.S. as well as in Palestine/Israel. State legislatures across the U.S. have adopted laws intended to discourage boycotts aimed at Israel. These laws have served as a template for efforts by other right-wing causes, including the fossil fuel industry and the gun lobby. With one exception, they have been struck down by courts as unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment rights. As problematic as these laws are, they do not apply to boycotts by non-profit academic associations. State anti-boycott laws seek to penalize entities that boycott Israel in two ways: (a) by precluding them from receiving investments from public employee pension funds (b) by disqualifying them from bidding on certain contracts to provide goods or services to state governments. Neither of these situations applies to the AAA. Other academic associations that have adopted the boycott have not been affected by these laws. 

Between June 15 and July 24, 2023, the membership of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) voted on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The resolution was part of a nearly decade-long campaign organized by members of the AAA as part of the larger Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid. On July 24, the results of the vote were announced with 71 percent voting in favor of the referendum. To speak about this historic resolution, MERIP editor and boycott organizer Lori Allen interviewed Daniel Segal, a member of the organizing committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and an activist with Jewish Voice for Peace, and Jessica Winegar, a former MERIP editor and founding member of the AnthroBoycott Collective. Lori Allen is also a member of the collective and the author of A History of False Hope: Investigative Commissions in Palestine (2020). Their exchange has been edited for length and clarity.


Protesters supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Columbus, Ohio, June 2021. Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Lori Allen: This is the second time that AnthroBoycott, the collective of anthropologists that you and I are members of, has brought a resolution to boycott Israeli institutions to the membership of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). After that first campaign in 2015–2016 was unsuccessful—by just 39 votes (less than 1 percent of ballots cast)—what prompted this second campaign at this juncture? Why do you think that the vote was successful this time?

Daniel Segal: A loss by less than 1 percent is an electoral loss but also, and importantly, a statistical tie. In the broader society and on our campuses, there is more honest information circulating about the Israeli apartheid state and its abuses of the human rights of Palestinians. So, a second campaign, with an expectation of victory, was always on the horizon.

Many things contribute to the increasing recognition of the truth about the Israeli state. On our campuses, one crucial factor nationally has been the activist work done by Students for Justice in Palestine. A second factor has been the increase in the number of faculty who teach honestly about Palestine and Israel, many of them anthropologists. In the broader society, another crucial element has been the impact of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). JVP’s solidarity with the Palestinian cause has exposed the lie that it is antisemitic to criticize Israel and support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality.

These and other factors have led to a steady increase in support for the Palestinian struggle outside and inside of academia. The AnthroBoycott Collective understood this context and the opportunity it provided but also understood that opportunities do not harvest themselves. The Collective organized, organized and organized. It also took stock of its previous campaign and assessed where it could do better. One area was in canvassing as many AAA members as possible.

Jessica Winegar: A major shift in the demographics of the discipline, along with a renewed emphasis on decolonizing anthropology, also played a significant role in the success of the vote in this round. Younger generations of US anthropologists are significantly more ethnically and racially diverse than their predecessors. This demographic shift precipitated a rejection of the white liberal “dialogue” politics and a rejection of the colonial presumption to know better what the path to liberation should be—two frameworks that had prevented a full appreciation of the Palestinian struggle in anthropology over the decades. Younger generations of anthropologists are also much more committed to intersectional analyses and activist alliances, which enabled us to build solidarities across constituencies in the AAA. The youngest anthropologists also entered the profession at a time when criticisms of the Israeli state and Zionism were not verboten, in part due to the work of the organizations Dan mentioned. Also, public opinion on Israel in the Unites States is shifting, making it less risky for white anthropologists to adopt the boycott.

This demographic shift precipitated a rejection of the white liberal “dialogue” politics and a rejection of the colonial presumption to know better what the path to liberation should be—two frameworks that had prevented a full appreciation of the Palestinian struggle in anthropology over the decades.

Lori: What were the stumbling blocks and kinds of pushback that the campaign faced this time and last? The AAA leadership promoted a narrative about the “divisiveness” of this campaign to scare the membership, for example. How did you work to overcome these challenges?

Jessica: We built upon our years of work educating the AAA membership on the issues and on the boycott. And we had a carefully crafted campaign that involved webinars, media appearances, social media outreach and targeted outreach to the AAA membership through emails and the Association’s community board. In each of these channels, we had a persistent, clear message that really counteracted the specious “divisiveness” claim.

