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AMCHA Condemns MESA’s Endorsement of Academic BDS


Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, March 23, 2022 – AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin issued the following statement today in response to the Middle East Studies Association vote to endorse an academic boycott of Israel:

What MESA did is morally reprehensible and incredibly dangerous. Although the academic boycott that MESA members voted to endorse seemingly targets only Israeli institutions and scholars, the biggest victims of academic BDS are students and faculty on U.S. campuses. Academic BDS's rejection of the normalization of Israel in the academy not only calls on its faculty endorsers to work towards boycotting educational programs and research opportunities in or about Israel and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities on campus, it also urges the censuring, denigration, protest and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals.

“So it’s not surprising that faculty boycotters are a direct and major contributor to campus antisemitism. They are the ones instigating, inspiring, encouraging and modeling the playbook for students, and while students come and go, tenured faculty have years, often decades, to leave their mark. In addition, MESA is not just any academic association.  Its 3,000 members are the primary purveyors of Israel-related courses and departmentally-sponsored events about Israel on campus. Their embrace of an academic boycott means campus antisemitism is likely to grow exponentially worse for Jewish students. Universities must immediately withdraw their membership from MESA and prevent their own faculty from using their university positions and departmental affiliations to promote politically motivated advocacy and activism.  In addition, state and federal legislators responsible for ensuring that government monies given to institutions of higher education are used for educational purposes rather than political ones, should withhold funds from schools that permit faculty and departments to abuse their positions to promote personal political hate.”

Earlier this month, AMCHA released a study, Anti-Zionist Faculty: Ground Zero for Campus Antisemitism, which found that faculty who have endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) are directly fueling a surge in campus antisemitism.

The study found that schools with five or more faculty academic boycotters were:

  • 2 times more likely to have departments that issued or endorsed anti-Zionist statements;
  • 6 times more likely to have a student government that issued an anti-Zionist statement;
  • 6 times more likely to have acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm;
  • 5 times more likely to have incidents involving student BDS promotion and
  • 3 times more likely to have incidents involving student anti-Zionist rhetoric.

The study also noted that USACBI’s call for rejecting the normalization of Israel in the academy by working to boycott educational programs in or about Israel and cancel or shut down pro-Israel events and activities on campus, as well as the boycott’s encouragement of censuring, denigrating, protesting and excluding Israel’s on-campus supporters, were the apparent motivation for the vast majority of the incidents involving the harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students.

AMCHA’s previous studies have revealed similar alarming results. One study of 50 syllabi of courses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were taught at 40 schools across the country found that courses whose instructors had been signatory to one or more petitions calling for an academic boycott of Israel assigned, on average, four times more readings authored by BDS-supporters than instructors who do not support any form of BDS. Another study of 550 departments of Ethnic, Gender, and Middle East studies across the country found that departments with one or more faculty boycotters were 5 to 12 times more likely to sponsor public events with pro-BDS speakers, and the more faculty boycotters in a department, the more events with pro-BDS speakers.

AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 4,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.

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