Daniel: Last time we faced three primary obstacles. One was a number of Zionist members of the AAA, whose attachment to Israel was typically rooted in early childhood socialization. Their deeply emotional attachments to Israel—a toxic love, in my judgment—often made them refractory to reason and evidence. A second obstacle was a widespread discomfort among academics with boycotting academic institutions and, related to this, a concern for academic freedom that was not assuaged by the distinction between an institutional boycott and a boycott of individuals. Some of this resistance was legitimate but, at some point, its intensity reflected an uncritical faith in academia, often of the privileged, mistakenly extended to Israeli academic institutions. A final obstacle was the large number of anthropologists, generally those with no connection to the region, whose response was to do whatever they could to avoid the issue completely, whether because they feared being called antisemitic if they supported the boycott or because they wanted to avoid conflict.

In 2023, by contrast, the greater visibility and recognition of the cruel inhumanity of the Israeli state did a lot to diminish these obstacles. And the changes internal to the discipline that Jessica discussed contributed to and reinforced this. Finally, the AnthroBoycott Collective was persistent and disciplined in responding to criticisms and deflections from anti-boycott voices, especially in countering the claim that the boycott targets individuals and violates academic freedom.

An important strength of this year’s campaign was the even more effective centering of Palestinian voices. This included the great contributions to the campaign of Palestinian anthropologists Rami Salameh and Ala Alazzeh and also, Omar Barghouti’s essay in The Nation.[1] These voices were crucial for establishing that the question before AAA members was not what they, as first-world scholars, thought was best for Palestinians but whether they would or would not respect what Palestinians were asking of us, in terms of supporting their struggle for freedom and equality.

And finally, but certainly not least, as the campaign unfolded, the endorsement from the Association of Black Anthropologists proved a key and powerful moment. Speaking from a Critical Israeli Studies perspective, I would say that what the Israeli state most fears from US society is support for the Palestinian cause from African Americans and anti-Zionist Jews. A racial supremacist state based on hyper-essentialism simply cannot bear solidarity.

Lori: Although the AAA, with its membership of nearly 12,000 people, is the largest US academic association to pass a boycott, this is not a very big proportion of the US public. Why do you think that this vote was significant? Does the AAA represent something larger than itself?

Daniel: Scholars have real impact on the broader US public first and foremost by teaching undergraduates. So yes, the AAA and other learned societies matter when they adopt a boycott of Israeli institutions. These boycotts of Israeli universities erode the legitimacy of the Israeli state for our undergraduates and in the broader US society. And for Israeli society—again bringing in a Critical Israeli Studies perspective—higher education and scholarship retain considerable stature and authority.  So, in the Israeli context also, the AAA boycott matters.

Jessica: I think the AAA membership is on the spectrum from liberal to leftist. This victory suggests that even the liberal US public is in the process of shifting its perspective on Israel and hopefully recognizing that two-sides-ism and calls for more dialogue have gotten nowhere. The significance of this win is clear. The hyperbolic negative coverage in the Zionist media shows the symbolic power of the vote on the Israeli state. The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel expressed tremendous support of this boycott resolution. The PFUUPE confirmed that this “decisive vote conveys to Palestinians that our concerns, our rights, and our dignity matter.”[2]

Lori: For individual citizens who oppose Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, who oppose the Jewish supremacist premise of the settler-colonial regime, it can be frustrating that their political representatives seem so out of touch with the shift in public opinion, including among Jews. It’s frustrating that they continue to support Israel, right or wrong. One recent example is the tepid response of the US government to Israel’s passage of a judicial overhaul bill that will curb the Supreme Court’s powers and the Biden government’s unwillingness to reconsider the nearly $4 billion in funding that the US hands over to Israel annually. Do you think that boycott actions like this can make a dent in politicians’ knee-jerk support of Israel?  What else is needed?

Daniel: The movement needs a great many complementary elements. Both Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine now have sibling organizations— 501C.4s—that do meaningful congressional advocacy and electoral work. Academic boycotts bolster that work, and I think our broader movement must now build this electoral dimension in order to push our elected officials to catch up with public opinion, especially among Democratic voters and young Jewish voters. We need social movement work to lead, but we also need elected officials, pushed and led by movement work, in order to change US policy. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa supports this view. And given how far behind mainstream elected officials are on Palestine—including mainstream Democratic leaders—it’s important to support the few electeds who are with us, notably Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum and Rashida Tlaib. We also should recognize those who are, to various degrees, joining them, including Jamaal Bowman, Andre Carson, Summer Lee and Ayanna Pressley. But at the same time, we must be vigilant and be prepared to criticize these electeds if they do not increase their support for Palestine and, especially, if they backtrack. Ultimately, electoral and congressional victories for liberatory causes—such as Palestinian freedom—are always dependent on movement work to change public knowledge and understanding and to create a different calculus for political candidates.

To further the Palestinian cause in US electoral politics, it is crucial that activists make accepting AIPAC donations politically toxic for Democratic candidates. Only this can end AIPAC’s massive funding for pro-apartheid Democrats.  Here it is important to publicize that AIPAC backs and funds the Trump Republican party, including House members who voted against certifying the 2020 election. No Democrat should take AIPAC dollars, and as long as it is acceptable for them to do so, the Democratic party will remain the pro-Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism party it is today.

Lori: The resolution that AAA members passed is similar to resolutions that other academic associations—including The Middle East Studies Association—have passed. What are the most salient points of this resolution? How will its passage affect the actions of the AAA and its membership?

Calling out Israel as an apartheid regime, and describing its tactics as a form of ethnic cleansing, is a clear statement from anthropologists that they understand the Israeli state’s methods.

Jessica: The AAA resolution is the first one by a major academic organization to explicitly name what Israel is doing as apartheid. Calling out Israel as an apartheid regime, and describing its tactics as a form of ethnic cleansing, is a clear statement from anthropologists that they understand the Israeli state’s methods. The resolution also calls attention to the fact that the Israeli state uses anthropological methods and frameworks to further its project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. And it reminds anthropologists of their association’s Declaration on Anthropology and Human rights, which confirms: “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….”[3] It is our hope that the membership will implement the boycott in their individual scholarly practice, while the Association itself severs ties with Israeli academic institutions.Lori: Tell us about the AnthroBoycott Collective. How did this group of about 20 people come together? What lessons have you learned about organizing in general and organizing academics in particular from this experience? What advice can you offer to other groups who want to support the BDS movement?

Jessica: The core group that began organizing for the 2015–2016 campaign stayed in touch. We came together again for this campaign and brought in new people rather organically. We are a very diverse group across academic rank, race/ethnicity, gender, generation and national heritages. This diversity was incredibly useful for generating different ideas and perspectives and allowed us to take advantage of everyone’s different skill sets and connections. It helped us conduct a truly intersectional campaign, which was critical for its success. It also helped that everyone in the collective is a hard worker and humble. We had none of the ego problems that often plague organizing as well as academia. Other groups wanting to support the BDS movement would benefit from ensuring that their core organizing group has these features and also to seek advice from those who have successfully organized in other organizations.

Lori: After this resounding victory in the AAA, what’s next for academic boycotts? I mean boycotts for Palestinian liberation and—given what’s happening in US higher education in places like Florida—boycotts for other people’s rights, too.

Jessica: I would encourage anyone who wants to support the BDS movement for Palestinian rights to educate members of their academic association through panels, workshops and other means. Achieving a boycott victory, even in a discipline that perceives itself to be left of center and on the side of the oppressed like anthropology, took many years of education and organizing. The blowback can scare people, and a failure to adopt the boycott can send the movement back. Education is key, and this fact holds for boycotts more generally. The word “boycott” can elicit knee jerk negative reactions, but with careful education those can be overcome.

Daniel:  We need to build on the recent victories in both MESA and the AAA with campaigns for boycott resolutions in other strategically selected learned societies. We won’t always win the first time, and we do not need to. The education work of each campaign can itself undermine the normalization of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and if we have an initial loss, as we did in the AAA, the movement will come back stronger. It’s time also to contest and overturn the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) robotically absolutist stance against academic boycotts, which was rooted in a rear-guard Zionist effort, earlier in this century, to support the Israeli state. And finally, on our campuses, we need campaigns targeting study abroad programs at Israeli universities. Very importantly, such campaigns require and enable pro-Palestinian organizing by students as well as faculty.



[1] Omar Barghouti, “We Shouldn’t Fear Being ‘Divisive’ in Pursuit of Justice,” The Nation, June 16, 2023.

[2] “Letters of Support,”, July 24, 2023.

[3] American Anthropological Association, “Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights,”, June 1999.